Vomiting – Serious or Watchful Waiting?


First in a series
Vomiting is nobody’s favorite pastime. Sadly, some cats retch from time-to-time. Finding the cause can be tricky. I learned early that even when I was sure I had the answer, I needed to be ready to be wrong. Unexpected clues – easy to miss – change treatment plans, like right away.

A cat with a history of hurling sat on my exam table with a complaint of recent vomiting. The nice lady, Jerri Samuelson, fixed me with a hopeful expression as she stroked “Gucci”, her 2 year old female tortoise shell. “Hi, Ms. Samuelson, I’m Dr. Jeff Nichol. When did this cute girl start vomiting again?” “Well, she’d been doin’ OK but all of a sudden, in the past 3 days, she’s stopped eatin’, then she started pukin’, and now she’s got squirts.” Well, alrighty, then. Routine stuff, I thought. It was a Saturday morning. I’d be off work in an hour and a half, enjoying lunch and then washing and waxing my Triumph. Another day at the office.

My first years in practice had me in the employ of experienced veterinarians. Dr. Lloyd Beal, my boss at the Foothill Veterinary Hospital in Sacramento, was off that day. No problem. I’d breezed into the exam room just as confident as any young veterinarian could be. I hadn’t treated every malady of pets yet but I was current in my knowledge and ready for anything. Really? Just 2 years of out of school? Of course I was.

What I found on Gucci’s physical exam changed my day and my attitude. Her temperature was 104.2, respirations 60/minute – almost panting, her pulse was 180. Gentle abdominal palpation caused this sweet kitty to tense and cry quietly. Her intestines felt odd; there was fluid where it didn’t belong. As I started a mental list of possible causes I quickly realized I didn’t know where to start. I remembered an admonishment from an emergency medicine instructor in veterinary school. “Don’t just do something, stand there.”
Next week: Act fast or lose.
For help with behavior problems, you can sign-up for a Zoom Group Conference on my website, drjeffnichol.com.

Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in-person and in groups by Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a Facebook Live video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Post pet behavioral or physical questions on facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.