Vomiting is characterized by the contents of the stomach being ejected. Chronic cat vomiting, meanwhile, is marked by the long duration or frequent recurrence of vomiting. Diseases of the stomach and upper intestinal tract are the primary cause for this type of vomiting.
Secondary causes of cat vomiting are diseases of other organs, which bring about an accumulation of toxic substances in the blood, stimulating the vomiting center in the cat's brain.
Severe complications can occur when a cat is not getting the nutrients he needs, or when food is inhaled into the airways, which can lead to coughing, and even pneumonia. Chronic vomiting in cats can also damage the esophagus, even causing ulceration.
Chronic vomiting can affect both dogs and cats. If you would like to learn more about how this condition affects dogs you can check out, “Chronic Vomiting in Dogs.”
Symptoms of cat vomiting include heaving, retching and the expulsion of partially digested food. A symptom that may be indicative of a more serious condition is blood in the vomit, which can signal an ulcer or cancer. Cats may continue to vomit even when there is no food material in the stomach, resulting in a clear-to-yellow, foamy material.
The biggest problem with determining the cause of vomiting in cats, and devising a treatment plan, is that there are so many possibilities. Some of the possible causes for chronic vomiting include (but are not limited to):
- Intestinal parasites
- Intestinal infection or inflammation
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Liver failure
- Kidney failure
- Pancreatic tumors
- Inner ear diseases
- Addison’s disease
- Heartworm disease
- Elevated thyroid function
- Ingestion of foreign object
- Bladder obstruction or rupture
- Feline panleukopenia virus
- Ketoacidosis (a form of diabetes)
- Uterine infection (more common as the cat reaches middle age)
There are so many possibilities for this condition that determining a cause for chronic vomiting may take some time. You will need to help your veterinarian in trying to pinpoint if there is anything related to your cat’s background or habits that might account for it.
Your veterinarian will begin by determining whether your cat is vomiting or just regurgitating. Regurgitation can also be a sign of serious illness but is often due to causes that are separate from those leading to vomiting.
You will want to pay close attention to the pattern of your cat's vomiting so you can give a thorough description of the symptoms, as well as how soon after eating the vomiting occurs. Your veterinarian will ask you to describe the appearance of the vomit, and what your cat looks like when he vomits.
If your cat is retching and heaving from the belly, he is probably vomiting. The food that is in the vomit will be partially digested and somewhat liquid. A yellow fluid called bile will normally be present, along with the expelled stomach contents.
If the cat is regurgitating, he will lower his head, and the food will be expelled without a lot of effort. The food will be undigested and probably tubular in shape, often solid and covered with slimy mucus.
Your cat may try to eat the regurgitated food. It is a good idea to keep a sample of the expelled content so that when you take your cat to see the veterinarian, they can examine the material to find what might be present in the contents.
Your veterinarian will need to know about your cat’s activities, habits and surrounding environment, as well as which medicines your pet may be taking. Factors that are significant and must be followed up on immediately are, for example, instances when the vomit has dark granules in it that may look like coffee grounds. These granules are indicative of blood being present in the vomit. Fresh blood in the vomit will often indicate stomach ulcers or cancer.
Your veterinarian may recommend bloodwork and a urine test as part of your cat’s diagnosis. These tests help narrow the list of potential causes of your cat’s vomiting. X-rays and an abdominal ultrasound may be required to diagnose the cause of your cat’s vomiting and choose the correct treatment.
Treatment is dependent on the underlying cause of the vomiting. Some treatments your veterinarian may suggest include:
- Dietary changes
- Prescription pet medication to control the vomiting
- Veterinary prescription antibiotics
Living and Management
Always follow the recommended treatment plan from your veterinarian and attend follow-up appointments as recommended to monitor treatment. Do not experiment with medications or food. Pay close attention to your cat, and if he does not improve, return to your veterinarian for a follow-up evaluation.