Chronic, occasional vomiting in cats can be a great frustration to clients and veterinarians, and despite what Dr. Google says, it is NOT normal for cats to vomit on a regular or even semi-regular basis. Unfortunately, vomiting cats are so common that many pet parents (and even some veterinarians) have accepted it as the norm.
Small animal internal medicine specialist and veterinary author and lecturer Dr. Norsworthy says that there are usually a couple of common explanations that pet parents give for cat puke:
1. He eats too fast.
2. She has a sensitive stomach.
3. They're just hairballs, and they are normal.
4. That's just the way he is, or, as one of our clients put it, "He's just a puker."
While buying one or more of these excuses, we should ask ourselves if one of our human family members were vomiting this often, would we accept it or would we seek a diagnosis and proper treatment?
Chronic kitty vomiting is not normal, and the cause of the vomiting needs to be investigated. Often, the cats can be sick over many years, and the only sign is vomiting, and maybe very slow weight loss. This reason for this is the two most common causes for vomiting in cats, IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) and lymphoma (cancer of the gastrointestinal system) are slowly progressive diseases. Fortunately, there have been huge strides in determining the cause of vomiting in cats in the past couple of years, and veterinarians are now able to help cats that were formerly doomed to a lifetime of disease.
Researchers have determined that rather than a stomach disease, most of the cats suffering with chronic vomiting have inflammatory or cancerous conditions in the small intestine, and the only way to diagnose this conditions are with abdominal ultrasound and intestinal biopsy. The good news is that if the condition is diagnosed and treated early enough, we have a chance of preventing progression, saving hundreds of dollars in treatments, and increasing the quality and quantity of life for cats.
So what is the next step? My hope is that now we have identified the cause of chronic vomiting in cats, we can explore what is the cause, or causes, behind these diseases. Currently, the cause of IBD and GI lymphoma in cats is unknown. Genetics may play a factor, dietary causes are suspect, and chronic stress are all being examined. In our lifetime, we may be able to uncover the root cause and instead of treating the disease, prevent it in the first place.