Why Is My Cat Vomiting White Foam?
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Although many caregivers think it is normal for cats to vomit frequently, recurrent and persistent vomiting require veterinary consultation. However, the frequency of a cat's vomit is only one aspect of their symptomology. Consistency is also important as it can tell us a lot about the cause. If we see the cat has vomited up food, then it may point us toward certain stomach problems. If the cat vomits white foam, this will reveal something else about the underlying problem.
In this AnimalWised article, we ask why is my cat vomiting white foam? We not only look at the causes of this phenomenon, but we see what the prognosis might be like given the different treatment options available.
Cat vomits white foam due to gastrointestinal issues
The most likely motive behind vomiting is due to an issue with the digestive system. At the time of diagnosis it is important to take into account whether the vomiting is sporadic or persistent. There are two types of vomiting in cats, acute and chronic.
- Acute vomiting: vomiting many times in a short period of time.
- Chronic vomiting: throwing up regularly over a prolonged period of time.
We also need to be considerate of other symptoms and look at their context. This might include whether the cat is throwing up white foam after certain activities or if they seem to do it all of a sudden. We need to take into consideration the cat's medical history and whether they have been involved in any accidents.
When your cat is vomiting white foam and not eating, it is often because they cannot keep any food down. Their stomach is upset to the point they know if they eat they will bring it up again. If the cat vomits enough, we will see that the white foam stops and they vomit yellow bile.
Consistency and color of the vomit is also influential in the diagnosis. We might see the cat has blood in their vomit or there is a lot of green mucus. When our cat vomits white foam, we should know it could be due to a gastrointestinal issue. These include:
- Gastritis: gastritis in cats can also be acute or chronic. In both cases, the cat will require veterinary assistance. In gastritis, an irritation of the stomach lining occurs. This can happen when a substance such as grass, expired food, medications or toxic substances are ingested. Eating toxic substances results in intoxication. When this is chronic we can see the cat's coat diminishes in luster and quality. If it is not treated, our cat will also likely suffer from weight loss. However, it must be our veterinarian who identifies the specific cause and prescribes appropriate treatment.
- Foreign bodies: hairballs in cats occur most commonly during the molting season. Hair collects inside the digestive system as hard balls, known as trichobezoars. These can be so large the cat cannot regurgitate them. This presence of foreign bodies can cause irritation of the digestive system. This can also sometimes result as an obstruction or even intussusception (introduction of a segment of the intestine in the intestine itself). In this latter case surgical intervention could be necessary. White foam may be present because the hairballs block food from moving through the GI tract.
- Inflammatory bowel disease: one of the most common causes of vomiting in cats and should be differentiated from other pathologies such as lymphoma. A veterinarian will be responsible for carrying out relevant tests. In these cases we can see that the cat will vomit white foam and suffers from diarrhea. They will generally deteriorate until treated.
Note that one of the most common infectious disease of the gastrointestinal system is feline panleukopenia. This virus results in bloody vomiting and profuse diarrhea. In addition an affected cat will usually have a fever and will stop eating. If you notice or believe your cat may be suffering from panleukopenia, you need to visit a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Other causes of cats vomiting white foam
Sometimes, a cat throwing up white foam does not occur due to problems in the stomach or intestine, but through organs such as the liver, pancreas or kidney. These conditions include:
- Pancreatitis: all feline pancreatitis cases require veterinary treatment. It can occur acutely, but is most often chronic. It may concur with other diseases such as gastrointestinal disease, liver disease and/or diabetes. It consists of inflammation or swelling of the pancreas, an organ responsible for producing enzymes needed for digestion and insulin needed to metabolize sugar. Among the symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea and thinning of the coat.
- Hepatic insufficiency: the liver fulfills important functions such as the elimination of waste or metabolism. A failure in its functioning will cause non-specific symptoms, such as vomiting, lack of appetite or weight loss. In more advanced cases jaundice can occur, seen by the yellowing of mucous membranes and skin. Several diseases, toxins or tumors can affect the liver, so diagnosis and veterinary treatment will be essential.
- Diabetes: diabetes in cats is characterized by inadequate production of insulin, which is the substance responsible for providing glucose to the cells. Without insulin, glucose accumulates in the blood and symptoms occur. If your cat is suffering from diabetes, you will notice them drinking, eating and urinating more. Even if your cat doesn’t get fat, you will notice vomiting, alterations in the fur and bad breath.
