Vomiting and Regurgitation in Dogs and Cats

David McCluggage, D.V.M., C.V.A.

Dogs and cats commonly vomit and/or regurgitate food or stomach contents. Vomiting can be a normal and even healthy event for dogs and cats. Dogs will often eat things that do not agree with them. Cats might need to eliminate hair balls. The purging action of vomiting brings the body back to health. It will eliminate toxins in the stomach.

There is no cause for alarm if your dog or cat vomits once or twice a month. However, frequent episodes of vomiting or regurgitation is not normal. The animal the vomits regularly has a problem and should be treated.

Causes of vomiting animals:

  1. Foreign Bodies (hair balls, plastic, bones, dogs that eat anything they find)
  2. Poor digestion in the small intestine (this slows stomach emptying, the food that remains in the stomach too long becomes acidic the animal feels bloated)
  3. Gastric Ulcers
  4. Cancers (very uncommon)
  5. A side effect of many medications (pain relief drugs, such as Rimadyl, aspirin, predisone, cortisone, and many others)
  6. Lack of digestive enzymes
  7. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

What to do?

Acute Vomiting

This is a common event in dogs and cats. It is not common in birds, unless it is behavioral or sexual regurgitation, and should be treated in birds as a serious condition. An avian veterinarian should be consulted.

Dogs and cats that are vomiting should be assessed at home: are they acting reasonably fine, even thought they are vomiting? If so, treat at home by following these guidelines.

  1. Feed a bland diet, consisting of 2/3 rice, sweet potato and oatmeal and 1/3 of the meal should be well cooked non-fatty meats. These include fish, chicken and buffalo.
  2. Feed only 1/2 of the normal amount of food at a time. Even better, feed several small meals until the vomiting has subsided.
  3. Support your animal with herbal products that soothe the stomach. One such herb is aloe vera. One of our favorite products is a Chinese combination herbal product called Calm Stomach

Monitor these milder cases, for several days. If your companion has not stopped vomiting after a 3-5 days, we are now dealing with chronic vomiting.

Chronic Vomiting

More serious cases, especially if the dog, cat or bird clearly does not feel well, need a routine exam and work-up that will include radiographs, blood tests, and maybe ultrasound. If you find an underlying disease, treat for that.

Western medicine traditionally uses products that stop the production of acid in the stomach (e.g.. Tagamet Pepcid. This is not a good idea in most cases, since the stomach acid is present to improve digestion. Lowering the stomach acid can lead to dysbiosis, bacterial infections, chronic ulceration, and candida (yeast) overgrowth. It is also common to use motility modifiers that pass the food through the stomach more rapidly than normal (e.g. Reglan). Before using these products, try using the rest of the ideas we have on this page for vomiting and diarrhea.

If the underlying cause can not be cured, (for example, stopping a dog from drinking contaminated water or eating indigestible foods), then we recommend that herbs and nutraceuticals be used to enhance digestion, heal the stomach and intestinal lining cells, and bring the body back into health.

If diagnostic tests uncover an organic condition for the vomiting, then use our Reference Page to find information on treating the condition your companion has.

What NOT to do:

  1. Don't feed blander and blander commercial diets, you are simply feeding food devoid of any true nutrition and not addressing the real problem
  2. Don't feed hypoallergenic diets. The vomiting is almost never due to allergies and these diets really work by being over-processed to the point that you are really feeding a soup based diet (put a piece of the dog food in water and watch it dissolve to nothing).
  3. Don't feed commercial diets, they are not as wholesome as home cooked foods.

Finally, a chronic vomiting animal is sick, and the the problem needs to be corrected, not masked using drugs that decrease acid production and increase stomach emptying (metoclopromide). If the therapies we suggest do not work, we recommend you call for a phone consult.