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This is a common presenting complaint or phone call we get in our veterinary patients. The problem with vomiting and diarrhea is that there are a multitude of causes, some of which are self-limiting and others which may be life threatening.
Here is a list of common causes of vomiting and diarrhea in puppies and kittens:
Dietary indiscretion: Puppies and kittens tend to eat or chew on many items in the house or yard. Some plants can cause gastrointestinal upset that may resolve after 24 to 48 hours. Other plants, such as sago palms for dogs or lilies for cats can be life threatening and delaying treatment for 24 to 48 hours will have serious consequences.
Intestinal parasites: This is a common ailment that we see in our young patients. Some pets will contract parasites from mom while in the placenta while others are exposed in the environment. Analyzing a stool sample is critical for treatment since different parasites require different treatments.
Intestinal obstruction/blockage: Since puppies and kittens love to chew on or eat many things, large objects relative to the size of the patient have the potential of causing an intestinal blockage. In some cases, we can induce vomiting before the foreign material has a chance to move into the intestines. If you witness your pet eat something "large" please bring them in immediately. "Large" is different for every pet. I once had an owner call and say their poodle ate a set of ear plugs. My original thought was, "shouldn't be a problem." I've learned to ask how big the patient is and, in this case, it was a 2 pound puppy! It is quite possible the ear plugs could have caused a blockage but we were able to get them out before they could cause a problem.
Toxin Ingestion: Please see our page on toxin ingestion for further information. If you are uncertain, please call us at (760) 736-3636 or call Animal Poison Control at (888) 426-4435. A $65 dollar fee applies for a poison control consult but may be worth every penny if it helps us treat your pet appropriately!
Common causes of vomiting in middle- aged to older patients:
Pancreatitis: When pets eat foods that are rich or high in fat, it can cause inflammation of the pancreas and subsequent vomiting, diarrhea and inappetance. Some cases are mild while others can be very serious or life-threatening. We recommend to avoid feeding your pet's any table scraps.
Dietary indiscretion/gastroenteritis: Some foods can cause irritation to the GI tract and may cause vomiting or diarrhea. Sometimes the diarrhea may contain blood. Many cases may be treated on an outpatient basis but sometimes they require hospitalization.
Liver or kidney disease: Systemic disease that affects the liver or kidney can cause vomiting and diarrhea. There may be other symptoms such as inappetance and/or lethargy. Prognosis depends on the underlying cause and response to treatment.
The same problems that affect puppies and kittens can affect pets of any age. The list of causes for vomiting and diarrhea is very extensive. It is extremely important to have your pet examined so that we can identify the underlying cause and treat them appropriately.