Vomiting in cats is a common cause of visits to veterinary clinics. In some cases, the problem can be addressed easily, but there are times when there is a need to perform several tests to identify the underlying cause.
Vomiting in itself is not a disease but an important sign that there is something wrong in the animal’s body.
If your cat has been throwing up clear liquid a couple of times now, you should call your veterinarian. There are many causes of vomiting--parasites, indigestion, stress, or hairballs in the digestive tract. There are also the more serious ones-- obstruction in the gastrointestinal tract, thyroid or kidney problems, pancreatitis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), or even cancer. But what could be causing your kitty to throw up clear liquid?
Possible causes for throwing up clear liquid in cats
Grooming is part and parcel of a cat’s daily regimen. It keeps their hair coat clean and healthy. A cat’s tongue has hair-like projections with hooked ends that remove loose and dead hair during grooming. When swallowed, most of the hair passes through the digestive tract without any problems, but some will stay inside the stomach and become tangled to form hairballs. The presence of hairballs can irritate the stomach, and this can eventually trigger the vomit reflex. Cats usually vomit up clear liquid before a hairball. Occasional vomiting of hairballs is not really a cause for concern, however, it’s not normal if vomiting of hairballs is frequent, difficult, or painful to cats. Frequent hair brushing removes loose and dead hair before they can be ingested by your cat. There are also dietary supplements that are formulated to help prevent the formation of hairballs. Increasing your cat’s fiber intake can also help with reducing hairball problems.
2. Changes in the cat’s diet
A sudden change in your cat’s feeding schedule may cause cats vomiting undigested food and clear fluid.
Switching your cat’s food without observing a transition period can be an important culprit. If you wish to make any changes in your pet’s diet, it is recommended that you consult your veterinarian before doing it. The transition period should stretch for 1-2 weeks. During this time, you give increasing quantities of the new cat food while decreasing the amount of your pet’s current food. Experts recommend placing each food in different bowls instead of mixing them up. In case your cat goes off-food, you can stop giving the new food and continue giving his current cat food.
Eating too quickly can also cause cats to vomit clear liquid with the food contents of the stomach. If vomiting is not caused by an underlying medical issue, your veterinarian may prescribe a special diet for the cat. Food puzzles may also help, especially for cats with chronic vomiting episodes. Playing with food puzzles can prevent the cat from eating too quickly and eventually vomiting. Switch a cat’s food bowl to a slow feeder is one way to deal with a cat that eats too quickly or too much.
Indigestion in cats is usually caused by the build-up of hydrochloric acid (HCl) that irritates the stomach. Just like humans, special cells in the stomach produce hydrochloric acid to help in the process of digestion. When a cat skips a meal, the accumulation of HCl in the stomach can lead to indigestion causing them to vomit yellow foam together with the white foam. If you think it’s indigestion, try dividing your pet’s daily food ration into several smaller meals and feeding your cat at specific times during the day to prevent the build-up of HCl in the stomach.
Sometimes, a cat can ingest things that are not considered food. This can possibly lead to stomach irritation and may cause the cat to throw up clear liquid. In severe cases, there may be blood and/or bile in the vomitus. Cats suffering from gastritis may also appear lethargic, depressed, and may also have a decrease in appetite and may become dehydrated.
Vomiting up clear liquid can also be observed in cats that are suffering from nausea due to cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, and other serious conditions.
6. Ingestion of poison
If you have an idea what your cat has ingested and it’s poisonous, you should take your pet to your vet ASAP, even before symptoms are manifested. There may be a need to administer an antidote to counteract the effects of the toxin. Depending on your vet’s assessment, vomiting may be induced, or your pet needs to have his stomach pumped. Your veterinarian may also administer activated charcoal to counteract the effects of the toxin.
Other potential causes of throwing up clear liquid in cats include the presence of parasites, gastroenteritis, constipation, an ingested foreign material that caused an obstruction anywhere in the digestive tract, and metabolic disorders such as kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, or diabetes.
Vomiting In Cats: When To Worry?
Frequent vomiting is never normal in cats. Cats drooling and throwing up needs to be observed closely and brought to the attention of a veterinarian. If your cat is vomiting frequently and/or is displaying other symptoms of illness, such as diarrhea, weight loss, increased water intake, nausea, drooling, and lethargy, you should bring your pet to your veterinarian ASAP. Vomiting once or twice a week, or persisting for more than a few weeks, even without accompanying symptoms, should be seen by the vet. A cat that vomits after eating or drinking may be suffering from an emergency condition that needs immediate medical intervention. Ingestion of foreign objects, such as a string or toy, may also be considered an emergency.
It is a good idea to check the puddles of vomit on the floor for a tinge of color. A red tinge may mean there are traces of blood in the vomit; a greenish tinge may indicate a problem in the lower digestive tract. Early medical intervention should be sought immediately rather than waiting for the symptoms to worsen.
How vomiting in cats is diagnosed
In addition to a thorough medical examination and assessing your cat’s vital signs, your veterinarian may find it necessary to conduct several tests to determine how serious the problem is. Your veterinarian may also ask you some important questions to get a better picture of your pet’s medical history.
The initial check-up may involve palpation of the abdominal organs, thyroid gland, and kidneys. There may also be weight checks, taking your pet’s blood pressure, and stool examination. An abdominal ultrasound can also be an essential tool in visualizing the major organs in the abdominal cavity and help pinpoint what is causing your pet’s illness.
Blood work may be necessary to assess major organ function and will include liver and kidney function tests. There is also a need for a complete blood count to evaluate the cat’s red blood cell and platelet counts. Specific gastrointestinal function tests may also be required to get a picture of the cat’s digestive absorption and pancreatic levels.
X-rays may be needed to check the abdomen for any buildup of fluid and/or blood. It may also reveal gas patterns in the intestines that could indicate the presence of a blockage within the gastrointestinal tract.
Once the results are in and a diagnosis has been reached, your veterinarian will now formulate a treatment plan that is tailored for the patient at hand. Your cat may need to be hospitalized. Cat vomiting and diarrhea can increase the risk of dehydration and needs to be corrected with fluid and electrolyte therapy and supportive care, as well as close monitoring. If your veterinarian thinks that your cat can be treated as an outpatient, do follow your vet’s advice to the letter, including the dosage and proper administration of your cat’s medications. If tests show the presence of an intestinal blockage, surgery may be required to remove the foreign object. Your veterinarian may also prescribe specific diets to help alleviate certain conditions.