Is your cat hacking fur balls, or vomiting? What's the difference? When should you be concerned? Our Charlotte vets share some potential causes, symptoms that could indicate a serious emergency, and treatment options.
What is hacking vs. vomiting?
Sometimes, just like humans, cats will vomit when they have an upset stomach, because their digestive system is acting up - or because they have a hairball stuck in their throat. Generally, vomiting between one and three times per month is considered normal.
We also want to distinguish between coughing and vomiting. When coughing, cats usually crouch on their four legs and stretch their neck. But before vomiting, a cat may exhibit anxious behaviors such as lip licking and repeated swallowing. It involves forceful contractions of the abdominal muscles, which can be distressing.
This condition may be chronic or acute, which is cause for concern.
If more than two episodes of severe vomiting occur within a 24-window, or when there is nothing but bile left in your four-legged friend’s stomach, it’s imperative that your pet see a veterinarian for emergency care.
While there may be a simple cause for your cat’s tummy trouble such as eating too fast, this can also be a symptom of a more serious condition such as a tumor, intestinal parasite, disease in the liver or kidney, or something else. Because stomach upset can have such a wide range of causes, it may be difficult to pinpoint the correct one.
What are symptoms of vomiting?
Some common symptoms of acute vomiting in cats include:
- Pain, distress, nausea
- Non-stop vomiting
- Dark blood in vomit or stool
- Bright blood in vomit or stool
What causes vomiting?
Some common causes of acute vomiting include:
- Changes in diet or dietary indiscretion (your cat ate something he shouldn’t have)
- Allergic reaction to a food or food intolerance
- Disease of the liver, kidney or adrenal gland
- Dietary indiscretion
- Obstruction in the esophagus or intestine
- Intestinal parasites
- Stomach dislocation
- Eating too fast
How will your veterinarian diagnose the cause of vomiting?
Your veterinarian will be able to determine the cause of your cat’s vomiting if you bring a sample in to be examined. Your cat’s temperature will be taken before the vet examines his abdomen.
Though most owners think of cat vomit as repulsive, it contains a lot of useful information your veterinarian will need. Food poisoning, eating too fast or too much, or anxiety can cause food to be digested improperly. Ulcers may cause bright red blood to appear in vomit, while strong odors can be caused by an intestinal obstruction. Brown blood could indicate intestinal issues.
Intestines may also become inflamed, producing excessive amounts of mucus that will appear in vomit. Bile may indicate pancreatitis or a bowel condition.
If this is just a fluke instance of vomiting, you may be advised to limit your cat’s diet to clear fluids. You may also need to collect stool samples for a specified period of time, as the vet will be able to tell if the underlying cause works its way through Fluffy’s system.
Depending on the symptoms and cause of the vomiting, your vet may need to do other tests or exams, such as an oral exam. In some cases, the remedy may be to get your cat to eat less, or to slow down when eating.
How Vomiting is Treated
Of course, treatment will depend on what’s causing the stomach unrest. Some possible remedies may include:
- Medication to reduce or eliminate vomiting
- Medication for chemotherapy-related vomiting
- Medication for inflammatory bowel disease (corticosteroids)
- Changes to diet
- Surgeries in cases of foreign objects or tumors
How to Manage Vomiting
Always follow your vet’s recommendations regarding your pet’s health - we are here to help! Keep the cat’s diet consistent, and administer medications as directed. Keep water near to prevent dehydration. If your pet’s condition does not improve, schedule a follow-up visit with your vet.