Why Jack's vomiting needed to be investigated!
When we phoned the owners the next day, they reported that Jack seemed worse, he didn't want to move much at all and appeared to be quite uncomfortable. They mentioned he may have eaten some wood recently and we became concerned about the possibility of an intestinal obstruction. The owners were unsure when he last defecated as well - further worrying us about the possibility of an obstruction. We decided to do some abdominal x-rays on Jack to check for any obvious blockages that would require surgery. Unfortunately x-rays will not detect all obstructions, as an item such as a sock or piece of plastic or corn cob (all common things we remove from dogs' intestines!) may not show up clearly. Jack's x-rays showed some excessive gas within the intestines, which in some cases indicates an obstruction, but in other cases just indicates that the bowel has stopped contracting normally. Apart from the gas, there were no other obvious abnormalities.
Now that we knew Jack didn't have a pancreatitis or other internal organ problem, we turned our attention back to investigating the possibility of an obstruction further. Jack was fed a product called ‘BIPS'. BIPS are tiny beads that show up as a bright white colour on an x-ray. As they pass through the intestine, we can monitor their passage with x-rays to make sure they are travelling through without any problems. Jack's BIPS all managed to pass through without any trouble so we were confident that there were no obstructions present in his intestines.
Jack improved dramatically with supportive care consisting of an intravenous drip and some pain relief and was back with his family the next day. The most likely cause of his vomiting was a severe gastroenteritis, which may have been caused by a virus, bacteria, or toxin. Jack continued to improve at home and has made a full recovery at the time of writing.
A note on vomiting in cats and dogs:
Vomiting is a very non-specific sign in animals, and can be caused by a multitude of factors. Depending on how sick your pet is, the vomiting will be managed in different ways. For instance, if your pet is vomiting daily but still remains bright, active and keeps its appetite, we will treat it less intensively than the pet that is very lethargic and has stopped eating.
In Jack's case, because he was not eating and was very lethargic at home, we needed to rule out the more serious causes of vomiting such as pancreatitis and an obstruction. If not diagnosed swiftly and treated accordingly, these conditions are both life-threatening. Jack was lucky not to have either of these problems, but if your pet is vomiting and lethargic or inappetent, we strongly recommend it is examined as soon as possible to ensure it receives adequate treatment.