Puppy Laying down

What is the Brain’s “Vomiting Center?”

Vomiting is defined as the forceful emptying of the stomach’s contents, which is caused by a signal from the brain to the stomach. The signal originates in a part of the brain (unsurprisingly!) called the vomiting center. Originally, vomiting developed as a way to save wild animals from poisoning because throwing up can help rid the body of the toxic substance. Nerves in the abdomen – or certain substances in the animal’s bloodstream – indicate to the brain that it has to purge the contents of the stomach. There is less threat of our pets ingesting toxins than their wild ancestors, although manmade poisons like antifreeze, pesticides and rat poison are among present-day dangers. However, over time, more triggers evolved in domestic dogs and cats to induce the brain to signal vomiting.

Causes of Vomiting

My books THE DOG BIBLE and THE CAT BIBLE both go into detail about vomiting and why it matters. If your kitty or pooch throws up, it can be as trivial as a one time “oopsie,” or it can be a sign of an urgent medical situation (the pet swallowed something that could even be life threatening) or it could be a symptom of an underlying medical problem (which could get serious if not diagnosed and treated as soon as possible).

While there are times you can make an initial determination on your own about why your pet has thrown up, it is never a mistake to call or make an appointment with your veterinarian. It is truly a case of “better safe than sorry.” There are two basic categories of causes to consider:

Possible physical causes of vomiting

  • Foreign body? (does your pet chew and swallow non-food items? )
  • Parasites? (your cat/dog should be on a monthly parasite protection product which would automatically eliminate this possibility)
  • Toxins? (Pest control spray around your house property? Toxic garden chemicals like RoundUp? Deadly bait for rodent control?)
  • Spoiled Food? (dry food not kept in sealed food-safe container? Dry food not consumed within one month? Dry food with any “off” odor =rancidity)

Possible disease or illness causes of vomiting:

  • Stomach disorders: food allergy, stomach ulcer, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), motion sickness, cancer
  • Secondary disorders: thyroid disease (in cats), pancreatitis, pyometra (uterine infection), kidney or liver disease, canine parvovirus or distemper, feline panleukopenia virus.

When to Call the Vet About Vomiting?

If your pet throws up once and otherwise seems perfectly normal – their usual energy, attitude and habits – then all you need to do is pick up the water dish and not let them drink or eat anything for a few hours to let their stomach settle down. However, definitely do NOT let them go outdoors and eat grass, which for some dogs and cats is a natural instinct but actually can make things worse as the grass serves as a further irritant to stimulate further retching or vomiting. Put the water bowl down after a couple of hours and then offer food at their normal mealtime. If their appetite is fine and everything “stays down,” you’re probably in the clear, but still keep an eye on them to make sure there is no further vomiting that day or night.

However, if your pet seems “off” – they are lethargic or in any way distressed, or panting, drooling, or licking at the floor or objects – do not delay getting to see your vet right away. Do not misinterpret vomiting followed by your pet feeling lousy before or afterwards as a “wait and see” situation. The episode may have been a one-off event, or it might be the outward sign of a medical condition that has been brewing. I won’t go into depressing details, but I have made the mistake of not getting right to the vet with two dogs – Roma the Golden Retriever and Teddy the Weimaraner – both of whom turned out to be deathly ill. I didn’t even know that until the vomiting episodes. However, when I learned better and went right to the veterinarian as an emergency visit with Maisie one of my current Weimaraners, I was able to catch a problem early and minimize it.

Advice to “Eat Bland” after Vomiting

Most vets will recommend that you feed a bland diet, chicken and rice, after your dog throws up- whether it’s a “one and done” situation or indicative of other medical issues. I’m very happy to have the quickest tastiest solution to that advice: keep a few cans of Weruva’s Pawlickin’ Chicken on the shelf for just thai reason. It consists of nothing but shredded white meat chicken from a human food factory (i.e. good enough for you to eat) and a nice little gravy. It is basically the same for both dogs and cats, with a slightly different vitamin balance. You can boil up some rice to mix with it and keep a container of the mixture for a few days in the fridge – but you can also just feed the Pawlickin’ Chicken and forget the rice. The beautiful part is that it is totally nutritionally balanced so you can feed it indefinitely which would make your pet very happy!

Proud disclosure: Weruva is a sponsor of my website and DOG TALK (and Kitties, Too!) and has been for over a decade.