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Companion Animal Practice
Vomiting in dogs and cats — is it medical or surgical?
  1. Marge Chandler

    Marge Chandler qualified as a doctor of veterinary medicine from Colorado State University in 1984. She is currently a senior lecturer in internal medicine and clinical nutrition at Edinburgh. She holds a masters degree in animal nutrition and is a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, the European College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (Companion Animal) and the American College of Veterinary Nutrition, and is a member of the Australian College of Veterinary Scientists.


Vomiting appears to be common in cats and dogs, although the actual frequency is unknown. Many cases of uncomplicated, non-severe, acute vomiting are not presented to veterinary practices. One study estimated that, among dogs presented for vaccination, about 1·8 per cent of animals had vomited during the previous two weeks. Another study based on owner questionnaires reported that 18·9 per cent of dogs vomited in the two weeks after receiving the questionnaire; only 5 per cent of these were presented to a veterinary surgeon. The clinical importance of vomiting stems from its association with a large and varied group of diseases, and the potentially life-threatening consequences of vomiting, such as aspiration pneumonia, fluid and electrolyte depletion, acid-base derangement and oesophagitis. This article describes a diagnostic approach to vomiting in dogs and cats, and provides guidance on how to decide whether an animal requires medical or surgical intervention.

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