Queasy Dog
Vomiting is one of the top 10 reasons why owners bring their dogs and cats to a veterinary hospital.

There are many reasons a dog or cat may vomit, ranging from an unseen inappropriate tidbit picked up on a walk to an infection or just plain stress. In many cases, the occasional problem responds to simple dietary changes or medications that control vomiting regardless of the cause. Sometimes the problem disappears on its own as quickly as it arose. When vomiting continues, however, and is associated with other signs or contains blood, it can be tedious and expensive to get to the true cause of the problem.

How You Can Help Your Vet

At a recent North American Veterinary Conference in Orlando, Dr. Olivier Dossin of the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, talked to veterinarians about the challenges of such cases by presenting six separate scenarios of dogs whose vomiting did not just "go away." 

The take-home message: You, as the pet’s primary caretaker, are invaluable when it comes to giving your veterinarian the right clues to help inform which direction testing should take.

If you keep a diary of the problem, including the timing and appearance of the vomit; how it affects eating, appetite and stool quality; a description of what your dog looks like when vomiting; as well as any other thing that just “doesn’t seem right,” it can make finding a cause — and stopping the problem — that much easier.

If your pet vomits in several different situations, then it is helpful to note that as well. For example, motion sickness in dogs is a common problem. “Car sickness,” however, can happen at different times — before the car is started, during the drive or immediately after a car ride. A dog who becomes nauseated before the car is in motion obviously has an anxiety component that requires addressing his nervousness as well as the actual motion.

Why a Diagnosis Can Be Challenging

When presented with an illness, medical professionals are trained to compare the signs to a rather extensive list of possible causes. In the case of vomiting, that list goes from the simple to the complicated:

  • Diet
  • Parasites
  • Inflammation of the stomach
  • Chronic intestinal disease
  • Blockage of the gut
  • Infectious disease
  • Foreign body
  • Liver disease
  • Gall bladder disease
  • Pancreatic disease
  • Other diseases or problems in the abdomen
  • Toxins
  • Neurologic problems
  • Problems with other organs
  • Cancer

Common Tests and Procedures

A list this long almost guarantees an equally long list of possible tests in order to get to the underlying cause.

With chronic vomiting, the following tests are standard: fecal tests, blood screening tests, urine tests and probably radiographs. Certain patterns seen on these tests can indicate where the problem may be located, but that’s often not enough information for an answer. So that means even more tests (and added expense), including specific blood tests, ultrasounds, endoscopy, barium (dye) studies, biopsies and sometimes even surgery. 

In the cases presented by Dr. Dossin, the same sign of vomiting was caused by six different diseases or syndromes — old foreign body, Addison’s disease, liver disease, cancer, chronic gastritis and a hernia — in six different dogs.

When it comes to chronic problems, finding an underlying illness can be challenging and costly. But keeping a good record of your pet’s signs can be a big help in getting an answer more quickly and economically.

You and your veterinarian will accomplish the best results when you work together on gathering clues. And having a little extra cash to spend on testing or getting health insurance before your pet has a problem can reduce sticker shock. The costs add up quickly, but testing is the only way to look inside your pet and get him (and your carpets) back to normal.