We’ve all been there. You hear that gagging retch in the middle of the night, and spring fully awake out of bed to scoop up your pet and rush them to the kitchen tile to vomit. You’re left wondering why your pet vomited that slimy pile of mucus, mixed with a few grass blades and kibble chunks. You don’t remember your furry pal getting into the trash, and you definitely didn’t share a single bite of your delicious, melt-in-your-mouth steak that evening. What could be causing your pet to vomit? And, how should you deal with vomiting that happens in the middle of the night? Read on for these answers and more. 

What causes vomiting in pets?

Pets seem to vomit at the drop of a hat, and the list of causes is wide and varied. Here are a few of the reasons your furry pal may be vomiting:

  • Infectious viral and bacterial diseases
  • Pancreatitis
  • Organ dysfunction
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Parasites
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Cancer
  • Toxin exposure
  • Foreign object ingestion
  • Allergic reaction
  • Medication administration
  • Excessive coughing
  • Abrupt diet changes
  • Stress
  • Motion sickness

With such a long list of reasons why pets may vomit, you can see that determining the underlying issue before providing treatment is crucial, or your pet can suffer needlessly from inaccurate treatments. 

What is the difference between vomiting and regurgitation in pets?

Vomiting is a common problem in pets, but can be confused with regurgitation, which occurs on occasion. Vomiting is an active process, in which the contents of the stomach and upper intestine are ejected. Pets will appear uncertain and uncomfortable, then begin heaving and retching before vomiting. Any food present in the vomit is partially digested, and a yellow fluid called bile may be present. Pets can vomit anytime after eating, although sometimes pets who have not eaten will vomit.

During regurgitation, the contents of the esophagus are more passively ejected. Generally, the pet will lower their head and the food is expelled without effort. Regurgitated food is usually undigested, may have a tubular shape, and is often covered with a slimy mucus. Regurgitation often happens right after eating, and the pet may try to eat the regurgitated food. 

Knowing the difference between these two key gastrointestinal issues is critical to determine the most appropriate treatment, so watch your pet carefully if they have a “vomiting” episode. 

Will any home remedies help ease my pet’s vomiting?

Without knowing the true cause of your pet’s vomiting, finding a safe, effective home remedy to assuage their illness can be difficult. However, if your pet occasionally has a random vomiting episode with no other illness, and appears bright and alert, the following home remedies may soothe their stomach:

  • Fast your pet — By withholding food, you give your pet’s gastrointestinal tract a chance to rest and recover. In general, a 12- to 24-hour fast is necessary for adult pets, while puppies and kittens should be fasted for a shorter period. If your pet has a condition that requires eating as their treatment, such as diabetes, contact your south Austin veterinarian before withholding food. 
  • Cook a bland diet — Although a juicy steak may tempt your pet to eat, fatty or rich foods can further irritate their stomach and prolong their vomiting. Instead, cook them a bland meal. Boil plain chicken breast or ground beef, and then strain off all the fat. Mix the meat with cooked white rice for an easy-to-digest meal. Offer no other foods or treats until your pet is on the mend.
  • Offer small portions — Do you often feel ill after a huge Thanksgiving meal? The same holds true for your pet. If they inhale a big meal, they will likely feel sick and may vomit again, despite the bland diet. Offer small portions frequently to ensure your pet can hold down their food before offering more a few hours later.

Remember, although acute vomiting episodes can be managed at home, for your pet’s safety, always consult with your Oliver Animal Hospital veterinarian in south Austin first. 

When should I be concerned about my pet’s vomiting?

If your pet has only vomited once or twice and still appears bright and alert, you can try to manage their vomiting at home. However, several situations require prompt veterinary intervention, such as:

  • Excessive vomiting in a short time frame — Pets who continue to vomit, despite withholding their food, should be seen by your veterinarian, as should pets who vomit multiple times in a short time frame.
  • Blood in the vomit — Bright, fresh blood or dark, digested blood in your pet’s vomit is always a concern.
  • Unproductive vomiting — Pets who gag and retch without producing vomit may be experiencing stomach bloat and gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV), which can quickly turn fatal.
  • Other illness signs — Lethargy, diarrhea, inappetence, or any other illness signs indicate your pet needs to be seen.

Avoid waiting too long when your pet is vomiting, as they can quickly become dehydrated and their situation can drastically decline.

Discovering the cause of your pet’s vomiting often requires a thorough veterinary visit. If your pet experiences excessive, acute vomiting, or a chronic condition, contact your south Austin veterinarian for help.