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That’s Sickening (Signs Of Nausea in Cats and Dogs)

Many people mistakenly think that if dogs or cats are nauseous they will vomit and/or stop eating. But there are signs that I’ve seen far more often than vomiting in the hundreds of animals I’ve cared for through the years. If your pet shows any of the signs below, please consult your veterinarian so they can do lab-work to determine the cause.

Please take these symptoms seriously! Nausea can be life-threatening. It’s common for dogs or cats who feel nauseous to starve to death (either from anorexia or vomiting up all their food). Sadly, I’ve known several cats who suffered this death because their humans didn’t know that giving them a little Pepcid might have enabled them to bounce back to health. However, I’ve known dozens of cats for whom Pepcid has helped them survive through short bouts of nausea or for many years of chronic nausea.

If you suspect nausea and want to get your pet eating before he’s able to visit the vet, ask your vet if you can give him a sliver of a Pepcid (famotidine) pill. If this anti-nausea medicine eliminates the symptom, it’s safe to say that they are feeling nauseous. It’s best to consult with your vet first, in case they think this medicine might have bad interactions with other meds your dog or cat is on, cause problems for other existing health issues , or interfere with tests they want to perform. And, of course, it’s still important to take him to the vet so the underlying cause can be addressed.

Signs of nausea

  • Loss of appetite (anorexia). This looks pretty different from animals who are just finicky eaters. Picky pets will eat a less tasty food after a short while. But nauseous pets sometimes actually starve themselves to death. (This is quite common in cats with certain health conditions, such as renal failure.)
  • Acting very hungry, but walking away after sniffing or licking. This is extremely common: they get excited about mealtime, go to the food dish, eat a tiny amount (or nothing), then walk away. When offered a different food, they repeat this behavior. If they act hungry they are hungry. If they feel sick when they eat a particular food, they’ll associated that food with feeling awful and they’ll stop eating it. Again this differs from cats who are finicky eaters in that picky cats will eat a full meal of a more desirable food as soon as it’s offered. But animals who are nauseous will only taste enough of a meal to confirm that it makes them feel sick.
  • Drooling and salivating excessively (when they don’t usually do this).
  • Lip licking/smacking excessively.
  • Grinding teeth or chewing without having something in their mouth.
  • Pawing at their mouth.
  • Increased drinking.
  • Sitting hunched up (when they don’t usually do this), particularly by their water bowl.
  • Playing with water (when they don’t usually do this).
  • Licking only gravy from food leaving the chunks.
  • Listlessness.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Shivering.
  • Yawning excessively.
  • Hoarseness
  • Vomiting (either solids or just foamy, watery bile) or dry heaving.
  • Yowling more than usual, especially near food dishes or stored food.

Causes of nausea

Tons of things can cause nausea, so it can be challenging to figure out what’s causing it until your veterinarian does an exam and perhaps runs some tests. Below is a quick list of just a handful of the many causes of nausea.

  • Oral health problems
  • Fluid retention
  • Heart problems
  • High phosphorus levels
  • Hyperthryoidism
  • Renal (kidney) problems
  • Pancreatitis
  • Metabolic acidosis
  • Digestive blockage, upset, or condition such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBD or IBS)
  • Anemia
  • Dehydration
  • Medications (especially antibiotics and meds for hyperthyroidism)
  • Some types of sub-Qs
  • Constipation
  • Ingesting poisonous plants
  • Worm infestation
  • Pregnancy
  • Motion sickness
  • Sudden change in diet
  • Eating too much or too fast

I can’t emphasize enough that we need to take these symptoms seriously and get an animal to a vet when we see these sorts of signs. Dogs and cats should not go very long without eating because their organs can’t handle fasting (or sudden reduction in food) as well as human bodies can.

(Note: Nonexclusive use of this article has been granted to other pet industry companies but Kari Kells retains copyright.)

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