- Renal insufficiency: renal failure is a very common disorder in elderly cats. Kidney damage can occur both acutely or chronically. Chronic renal failure can't be cured, but it can be treated in order to give your cat the best chance at quality of life. Therefore it is essential to go to the veterinarian as soon as you observe symptoms such as a considerable increase in water intake, a change in the excretion of urine, loss of appetite, dehydration, a poorly conditioned mantle, dull mood, weakness, mouth injuries, breath with strange odor or vomiting. Acute cases require urgent veterinary attention.
- Hyperthyroidism: the thyroid gland is located in the neck and is responsible for producing the hormone thyroxine. Excess hormone production implies the development of a clinical case, common to cats over the age of 10. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism in cats include weight loss, significant increase in activity (the cat won't rest), increase in food and water intake, vomiting white foam, diarrhea, increased urination and excessive vocalizations.
- Parasites: if our kitten vomits white foam and we have not dewormed them internally, they could be infested with internal parasites. In these cases, we may also observe the cat will vomit white foam and is not eating. Diarrhea may also be present. All of these issues are caused by the action of the parasites. This situation is more likely to occur in kittens than in adults, as they are less resistant to parasites. Your veterinarian can recommend some of the best products for deworming cats.
It is noticeable that many of these diseases have common symptoms. It is very important to visit a veterinarian as soon as possible for accurate diagnosis and treatment.
My cat is foaming at the mouth
While vomiting white foam is one of the symptoms of the diseases and health problems listed in this article, it is not the only symptom. You might see that the cat is foaming at the mouth. In these cases, we need to make a specific distinction. Is the cat foaming at the mouth or do they have foam residue around their mouth?
If there is foam residue around the mouth, it can be due to various reasons such as eating something toxic. The toxic substance can cause a reaction and also dehydrate the cat, leading to foam residue. General dehydration can also cause white foam residue to appear around the cat's mouth.
When a cat is depressed, they might drool at the mouth, although it is unlikely they will produce white foam. If the cat is foaming at the mouth it is usually due to a serious problem. This could be a serious case of poisoning in cats, a seizure due to epilepsy or even, in perhaps the worst scenario, the cat has rabies.
Are there psychological reasons a cat will vomit white foam?
We should know that reasons why cats vomits are not always physiological. There are many different symptoms of stress in cats and vomiting can be one of them. If they are anxious, they might not be able to hold food down. Since some cats are stressed over their basic care, some will eat too fast if they think their food will be taken away. The act of fast eating can cause them to regurgitate the food back up.
However, when a cat vomits white foam, it means it is not usually directly food related. With white foam, there is no food present in the throw up. Instead, it is a mixture of saliva, mucus or other gastrointestinal fluids. Although psychological problems can also lead the cat to vomit food, it is unlikely they will vomit up white foam. If they are on an empty stomach and they vomit, they will most likely throw up bile. This will be a yellow color, not white and foamy.
While it is possible a cat will throw up white foam due to stress, it is unlikely. However, the underlying cause of vomiting might lead them to feel anxious and scared, so reducing their anxiety can be an important factor.
Treatment and prevention of cat vomiting white foam
Now we know the most common causes that explain why a cat vomits white foam, we should know that the treatment will depend on the underlying cause. Since throwing up white foam is a symptom, it won't be treated directly. Here we also provide some tips on how to prevent vomiting white foam in the first place.
- Vomiting is a symptom that should not be left untreated. If it persists for more than 24 hours, or you see any other symptoms which imply an emergency, take them to the veterinarian immediately.
- It is a good idea to write down the observed symptoms. In the case of vomiting, we need look at its composition and frequency. This will help a veterinarian reach a diagnosis.
- We must provide our cat with an adequate diet for their nutritional needs, avoiding foods that may make them feel nauseous or provoke allergic reactions. Throwing up white foam and not eating is a common sign of nutritional or digestive problems.
- Keep your cat in a safe environment to prevent them from swallowing a potentially dangerous object.
- As for hairballs, you should brush your cat regularly especially during molting season, since this way we help eliminate dead hair. We can also count on the help of malt paste for cats or feed which is specially formulated to favor hair transit.
- It is important to maintain an internal and external deworming calendar, even if our cat does not have access to the outside. A veterinarian will provide you with appropriate guidelines according to your circumstance.
- If our cat vomits once and is still in good spirits, you can wait and observe before contacting a veterinarian. On the other hand, if the vomiting is repeated and you notice other symptom, you must go to the veterinarian immediately.
- From 6-7 years of age, we suggest you take your cat to the veterinary clinic for a complete medical review at least once a year. These medical reviews will make sure that your cat is kept in constant good health. This review will also allow the vet to notice if there is the presence of particular diseases or viruses, allowing for early treatment.
Vomiting white foam is only one symptom of illness in cats. You can look at some more related feline health issues in our video below on 8 reasons why cats vomit:
This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.
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