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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 be in a tubular form and covered with slimy mucus. Regurgitation in cat scan be caused by an esophageal obstruction, disease, abnormality of the esophagus, and for congenital or idiopathic reasons.

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Regurgitation Average Cost

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$800

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Symptoms of Regurgitation in Cats

Pet owners 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. 

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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 idiopathic reasons, 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 differential diagnosis. He or she will perform a series of test to eliminate the possibilities of 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 will 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

A cytology is the collection of cells, fluids or tissues to examine the nature of the material. The veterinary may collect pleural fluids from your cat’s esophagus to determine is an infection is present.

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Treatment of Regurgitation in Cats

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

Therapy 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. 

Thoracoscopy or Thoracotomy

Surgical corrections of the esophagus in the case vascular ring anomaly or enlarged esophagus. 

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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 idiopathic, or 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 and homemade diets 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 flatter 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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Ask a Vet

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Mister

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Siamese

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5 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

My cat only regurgitates in the morning. He has a slow feed bowl but this has not helped much. He is eating and drinking water normally. He has not lost any weight and is urinating and defecating normally. He does not regurgitate at night. He is a siamese mix.

Oct. 25, 2017

Mister's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Regurgitation may be caused by a few different causes which may include an empty stomach, esophageal disorders, obstructions among other causes. A slow feeder is a good idea but small regular meals evenly spaced out throughout the day are best (like every six to eight hours) so that there is always some food in the stomach. It may also be useful to elevate the food bowl slightly (put it on top of a phonebook or two - I cannot think of another use for a phonebook) so that gravity is somewhat on Mister’s side. If the issue continues, I would get an x-ray to look for any anomalies (strictures, dilation etc…). Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Oct. 26, 2017

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Milo

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British short haired, mixed breed

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3 Months

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting

Milo has been vomiting undigested wet food about 15-20 mins after eating. A few days ago, he had his first vets appointment and was said to be healthy. His puke looks regurgitated and they are the same size as what he had initially attempted to eat. When he regurgitates, he uses all of his muscles to get the food out of his system. It may be due to a heat stroke as it was hot today. After about 2 hours, we have given him some kibble and doesnt appear to be in distress. When he ate the wet food after puking, he ate it in large amounts. We have been giving him mostly wiskers kitten wet food ever since he arrived at 8 weeks. He is not fond of drinking water and mostly drinks about 2 teaspoons of kitten milk everyday in the morning. After having some dry food today, we gave him 2 teas spoons of kitten milk as he does not drink very much water.

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Miss Pris

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Rag doll

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14 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Regurgitation

My 14 year old rag doll mix suddenly started regurgitating immediately after eating 3 days ago.She gets 2 oz wet grain free food and 1/4 cup kibble twice a day. Initially, it was undigested food, within 1 minute of eating. Then over the net 1-2 hours, it changed to clear liquid. That evening and the next morning, same thing. Off to the vet we went. Blood tests and physical exam all normal. ($217) Received anti nausea meds and came home. The past 36 hrs she has only eaten a tiny bit of cooked chicken, though I have tried different flavors of canned food. She is drinking water normally, which is not much, looks at her food, but won't touch. She is purring, grooming, even playing a little, but not eating. As an indoor-outdoor cat, I have not been able to observe her feces, though I doubt there is any. Rule out eating houseplants, poison. Doesn't seem sick, just can't keep food down.

Regurgitation Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$800

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