Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
Puke, hurl, barf, throw up, vomit, ralph, yack, upchuck, toss your cookies, lose your lunch, blow chunks. There are as many terms to describe the phenomenon as there are places on your carpet and bed spread dogs will find to do it. Likewise, there are numerous causes of vomiting ranging in severity from very mild to life-threatening. Keep reading, and I'll tell you just about everything I know about animal puke.
You know those greenish-yellow foamy puddles you'll sometimes find in the morning or when you get home from work? Those are the product of your dog vomiting on an empty stomach - it is saliva, bile, stomach acid and nothing else. Sometimes this will happen due to "duodenogastric reflux" where bile from the small intestine goes into the stomach, causes nausea and subsequent vomiting. The solution to this problem is to feed smaller amounts more frequently, because basically the nausea is due to a stomach sitting empty too long. Other benign-type causes of vomiting in dogs include local stomach irritation from eating grass, chewing up toys and rawhides, or eating too fast. A good way to judge whether your dog's vomiting symptoms are mild are to simply see if it is persistent ... if it is only one time you are probably safe to let them work it out. If it is excessive, if they cannot keep any food down, or if it goes on longer than one day, it probably warrants a veterinary visit. It may be considered "normal" for a dog to occasionally vomit, but it is always abnormal for a cat to vomit. If your cat is vomiting they should be seen right away, because they are more likely dealing with something like inflammatory bowel disease, obstruction, kidney disease, or other serious causes of the symptom. Horses are physically unable to vomit, and when they are showing colic symptoms, sometimes we will pass a stomach tube and get abnormally large volumes of fluid out that they were unable to vomit out themselves. Cattle, on the other hand, have stomach contractions or "ruminations," all the time as a normal part of digestion. That process is not really vomiting, but it is bringing stomach contents back up for further chewing before it can pass through the rest of the system.
Some of the serious causes of vomiting in pets include obstructions from foreign bodies, inflammation of the pancreas, kidney failure, toxin exposure, inflammatory bowel disease, intussusceptions where intestine telescopes inside itself, or possibly certain types of cancer. Often times the treatment for these conditions will be medical such as fluid rehydration, gastric supportive medication, antimicrobial therapy, or dietary modification, but other times surgery is needed to correct the problem.
Going against all logic, there are times when we do want our pets to vomit! For example, if a pet gets into something toxic like rat poison, a whole months' worth of medication, or countless other things they deem interesting enough to swallow, we may recommend inducing vomiting before the substance can cause problems. An extremely important pet first aid product to have is hydrogen peroxide. A tablespoon or two given by mouth can fairly reliably induce vomiting in dogs. If that does not work, sometimes some very salty water will do the trick. In the clinic, we actually have a tiny pill that can be tucked under the eyelid to induce vomiting. You should consult with a veterinarian before deciding to make your pet vomit, but in the case of rat poison, for example, time is of the essence and getting the toxin back up before it can be absorbed may warrant immediate action. I just haven't been able to train any dogs to puke in the toilet yet.