Regurgitation in Cats

Veterinary reviewed by: Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS

Regurgitation in Cats - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

Veterinary reviewed by: Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS

Regurgitation in Cats - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What is Regurgitation?

Regurgitation is the passive expulsion of fluid, food and other materials from the esophagus, or pharynx. Regurgitation is often mistaken for vomiting, but unlike vomited food, regurgitated food has not yet been digested by stomach acids. Regurgitation is rooted from congenital, idiopathic, obstructive and motility disorders that must be differentiated during a diagnostic exam carried out by a veterinary professional.

Regurgitation in cats is the act of ejecting undigested food from the throat after eating. A regurgitating cat will lower its head and easily eliminate food from the mouth. The regurgitated food never reaches the stomach, so the expelled food will appear in chunks of chewed up kibble. Compressed by the esophagus of the cat, the byproduct will often be in a tubular form and covered with slimy mucus. Regurgitation in cats can be caused by an esophageal obstruction, congenital abnormality of the esophagus, and for other congenital or idiopathic reasons.

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Regurgitation Average Cost

From 399 quotes ranging from $200 - $3,000

Average Cost

$800

Symptoms of Regurgitation in Cats

Pet owners tend to note regurgitation in cats approximately 30 minutes after their cat has consumed a meal. The feline will lower her head and expel food from her mouth with very little effort. Unlike vomiting, the expelled food will not be digested as it never reached the acids of the stomach.  Instead, regurgitated food will appear as chewed, covered in mucus and formed in a tubular shape that matches the diameter of the esophagus. There is no associated nausea or abdominal contractions. Cats may attempt to eat the food they have just brought back up.

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Causes of Regurgitation in Cats

Regurgitation in cats is commonly caused by esophageal disease that can be either a motility disorder or an obstructive disorder. 

Obstructive Disorders

  • Spirocerca lupi infection
  • Paraesophageal tumor
  • Esophageal tumor
  • Stricture 
  • Foreign Body
  • Vascular ring anomaly 

Motility Disorders

  • Polyneuropathy 
  • Polymyopathy
  • Botulism
  • Organophosphate toxicity 
  • Lead toxicity 
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Hypoadrenocorticism 
  • Esophagitis due to trauma, drugs, chemical injury, or reflux disease
  • Acquired due to systemic neuromuscular disease, obstructive lesions, or inflammation 
  • Congenital (congenital megaesophagus commonly affects Siamese cats) 
  • Idiopathic 
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Diagnosis of Regurgitation in Cats

Regurgitation in cats can be the result of several underlying causes, therefore your veterinarian will want to conduct a number of diagnostic tests. He or she will perform a series of tests to determine what could be causing your feline to regurgitate food. It is highly important for the cat owner to describe the episodes of regurgitation in the feline. When you describe what happens when your cat regurgitates, the veterinarian can use this information to decide which diagnostic tests would be most appropriate. It might even be helpful for pet owners to record their cat regurgitating as a video on a cellular phone, to differentiate regurgitation from vomiting. 

Thoracic Radiographs

A radiograph, or x-ray, uses radioactive waves to view inside the body. The doctor may be able to see an esophageal obstruction or abnormality of the throat. 

Endoscopy

An endoscopy is a flexible tube and camera that passes down the feline’s esophagus, allowing the doctor to visualize the inside of the throat without invasive measures. 

Cytology

Cytology is the collection of cells, fluids or tissues to examine the nature of the material under a microscope. The veterinary may collect a sample from your cat’s esophagus to determine if an infection, inflammation or neoplasia is present.

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Treatment of Regurgitation in Cats

The treatment plan for a cat with a regurgitation problem depends on the underlying condition. The feline may be given nutritional support through an esophageal tube during the treatment process if the veterinarian feels routine feeding might not be possible or could cause further damage to the esophagus. An esophageal tube, or feeding tube, might be placed if the cat requires surgery or has been diagnosed with cancer. Additional treatment options your veterinarian might recommend, based on the underlying condition might include: 

Surgical Treatment

Esophageal strictures, vascular ring anomalies, neoplasia and other localized obstructions are commonly treated with localized therapy. 

Chemotherapy

Mediastinal lymphoma or squamous cell carcinomas that are causing esophageal compressions are likely treated with chemotherapy. 

Medication

Anti-inflammatories, antibiotics and anti parasite medicine may be indicated.

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Worried about the cost of Regurgitation treatment?

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Recovery of Regurgitation in Cats

The prognosis for regurgitation in cats depends on the underlying cause of the cat regurgitating. If your cat is regurgitating for unknown reasons the veterinarian may ask you to alter the feline’s eating habits. At home, the veterinarian may ask you to experiment with different food consistencies to feed your regurgitating cat. Wet canned cat food made into balls and homemade meat balls are less likely to be regurgitated than dry kibble. You may also be asked to place the food dish on an elevated surface, therefore lifting the cat’s head up to eat and discouraging the normal stance of regurgitation. To make your cat slow down her eating habits, you may be asked to change the design of her food bowl to a spiked surface. A cat that takes time to eat, slows down her chewing, and slows down her swallowing is less likely to regurgitate her food. 

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Regurgitation Average Cost

From 399 quotes ranging from $200 - $3,000

Average Cost

$800

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Regurgitation Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Shorthair

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Nine Years

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11 found helpful

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11 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Regurgitating Food

I have a shorthair tabby cat and over the past month or two she’s started regurgitating her breakfast (she’s on dry food, same thing for the past 4 years) a couple times a week. It doesn’t happen during the day or evening after her lunch or dinner feeding but just after breakfast and sometimes if I give her some at night before we think she’s refrigerated a couple of times but aren’t sure if it’s from that feeding or her early breakfast at 6am which is before we get up in the morning. Otherwise she’s acting like her normal happy self, hungry for food, drinking water per usual and no diarrhea.

Aug. 18, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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11 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. The first thing that I would think of, if she is doing well other than this occasional vomiting, would be to try and give her some hairball solution, and see if that is part of the problem. There are many over-the-counter brands of hairball pastes that you can give for hairballs. If that does not help, then there may be more going on, and it would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian. They will be able to examine her and give you an idea as to what might need to happen. I hope that all goes well for her and she feels better soon.

Aug. 18, 2020

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Lucky

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Arabian Mau

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2 Months

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8 found helpful

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8 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Skinny
Regurgitatio

My cat regurgitates immediately after every food he takes except for milk. He is getting skinnier with time and he is too skinny and small for his age. He wants to eat and he has appetite, but he regurgitates every single time.

June 18, 2018

Lucky's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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8 Recommendations

Lucky may have an anatomic defect that is causing this to happen. He may be able to tolerate very watery soft food, you can try that. Since I cannot see him, it would be best to have him examined by a veterinarian to see if there is something obvious that may be causing this problem.

June 18, 2018

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Regurgitation Average Cost

From 399 quotes ranging from $200 - $3,000

Average Cost

$800

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