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Why Is My Cat Dry Heaving

Why Is My Cat Dry Heaving

It may make you feel better knowing that dry heaving in cats is typically harmless. That said, there are also some serious health issues that can also lead to dry heaving. Our Springfield vets explain.

Causes of Cat Dry Heaving

If your cat is dry heaving it will certainly look and sound unpleasant but many of the reasons why your cat might dry heave are relatively minor. However, if your cat keeps dry heaving there could be a more serious issue causing the problem. The challenge is diagnosing whether your cat's dry heaving is simply the need to expel a hairball or whether there is a more serious underlying cause.

Below is a list of some of the most common reasons for cats' dry heaving.

    Furballs / Hairballs

    By far the most common reason why a cat A furball or hairball is the most common cause of dry heaving in healthy cats and can happen in both kittens and adult cats.

    When your cat grooms themselves, tiny hook-like structures on their tongue catch loose and dead hair, which is then swallowed. The majority of this hair passes all the way through the digestive tract with no problems. But if some hair stays in the stomach, it can form a hairball. Usually, your cat will vomit the hairball to get rid of it. 

    If your cat is having difficulties bringing up a furball or hairball it can lead to hacking, gagging, dry heaving or retching. In most cases your cat will vomit the hairball in a few tries however, furballs that are not expelled by your cat can lead to life threatening blockages.

    Contact your vet right away if your cat repeatedly dry heaves and shows the following symptoms:

    • Loss of appetite
    • Lack of usual energy
    • Constipation
    • Diarrhea

    The symptoms above could indicate a serious intestinal blockage.

    Kidney Disease

    Older cats often suffer from kidney disorders and can lead to dry heaving, nausea, and vomiting as well as itchiness, depression, increased thirst, increased urination, weakness, and pale gums.

    Acute kidney disease is a veterinary emergency often caused by the ingestion of a toxic substance. If your cat is displaying any of the symptoms above, contact your vet for advice or reach out to your local animal emergency hospital for urgent care.


    Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the stomach or intestine that can lead to gagging, dry heaving, and vomiting in cats and kittens. In some cases you may notice that your cat foams at the mouth while vomiting with an empty stomach.

    If your cat is suffering from gastroenteritis you may notice that gagging and dry heaving occurs most often following a meal. 

    Gastroenteritis in cats can be caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites, new food, or a reaction to medications.

    Diarrhea, reluctance to eat, lack of energy and depression are also signs of gastroenteritis in cats.

    Heart Disease

    Both acquired (caused by something) and congenital (by birth) heart disease is relatively common in cats.

    As well as dry heaving, some feline heart conditions may also cause general weakness, breathing difficulty, wheezing, coughing, abdomen swelling, and abnormal heart rate.

    If your cat is dry heaving and displaying any of the symptoms above contact your vet to schedule an examination for your kitty.

    Liver disease

    The liver is essential for storing vitamins and filtering toxins in both cats and people. Liver issues can occur in cats due to infections or toxins in the body. 

    Cat's experiencing liver issues may dry heave and show other symptoms such as yellowing of the eyes and skin, pale gums, increased thirst, lethargy, lack of appetite, weight loss, and distended abdomen.


    Just like their owners, cats can feel nauseous from time to time. An upset stomach can occur due to overeating, eating spoiled food, increased stomach acidity. Nausea in cats typically isn't serious and will likely pass, however if you begin to notice other symptoms such as recurring vomiting or heaving, lack of energy, abdominal pain or fever it's time to head to the vet for an examination.

    Foreign body in the stomach or throat

    Although dogs are notorious for eating things they shouldn't, cats are also known for swallowing things they shouldn't. Ingesting foreign objects could lead to a blockage in their throat, esophagus, or intestine.

    If your cat is dry heaving and no hairball comes out, is experiencing recurrent vomiting, refuses to eat, or has abdominal pain or swelling contact your vet right away.

    IMPORTANT: A blockage or obstruction is a serious veterinary emergency that requires urgent care.

    Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet. 

    If your cat is dry heaving, or if they are showing any other symptoms or behaviors that are out of the norm, contact our Springfield vets for urgent veterinary care.

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