Vomiting is one of the most common reasons that owners bring pets in to see a veterinarian. If vomiting has continued, even on an intermittent basis, for a couple of weeks, it is defined as being chronic and certainly needs to be addressed. Chronic vomiting is a symptom of many different diseases, so diagnosing its cause is not always a simple process.
Animals that are vomiting as opposed to regurgitating usually will appear restless and may drool before abdominal heaving occurs and stomach contents are expelled. Making the distinction between vomiting and regurgitation is important because treatment for the diseases that are responsible for the two conditions can be very different. When animals regurgitate, they spit up without seeming to be aware that they are about to do so.
Disorders that cause chronic vomiting include intestinal parasites, dietary indiscretion, inflammatory bowel disease, hairballs, gastrointestinal foreign bodies, viral or bacterial infections, organ dysfunction, food allergies, treatment with some types of drugs, and cancer. Coming to a definitive diagnosis often requires a thorough health work-up, which may involve blood work, a urinalysis, fecal examinations, x-rays, abdominal ultrasound, specialized laboratory tests, and even exploratory surgery or endoscopy with tissue biopsies.
Symptomatic treatment for chronic vomiting includes feeding frequent, small meals of a bland and easy to digest diet and anti-nausea medications. Prognosis and other treatment options depend upon the condition's underlying cause.
Written by: Jennifer Coates, DVM
Last reviewed: October 2, 2008