All cats vomit at one point or the other, whether to get rid of hairballs or because they might have a certain pathology. But when your cat starts vomiting bile on a regular basis, there could be some causes for concern.
In today’s article, we’re looking at the reasons why this might be happening, how the condition itself is diagnosed and how it might be treated, and whether or not you can do something in particular to prevent it.
How does vomiting bile differ from other types of vomiting?
You probably know that ‘bile’ is the name that most people use to describe the secretion extracted by the gallbladder, which is attached to the liver. The biliary salts secreted by the gallbladder play an essential role when it comes to ensuring normal digestion, but an excess can lead to all sorts of gastrointestinal symptoms.
Cats can suffer from a wide range of gallbladder pathologies, such as bile duct inflammation or gallbladder stones. In most cases, the stones do not completely block the duct, so there will be some amount of biliary salts released into the animal’s systems – which is why most cats don’t even show any gallbladder stone signs.
Bile is composed of bilirubin and bile salts, so the color of the vomit will differ from instances where your feline friend vomits because they have to throw up a hairball, for example.
Most of the time, the vomited material will have a light or dark green or yellow color and might be covered in a bit of foam. Therefore, it looks completely different compared to white foam vomit, which could be caused by occasional indigestion or foreign objects lodged inside the gastrointestinal tract.
Reasons why your cat might vomit bile
It is difficult to assess the exact cause of why your pet might end up with this symptom, especially if you don’t know if they have recently eaten something they shouldn’t have.
If you take your cat to the vet on a regular basis for check-ups (at least once or twice a year), it’s quite likely that a condition such as liver disease might be discovered during a routine examination. In that case, your cat will be put on a special diet, and you’ll know what to expect.
But sometimes, the causes of vomiting bile in cats can be more or less unknown. They can range from gastritis or inflammation of the intestines to more specific reasons, such as intoxication or kidney pathologies. Here are a few other possible causes:
- Liver disease
- Cholangiohepatitis/Feline cholangitis
- Severe parasite infestations
- Diet changes
First of all, if this is a more or less common occurrence (meaning your cat vomits bile once a day or several times a day), it wouldn’t hurt if you took a shot of the vomited matter. It might not sound appealing, but it could provide your veterinarian with some information that might seem irrelevant to you (such as the color that we mentioned).
You should also tell your vet what you are feeding your cat or if they tend to go outside and might have been exposed to toxins, other animals, or any other factor that might have led to this outcome.
The most basic tests that the veterinarian will first perform are going to be biochemistry and a complete blood count, followed by urinalysis (if it is possible). Imaging diagnostic methods such as an ultrasound or even an X-ray could provide essential additional data.
Depending on the ultrasound machine, the vet might be able to see whether the lining of some organs is going through inflammation or might actually see the gallbladder stones.
Contrast radiographic techniques can also be helpful, especially for discovering foreign objects, obstruction, or occlusion.
Vomiting bile is a symptom, so the focus of the diagnosis is to discover exactly what’s wrong with your cat’s body. Only after this phase is completed will your vet be able to initiate therapy with a specific medication. Vomiting bile is not a disease itself, so besides symptomatic treatment options, there’s not much that your veterinarian can do until they understand what’s at the root of the problem.
Depending on the cause, there are various therapy options. Naturally, if your cat is diagnosed with a type of cancer, there will be several treatment choices you will have to consider with your vet.
Antibiotics are utilized for infections and your vet might recommend changing your cat’s diet if the vomiting seems to be idiopathic or only caused by the diet. Probiotics could also prove their worth in this situation, especially if your cat has a hard time passing stools, too. There could be a number of other recommendations that you might receive from your vet, depending on your cat’s health status and symptoms.
Can you prevent your cat from vomiting bile?
There’s not a lot of things that you can do in the way of preventing this clinical sign from affecting your cat. We recommend choosing a very high-quality diet, especially since cats don’t tend to eat as much as larger animals, so even though it might seem expensive, it will do your pet a world of good.
Giving your cat probiotics as a prevention method can be another good idea as it ensures that the digestive process takes place properly.
Finally, make sure that you do not miss your appointments at the veterinary clinic. Senior cats should be seen by a vet at least twice a year because they tend to develop common geriatric conditions such as hyperthyroidism or kidney failure, so you need to constantly keep an eye on their health.