What to do when your cat is vomiting blood

What To Do if Your Cat is Vomiting Blood (Call Your Vet!)

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Vomiting isn’t all that unusual in cats. Whether it’s because of a hairball or because they ate something unusual, a cat who vomits once or twice but is acting normally doesn’t necessarily need to be rushed to the veterinarian. But the situation is very different if you see blood in your cat’s vomit.

If your cat is vomiting blood, CALL YOUR VETERINARIAN! Depending on your cat’s overall condition, the doctor may recommend that you bring your cat in for an evaluation right away or they might set up an appointment in the not-too-distant future. Signs that your cat’s vomiting could be an emergency include:

  • The presence of large amounts of blood
  • Frequent vomiting
  • Vomiting combined with diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weakness, lethargy, or depression
  • An inability to hold down water or food
  • Your cat is very young, very old, or has underlying health problems

What Makes Cats Throw Up Blood

Blood in cat vomit is usually pretty obvious, but sometimes it doesn’t look exactly like the bright red blood you’d expect. Partially digested blood in vomit can be dark and granular, looking a little bit like coffee grounds. Blood may also be mixed with mucus, white foam, food, or bile. Regardless of its appearance, blood in cat vomit can have many different causes:

  • Severe or chronic vomiting – Anything that causes severe or chronic vomiting can irritate the lining of the digestive tract and cause bleeding.
  • Trauma – Swallowing bones or other foreign material, surgery, or traumatic injuries can damage the digestive tract.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease – Severe inflammation can result in bleeding.
  • Cancer – Certain types of cancer can lead to bleeding within the digestive tract.
  • Kidney disease – Vomiting is a common symptom of kidney disease. Ulcers that may bleed can also occur.
  • Liver disease – Cats with liver disease frequently vomit and may develop blood clotting abnormalities that result in bleeding.
  • Blood clotting disorders – Cats who are exposed to anticoagulant rodenticides or who have diseases that alter the ability of their blood to clot may vomit blood.
  • Infections – Viral, bacterial, and fungal infections affecting the digestive tract or other parts of the body may lead to vomiting and blood in a cat’s vomit.
  • Corrosives – Certain types of cleaning solutions and other caustic materials can cause bleeding in a cat’s digestive tract when they are swallowed.
  • Adverse drug reactions – Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, corticosteroids, and other drugs can cause gastrointestinal ulcers that may bleed.
  • Shock – All types of shock can damage the digestive tract and lead to bleeding.
  • Swallowed blood – Injuries to the mouth, nose bleeds, or coughing up and swallowing blood may lead to bloody vomit.

How Is Bloody Cat Vomit Treated?

To come up with a treatment plan, a veterinarian will first need to determine why a cat is vomiting blood. They will start the diagnostic work-up by taking a thorough health history and performing a physical examination. This is usually followed by diagnostic testing, which may include fecal examinations, blood work, a urinalysis, x-rays, ultrasound exams, specialized laboratory tests, and even exploratory surgery or endoscopy and tissue biopsies.

Supportive care for a cat who is vomiting blood can include:

  • IV fluids
  • Blood transfusions
  • Nutritional support
  • Anti-nausea medications
  • Medications to reduce the secretion of gastric acid or to coat ulcers

Further treatment will be focused on the underlying problem. For example, the veterinarian might prescribe an antibiotic for a bacterial infection or a special diet and immunosuppressant medications for inflammatory bowel disease.

Bloody cat vomit isn’t always an emergency, but a cat’s condition can go downhill quickly so don’t wait to get your cat the care they need. Early treatment can save money, and even more importantly, your cat’s life.

Additional Resources On Cat Vomiting

If you’re looking for more information about your cat vomiting, this is a good video overview from Dr. Sarah Wooten on cat vomiting:

You can also check out these sources:

And finally we’ve created a series of posts here on Pet News Daily related to gastro intestinal issues for cats and cat health in general, including:

Dr. Jennifer Coates
Dr. Jennifer Coates was valedictorian of her graduating class at the VA-MD Regional College of Veterinary Medicine and has practiced in Virginia, Wyoming, and Colorado. She is also the author of numerous articles and books including the Dictionary of Veterinary Terms: Vet-Speak Deciphered for the Non-Veterinarian.