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Vomiting & Diarrhea

internal organs of dog diagram

Vomiting is a very common problem in dogs and cats. There are many causes of vomiting.

  • Primary or gastric causes of vomiting are those that are due to diseases of the stomach and upper intestinal tract.
  • Secondary or non-gastric causes of vomiting are caused by diseases of other organs that cause an accumulation of toxic substances in the blood.

These toxic substances stimulate the vomiting center in the brain causing the animal to vomit.

When you present your pet to the veterinarian because he or she is vomiting, the veterinarian will ask questions in attempt to differentiate between vomiting and regurgitation and to try to determine if your pet is vomiting due to gastric or non gastric disease.

The physical examination of your pet can also provide information to narrow the list of possible causes. The presence of fever, abdominal pain, jaundice, anemia or abnormal masses in the abdomen will help the veterinarian make a more specific diagnosis.

The mouth should be carefully examined as some foreign objects such as string can wind around the base of the tongue with the rest of the object extending into the stomach or small intestine. A nodule may be palpated in the neck of cats with hyperthyroidism.

Treatment

If the pet is bright and alert and has had no previous health problems, episodes of acute vomiting may be managed at home, although veterinary consultation prior to home treatment is advised. Consultation with a veterinarian may reveal a recent outbreak of an infectious disease causing vomiting or identify a cluster of recent poisonings. With this type of knowledge you will want to have your pet evaluated rather than waiting a few days. Dogs and cats who vomit for longer than a few days or are depressed or dehydrated should be presented for veterinary evaluation.

Diarrhea in dogs and cats

Diarrhea is the passing of loose or liquid stool, more often than normal. Diarrhea can be caused by diseases of the small intestine, large intestine or by diseases of organs other than the intestinal tract. Your ability to answer questions about your pet’s diet, habits, environment and specific details about the diarrhea can help the veterinarian narrow the list of possible causes, and to plan for specific tests to determine the cause of diarrhea. Small intestinal and large intestinal diarrhea have different causes, require different tests to diagnose and are treated differently. Small intestinal diseases result in a larger amount of stool passed with a mild increase in frequency; about 3 to 5 bowel movements per day.

The pet doesn’t strain or have difficulty passing stool. Animals with small intestinal disease may also vomit and lose weight. Excess gas production is sometimes seen and you may hear the rumbling of gas in the belly. If there is blood in the stool it is digested and black in color.

A sudden onset of small intestinal diarrhea may be caused by viruses including canine distemper, canine parvovirus, canine coronavirus, feline panleukopenia virus or feline coronavirus, in young, poorly vaccinated pets. Small intestinal diarrhea can be caused by bacteria such as salmonella, clostridia or campylobacter although these same bacteria can be found in the stool of normal dogs and cats. Diarrhea of large intestinal origin can be caused by whipworms, polyps, inflammatory bowel disease, colonic ulcers or colonic cancer.

Stress can cause large bowel diarrhea in excitable dogs.

The cause of small and/or large intestinal diarrhea may be determined from blood tests, examination of the stool, x-rays or ultrasound of the abdomen or by endoscopy.