Why is My Pet Throwing Up?
Welcome to the Vomitorium!!!
Or, as I like to call it, "the space formerly known as my living room."
Every now and then, my army of feline friends throws what can best be described as a hurl-a-palooza. A festival of upchuck. A smorgasbord of blork.
When this happens, not only do I have to roam the house, paper towels and Lysol in hand, I have to figure out why it's happening—and fast.
Both cats and dogs vomit more frequently than humans, and for lots of different reasons.
So, based on my hard-won experience in this realm, I wanted to share a few tips about what can make pets puke, and what to do about it.
Prepare to become a Barf Detective!
P.S. I fully understand than 99% of you stopped reading after "festival of upchuck," and I respect that.
A note on terminology
"Vomiting" refers to the forceful removal of partially digested stomach contents. In other words, whatever your pet ate has made it through their esophagus, into their stomach, and started to be broken down.
Vomit may contain recognizable food particles and bile, and might be accompanied by drooling or abdominal spasms.
"Regurgitating," on the other hand, refers to mostly undigested food that may have just reached the stomach, or was still in the esophagus.
Regurgitation can be caused by your pet eating too fast, and usually happens right after a meal. It's generally less serious than vomiting.
This is a gross but important distinction!!
Now let's turn you into a Sherlock of Sickness. 🕵️
First, identify the WHO
Especially if you have multiple pets, you've gotta know who's responsible for the big wet pile you just stepped in.
If the vomiting is coming from just one pet, they may be having a medical issue unrelated to recent environmental changes.
It goes without saying that if your pet is vomiting regularly, they need to go to the vet, like, yesterday.
But if multiple pets are vomiting, it's time to examine your environment.
Next, identify the WHAT
Pets — especially cats — have sensitive digestive systems that are designed to reject anything potentially harmful.
(Because most pets only have a few brain cells to rub together, they need this automatic system to protect them when they chow down on non-food items like plants, dental floss, socks, packaging, you name it.)
Here are some questions to ask when you're suddenly living in the middle of Vomitstock '22:
Have you recently...
Switched pet food or supplements? Some animals may react to new food just because of its newness, especially if the shift wasn't gradual. Or, this may be the first sign that your pet is allergic to an ingredient.
If you HAVEN'T switched foods, your pet may be becoming intolerant to their longtime food (or an ingredient it contains). Your vet may recommend an elimination diet, then reintroducing ingredients one-by-one to see if anything triggers your pet.
- Switched cleaning products, including floor cleaners and laundry detergent? Your dog's sense of smell is between 1,000 and 10,000 times more sensitive than yours — so while you might love your new basil-scented cleaning wipes, your pup's stomach could be turning.
- Started using a diffuser or potpourri? Some essential oils are toxic to dogs, and others are toxic to cats. It's safest to simply avoid using fragrance diffusers in your home.
- Groomed your pet? The combing or bathing process can prompt pets to groom themselves more, leading to hairballs and — you guessed it — barfing.
- Medicated your pet? This is an obvious one, but if your pet takes medicine, especially orally, vomiting can be a common side effect. Talk to your vet about whether it's normal or not.
- Gotten a new plant? Make sure no one's been chewing on it, and that it wasn't one of these plants known to be poisonous to pets.
- Moved house, introduced a new pet or person into the house, or potentially added stress in any other way? Pets don't have pickleball, needlepoint, or hip-hop dance class to relieve their stress. They have puking (and shredding or chewing your favorite things).
- Taken your pet swimming? Algae, bacteria, parasites, and other substances present in natural water can pose a threat to pets. Always check the water quality before allowing your pet to swim.
- Treated your home for pests? Some pest sprays, powders, and residues can be harmful to pets when sniffed or ingested. It's also possible your pet chowed down on a pest that had already taken the (poisonous) bait.
- Left out a forbidden food? Chocolate, onions, grapes, garlic, and artificial sweeteners like xylitol are all on the "no no" list for dogs and cats. For cats, the list also includes yeast, milk, and other dairy (yep, all that propaganda about giving your cat milk is wrong).
Although you might be exhausted reading it, this is NOT an exhaustive list.
Chat with your vet if you're concerned about your pet's regurgitation or vomiting.
As for me and my cat army? We'll be trying a new dry food, avoiding treats and wet food for now... and buying a portable carpet cleaner.
Wish us luck!