The Vomiting Patient: Questions for Pet Owners

A blond technician holds a dog on a table while a veterinarian takes notes.The vomiting patient is a classic, common occurrence in both primary care and referral hospitals. But clients rarely have baseline knowledge of other issues that can make material come out of the mouth, so often vomiting is inaccurately “diagnosed” at home.

Anytime I see one of these patients, my first thought is to make sure we’ve actually got the right problem identified, as workups can vary significantly for “vomiting look-alikes” like regurgitation, non-productive retching, and terminal retching.

I’d estimate that about 75% of the “vomiting” referrals I see are accurately identified as vomiting, which is wonderful…but that leaves a pretty substantial portion whose workup then takes a sharp turn based on a few more history questions.

Here are the questions I use when trying to determine if a patient is truly vomiting or if the condition is actually regurgitation, non-productive retching, or a terminal retch:

Workups to Reach a Diagnosis

Sometimes, despite my best efforts, there’s still not a clear answer for what the most accurate problem is. If that’s theAn x-ray shows four golf balls inside a dog's body. case, using my best judgment, I explain why I may want to do the following workups:

All that to say, when the client says vomiting, it’s absolutely worth it to ask a few more questions to make sure everyone’s on the same track for workup. This can save some patients an abdominal explore for what is actually a motility or cough-related issue.