A reader wants to know why her cat is vomiting all the time, but hesitated about all the tests her veterinarian wanted to run. Here are my thoughts.
Q: My cat has been vomiting a lot, and my veterinarian wants to run all kinds of tests to figure out the cause. Is that really necessary?
A: Figuring out why cats are vomiting is one of the more frustrating problems veterinarians face. A whole host of problems, from hairballs to hyperthyroidism, can cause cats to vomit. Among the common causes of acute vomiting — meaning it comes on suddenly — are adverse reactions to food, feline infectious peritonitis and acute gastritis of unknown cause — what we like to call “garbage gut.” Chronic vomiting, which continues over a long period, is usually related to adverse food reactions or intestinal bowel disease. But there is still a wide range of other potential causes, which is why your veterinarian may want to run an assortment of lab tests or order imaging such as radiography or ultrasound.
At last year’s North American Veterinary Conference, M. Katherine Tolbert, an internal medicine specialist at the University of Tennessee, presented some ways to help practitioners narrow the possible causes of feline vomiting. These include looking at the cat’s age, breed and sex. For instance, a middle-aged Siamese might have gastrointestinal adenocarcinoma, while a young Abyssinian is more likely to have feline infectious peritonitis. A middle-aged or senior domestic shorthair should get a thyroid panel to rule out hyperthyroidism. A shorthaired cat who frequently vomits hairballs may have chronic gastrointestinal disease.
Any details owners can provide are important, no matter how minor they might seem. Always let the veterinarian know how often the cat vomits, whether he’s eaten anything unusual or new, or any change in his routine or environment. Depending on the cat’s medical history and the severity of the signs, it may be possible to start with a fecal exam or diet trial before moving on to more specialized diagnostics.
Read more, including about spaying and neutering for kittens, in this week’s Pet Connection!