Why do cats vomit bile?

Written by catherine hiles
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Why do cats vomit bile?
A cat might lose its appetite if it is regularly vomiting bile. (white angora cat eating from food bowl image by Stephen Orsillo from Fotolia.com)

Vomiting is a natural behaviour in cats. Some cats vomit frequently, whereas others vomit only occasionally. Sometimes a cat will vomit stomach bile, a yellow fluid similar in colour to urine, according to Washington State University's College of Veterinary Medicine. This can mean your cat has something wrong in its gastrointestinal tract. If you see your cat vomiting bile, take it to a veterinarian as soon as possible for a checkup.

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Causes

The two most common culprits that cause a cat to vomit bile are inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and pancreatitis, veterinarian Ron Hines states on his website 2nd Chance. IBD is the infiltration of inflammatory cells in the lining of the cat's digestive tract, according to Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine. Pancreatitis occurs when the pancreas inflames and has tissue damage. The digestive enzymes in the pancreas escape and begin to digest the cat's body, according to veterinarians at Mar Vista Animal Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis of both IBD and pancreatitis in cats that vomit bile consists of ruling out any other possibilities. This might include a urinalysis, blood panel, serum biochemistries, serum thyroxine level, feline leukaemia test, feline immunodeficiency virus test, fecal examinations, dietary trials and abdominal radiographs or ultrasounds. Telling your veterinarian about any other symptoms, such as abdominal pain, fever, lethargy and appetite loss, can also help with the diagnosis.

Treatment

Treatment for IBD consists of eliminating food antigens that might be causing sensitivities in your cat's stomach. A veterinarian might prescribe corticosteroids for their anti-inflammatory affects and immunosuppressant properties, according to Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine. Other drugs used to treat IBD are prednisone, antibiotics and sulfasalazine. Treatment of pancreatitis that causes a cat to vomit bile is more supportive, according to veterinarians at Mar Vista Animal Medical Center. Fluid therapy helps combat dehydration caused by vomiting and diarrhoea; medicines control pain and nausea and food is withheld if the cat's vomiting is frequent.

Prevention/Solution

Unfortunately, it is not always possible to prevent diseases such as IBD and pancreatitis that cause cats to vomit bile. The causes of the diseases are unknown, though known risk factors for pancreatitis are trauma, an active feline distemper infection, toxoplasma infection, IBD and use of certain drugs. Feeding a healthy diet might help prevent feline gastrointestinal diseases.

Warning

If your cat is vomiting bile frequently, dehydration can occur. This can be fatal if left untreated. Take your cat to a veterinarian as soon as you notice the frequent vomiting to prevent dehydration. Ignoring suspected illness in a cat can cause the illness to develop and become serious, leading to a poorer quality of life for the cat and higher veterinary bills for you.

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