Vomiting may have numerous causes. In broad terms it may be caused by a problem in the stomach or intestines, or a problem outside of the intestinal tract. Intestinal problems that cause vomiting include gastritis (secondary to indiscriminate eating or infectious causes), gastric ulcers, gastric tumours, intestinal parasites, or foreign bodies that can cause obstruction. Various other diseases of the organs in the abdomen may also cause vomiting and this includes diseases involving the pancreas, liver and kidneys.
Vomiting up food has no bearing on the cause of the vomiting. If food is present in your pet’s stomach, it will come up when the animal vomits. If his stomach is empty, only mucus and sometimes bile will be seen. This does not indicate that the condition is more serious unless associated with lethargy and/or diarrhoea. If your dog or pet vomits but is still alert and eating and has no diarrhoea, you can wait before you see your vet. If vomiting is persistent or your pet seems very lethargic and/or has diarrhoea, your vet must be consulted.
It is not uncommon for cats to vomit up hairballs. If they bring up one a month, there is likely nothing to be too concerned about. If they are bringing up more than two per week, there may be an underlying problem and you should consult your vet. Long-haired cats tend to swallow more hair from grooming and thus are more prone to hairballs. A petroleum-based laxative often helps the cats to pass these hairballs.
Dr Alain Carter, Fourways Veterinary Hospital