Why does my cat vomit after eating dry food?

When your pet vomits it is a very unpleasant experience for both the cat and their owner too! There can be many reasons that your cat may vomit after eating dry food. This article will discuss some of these causes and will hopefully ‘regurgitate’ some of the information around this topic, excuse the pun!

What is the difference between vomiting and regurgitation?

If you witness your cat bring their food back up after eating, you may instantly assume they are ‘vomiting.’ However, interestingly this is not always the case. Firstly, vomiting is an ‘active’ process often accompanied by heaving/retching, whereas regurgitation is a ‘passive’ process where food is brought up following minimal effort and it is not often accompanied by a retching motion. You may be wondering why it matters whether your cat is actually vomiting vs regurgitating? It matters because it will help your Vet to narrow down the list of potential causes and it will help towards a diagnosis for your cat.

What causes my cat to vomit after eating dry food?

There is a huge list of potential causes of vomiting after eating dried food in your feline friend, below lists and expands on some of these causes (this list is not exhaustive):

Eating too fast

Some individuals are renowned for eating their food incredibly fast and gorging a meal too quickly can lead to vomiting directly afterwards. This is a common issue especially among multi-cat households, where there is a high level of feline competition around feeding times. When your cat eats too fast, their stomach expands too quickly which results in immediate vomiting of undigested food.

If your cat gobbles their food down too quickly, I would recommend exploring ‘slow feeder’ options which are feeding devices designed to reduce the rate of eating. Additionally, in multi-cat households you may consider feeding cats separately to reduce competition.

Allergies or hypersensitivities

Some cats can experience true food allergies to specific food components. Furthermore, if your cat is allergic to their dried food, regular vomiting after meal ingestion may occur. This will likely remain a chronic long-term issue until the allergy dietary component is addressed and altered.

Dry consistency

Dried food has a very low moisture content compared to wet food. This makes swallowing of dried food and digestion more challenging in older cats, especially those with underlying gastrointestinal (GI) motility disorders. Food that is slow to be digested through the guts is likely to induce vomiting.

Stress

Stress can cause cats to vomit after eating, however, as you can imagine this is an extremely challenging diagnosis to make and it is one of the many situations when you wish animals had a voice! Your Vet may conclude stress is the underlying cause once other diagnostics have been conducted to rule out other causes.

Parasites

Certain gastrointestinal parasites can cause vomiting in cats including a protozoan parasite named Tritrichomonas fetus (only affecting cats), along with other roundworms and tapeworms (Yao and Koster, 2015). It is always advisable to ensure your cat is up to date with routine worming, more so if they have outdoor access and frequently hunt! Please speak to your local Vet for recommendations of flea and worming programs.

Oesophageal diseases

Oesophageal issues are often categorized into congenital (born with) or acquired (developed). Oesophagael foreign bodies are extremely rare but when there is an obstruction this often results in vomiting or regurgitation of food matter. Strictures (narrowing) of the esophagus can occur which can also be a cause of frequent vomiting after eating. Alternatively, some cats experience a ‘megaesophagus’ which results in a widening/enlargement of the esophagus, resulting in very little motility and slow passage of food. Vomiting/regurgitation often occurs due to the food sitting in the esophagus for long periods of time.

Hernias

The term ‘hernia’ reflects when an internal part of the body pushes through a weakness in the surrounding tissue/muscle wall. A hiatal hernia occurs when part of the stomach herniates through the diaphragm into the chest. This is thankfully not a common finding in cats, but one of the common clinical signs of this condition is vomiting after eating (Katsianou et al. 2014).

Gastrointestinal issues

Gastrointestinal blockages can lead to vomiting after eating due to the food not being able to pass through the GI tract because of a physical obstruction. This physical obstruction may be caused by foreign body material such as a hairball or foreign object. Occasionally, particularly in younger animals, they can develop an intussusception, where the GI tract folds in on itself, creating a life-threatening obstruction. Anything that stops the passage of food through the GI tract can induce vomiting. Often with GI obstruction scenarios, your cat will often show other general signs of being unwell.

What will my Vet recommend?

Initially, your Vet will take a thorough clinical history and then perform a thorough clinical examination on your cat. The duration and chronicity of the problem is vitally important.

What your Vet recommends is very much dependent on the underlying cause of the vomiting. For example, if your cat simply eats their dry food too quickly and this causes the vomiting episodes, they may recommend using a ‘slow feeder’ to reduce the rate of food consumption. Additionally, if their portion sizes are too large your Vet may advise to reduce this and they may recommend feeding ‘little and often’ to reduce excessive food consumption.

In acute or more chronic vomiting scenarios, your Vet will likely recommend starting further investigations, often including blood work and imaging. This will enable your Vet to rule in and out specific conditions to be able to treat your cat successfully. The imaging may involve x-rays, ultrasound scan and/or endoscopy.

Conclusion

To conclude, if your cat vomits after eating dried food, I recommend that you seek advice from your veterinarian to explore this issue further. There are a variety of underlying causes for this issue and as the article has discussed they can vary in their seriousness, therefore, this issue must not be ignored.

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