Q: I know that it’s normal for cats to vomit occasionally, but my cat vomits every day. She is otherwise healthy and does not look sick. What could be the problem?
A: While it is true that some cats will vomit on occasion, and it can be normal, daily vomiting is not typically expected behavior for any cat. Vomiting as a symptom is very general and can not point to one specific issue, so we must look at the cat's general health to try and get to the diagnosis.
Whenever an animal is vomiting, we must first check to see if the animal is losing weight or having other issues such as diarrhea. We also need to figure out whether this is an acute issue or if it has been going on for a long time.
It is also important to know if your cat is the type of cat to eat things that she should not, such as string. Does your cat have a normal appetite, and does she vomit right after eating? Is the vomit undigested food or just liquid? Have you changed the food recently or changed your cat's routine?
As you can see, this issue can get quite complicated and can sometimes be exceedingly difficult to diagnose. In general, we typically need baseline blood work to rule out underlying metabolic diseases such as hyperthyroidism, which can manifest as vomiting. Abdominal x-rays would also be required to rule out a possible foreign body.
We also might pursue an abdominal ultrasound to look for thickened intestinal walls that could lead us to suspect inflammatory bowel disease. An ultrasound also will help us look for enlarged intestinal lymph nodes and possible intestinal masses.
So, vomiting for a cat might seem to be a very benign issue, but if it is frequent or happening in combination with other clinical signs, then you will want to see your veterinarian to rule out all the medical conditions that might cause vomiting.
Q: My dog has been especially itchy lately and is starting to have some thinning hair along her back. I am also concerned because she is gaining weight even though we have reduced the amount of food we are feeding her. What could be going on with her?
A: What you are describing can be classic signs of a metabolic condition called hypothyroidism. The thyroid gland is in the dog's neck and produces the thyroid hormone, which is responsible for regulating the rate at which calories are burned, regulates weight loss or weight gain, and can help with some other mineral regulations in the body.
I like to describe the thyroid hormone as the gasoline of the body because if you are low on gasoline (hypothyroidism), then you will run a little slower, while if you have a lot of gasoline then you might run a little faster (hyperthyroidism).
Cats typically get hyperthyroidism and overproduce the thyroid hormone, while dogs typically get hypothyroidism and underproduce the thyroid hormone. Clinical signs of hypothyroidism in dogs are weight gain, hair loss, heat seeking behavior, and an increase of allergic skin disease signs.
Your dog is exhibiting all the classic signs of hypothyroidism. Luckily, this disease is easy to diagnose with blood work and just as easy to treat with daily medications. When we are running blood work to diagnose this hypothyroidism, we also include full blood work to rule out any other underlying issue.
Once we have a definitive diagnosis of hypothyroidism, then we put the dog on an oral medication that they take twice daily. The only downside to hypothyroidism therapy is that it is needed for the rest of the dog’s life as it is replacing the thyroid hormone that the thyroid gland is not producing. However, once the thyroid hormone is replaced with the medications, your dog will feel and look better quickly!
Dr. Julianne Miller is a Flagstaff veterinarian. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.