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Dr Pete
Dr Pete, Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 3009
Experience:  Bachelor of Veterinary Science University of Melbourne
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Why does my cat keep throwing up?

Resolved Question:

What could cause my 20 year old cat to vomit his food up? He normally eats dry food, I have also tried tuna and he vomited that up too.

Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Cat Veterinary
Expert:  Dr Pete replied 3 years ago.


Can I ask you some questions first, so I can properly evaluate things.

  1. How long has he been vomiting?
  2. Is he only vomiting the food or does he sometimes vomit some fluid?
  3. Does he hold down liquids?
  4. Is he passing stools? Normal?
  5. Is he drinking normally or excessively lately?
  6. Has he been losing weight lately?
  7. What is his demeanour like? Bright, quiet, lethargic or depressed?
  8. Look at his gums. Red, pink, pale or grey?


Customer: replied 3 years ago.

He has been vomiting for several days, and sometimes he vomits fluid. Im not sure about his stool because I just emptied his litter box and didn’t look. He is losing some weight. He shows signs of lethargy that is why I got worried. His gums are pink.

Expert:  Dr Pete replied 3 years ago.

What about his thirst?
Is he drinking excessively lately?
Does he hold water down after drinking?

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

He doesn't seem to be drinking much. As far as I know he has been holding down his water.

Expert:  Dr Pete replied 3 years ago.

Thanks for the additional information.

Please allow me to discuss this fully .We need to be very careful here because Scruffy is a very old cat. Even a minor gastric upset can have serious repercussions in geriatric animals…very often they are living on the edge with their major organ systems just holding on and it can take very little to tip the balance!

Vomiting in cats is not unusual. In most cases it’s a natural mechanism to eliminate any indigestible or irritant material that might have been ingested accidentally or inappropriately. So we don’t normally get too concerned if a cat vomits periodically and perhaps even on a regular basis as long as there are no other signs of ill health.

However from what you’ve described with Scruffy this is much more than routine stomach emptying. He’s been unwell for a few days. There are several possibilities. The most likely cause of acute vomiting is a gastro-enteric upset, which is an infection of some sort in the stomach or bowel. Many of these upsets are caused by a bacterial infection or bacterial toxins picked up when eating or grooming. In most cases the infection is self-limiting with the vomiting eventually eliminating the cause. There is however one condition that I need to mention at this point. Some cats suffer from a bacterial gastritis (caused by a bacterium called Helicobacter felis) and the signs of this are regular vomiting, occasionally with blood but with everything else seeming normal. I’m not suggesting this is what is affecting Scruffy at the moment (or in the long term) but if this becomes a recurring problem it may be worth mentioning it to your vet because it is very easy to treat with some simple antibiotics.

Now the vomiting can also be caused by a metabolic issue. This is always a greater possibility in elderly cats and this is my big concern with Scruffy, in particular because he has been vomiting for four days. What this means is that one of the major organ systems is inflamed, infected or damaged. The main systems that we would consider are kidneys, liver and pancreas. If this is the case it is much more serious and we need to go further than just treating the vomiting/gastric upset. Accurate diagnosis is necessary and that usually means blood testing. For that reason I feel you should have Scruffy assessed by your vet as soon as you can. If he responds to the home measures I’m about to discuss then that can perhaps wait until your vet reopens. But if he doesn’t respond then the vet visit should be considered urgent and that may mean an emergency clinic. Dehydration will set in quickly and he may require rehydration by intravenous fluid drip. If he is holding his fluids down and is drinking adequately then that is good for now….hopefully he will be maintaining his hydration.

My suggestion at this stage is to not offer any food until there has been no vomiting for 12 hours. This is because the vomiting just dehydrates him further and the food is of no value if it’s vomited back. Allow him to drink water. If you feel he’s not drinking enough then you may have to force water in. You can use a turkey baster. If you have Pedialyte then add that to the water. If you had any Kaolin/Pectin/Bismuth mixture (Kaopectate, Kaomagma, Pepto-Bismol) dose him at 0.5-1.0 ml/lb. Make sure there is no salicylate (asprin) in the mixture.

I must repeat that I think you should have him examined by your vet sometime soon.

I hope I’ve been of help and I apologize for being so long-winded but as I said before, this is important at 20 years of age.

Please contact me back if I can assist further.

Kindest regards.

Dr Pete, Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 3009
Experience: Bachelor of Veterinary Science University of Melbourne
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