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What is Regurgitation?

Vomiting and regurgitation are two very different things so you have to be sure which one is affecting your dog. When your dog vomits, there will usually be some sort of warning such as drooling, licking his lips, heaving, and retching. Regurgitation happens suddenly and without warning. Vomit is food from the stomach (partially digested) and regurgitated material is completely undigested and looks pretty much like it did when he ate it. This can be serious because the larynx is unable to close in time and the material may be inhaled into the lungs, which can cause pneumonia.

Regurgitation is an evacuation of food, mucus, or fluids from the throat. This differs from vomiting because your dog will not have abdominal contractions and nausea. It is actually a symptom rather than a disorder. It may be a congenital disorder most common in Miniature Schnauzers, Great Danes, German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Irish Setters, Newfoundlands, Chinese Shar-Peis, and Wire Fox Terriers or it can be acquired. Some of the causes of the acquired form include enlarged esophagus, gastric reflux, foreign object, poisoning, rabies, or cancer.

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Symptoms of Regurgitation in Dogs

When your dog has a regurgitation problem, it usually comes on pretty quickly with no warning so it may take you a while to notice it if you do not watch your dog when he eats. However, there are ways to tell whether the vomitus is from regurgitation or from the stomach. The most obvious way to tell is that the food will be completely undigested so it will look just like it did when your dog ate it. Some of the most often reported signs of regurgitation include:

  • Throwing up water, food, or mucus
  • Appetite loss
  • Weight loss
  • Difficulty swallowing and frequent swallowing
  • Coughing and clearing throat
  • Bad breath
  • Lumps in the throat
  • White or pale gums
  • Abdominal pain
  • Increased body temperature
  • Tiredness

Types

  • Congenital regurgitation in dogs is a birth defect most often found in certain breeds
  • Acquired regurgitation in dogs can be caused by a throat or esophageal disease
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Causes of Regurgitation in Dogs

Regurgitation can be congenital or acquired and may be found in any breed. However, there are some breeds that are more susceptible to the congenital form than others such as:

  • Miniature Schnauzers
  • Great Danes
  • German Shepherds
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Irish Setters
  • Newfoundlands
  • Chinese Shar-Peis
  • Wire Fox Terriers

Acquired regurgitation in dogs can occur in any breed of all ages. It can be caused by a throat or esophageal disorder such as:

Throat Disorders

  • Poisoning
  • Rabies
  • Foreign bodies present
  • Cancer

Esophageal Disorders

  • Enlarged esophagus (megaesophagus)
  • Gastric reflux (usually caused by a hiatal hernia
  • Cancer
  • Addison’s disease
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Diagnosis of Regurgitation in Dogs

It is helpful if you can bring in a sample of the material your dog regurgitated so the veterinarian can take a look at it and see if the food has been digested and test it for toxins. The veterinarian will also talk to you about what symptoms you have noticed and if your dog has had any recent injuries or illnesses. Make sure you mention if you have given your dog any medications as that can have an impact on the diagnosis and treatment. The first step will be to give your dog a complete and comprehensive physical assessment including vital signs, palpation, and auscultation. A complete blood count (CBC) and chemical analysis are also needed to check for other signs of disease. Endocrine testing (ACTH stimulation, thyroid profile) to check for Addison’s disease is also necessary.

Thoracic radiographs (x-rays) can be helpful at this stage, to look for esophageal disorders. If needed, contrast (dye) may be added for more detail. The veterinarian may also decide to do an ultrasound or CT scan to look for tumors or other causes of regurgitation. An endoscopy is another good procedure for checking out the esophagus and thorax. To do this, the veterinarian will sedate your dog and use a long flexible tube with a light on the end to look for abnormalities, foreign objects, lesions, or inflammation.

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Treatment of Regurgitation in Dogs

Treatment depends on the cause of the regurgitation. If it was just a foreign object, the veterinarian can remove it and maybe give your dog antibiotics to prevent infection. However, other causes may need more intense treatment.

Enlarged Esophagus (Megaesophagus)

An enlarged esophagus can be acquired from an infection or may be congenital. Either way, the underlying problem has to be addressed first. A special diet and medication may be used to prevent regurgitation.

Addison’s Disease

Addison’s disease is a disorder of the adrenal glands and hormones. Medication can be used to control the symptoms, which should control the regurgitation as well.

Poisoning

Depending on the type and other symptoms, with any kind of poisoning the veterinarian will usually perform a gastric lavage and intravenous (IV) fluids. Medication may be given to help calm the stomach.

Gastric Reflux (usually from a hiatal hernia)

Gastric reflux is usually controllable with medication. However, if the case is severe, the veterinarian may suggest surgery to repair the hiatal hernia.

Cancer

Cancer may be treated with chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, depending on the severity and the stage.

Rabies

Unfortunately, there is no cure or treatment for rabies. It is usually fatal within a few days. Euthanasia is encouraged when symptoms start to decrease the suffering and chance of spreading the virus.

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Recovery of Regurgitation in Dogs

If your dog does not have cancer or rabies, the prognosis is good. Depending on the treatment, your pet will probably be back to normal in a few days. However, with cancer, the prognosis is fair to guarded and rabies is almost always fatal.

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Regurgitation Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Siberian Husky

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Six Years

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Unknown severity

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Regurgitation With Partial Food And Clear Slimy Liquid, Ear Irritation (One Side Doesnt Want To Be Touched, Shakes Head), Nasal Drainage, Breathing Sounds (Stuffy Nose), Reverse Sneezing, Low Weight, Picky Eater

Tired of vets saying this is just allergies. He regurgitates when drinking too much water. But recently with a change in food (we are trying to figure out if he has food sensitivities), he is regurgitating daily, multiple times a day. Food particles, partially digested and sour, then other times clear and slimy with some larger particles and a little white foam. He looks miserable, sneezing, coughing, variable appetite but I know he’s hungry. He’s had his bloodwork done in the past month and is normal with a high urine pH. Doc couldn’t even look in his ears b/c he wouldn’t let them.

Sept. 16, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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I'm sorry that your dog is not feeling good. Unfortunately, without being able to examine him, it is really difficult for me to say what might be going on. If you have had him seen multiple times by veterinarians and you do not agree with the diagnosis that they believed it to be, it may be time to see an internal medicine specialist. You didn't mention in your question what medications he might be on? That may help give a small clue as to what he's responding to. I think that at this point you either night to follow up for a recheck with a veterinarian that you trust, or ask for a referral to a specialist. I hope that everything goes well for him and he feels better soon.

Sept. 16, 2020

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Border Collie

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5 months

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Unknown severity

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2 found helpful

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Has Symptoms

Regurgitation

My puppy will occasionally regurgitate in the morning after eating some of his breakfast. It all looks almost exactly like his food completely undigested. He otherwise doesn’t act abnormal and will oftentimes go back to his food bowl within 5-10 minutes. He isn’t a fast eater and never eats all his food in his bowl at one time. I used to feed him three meals a day but now I’ll put food in his bowl twice a day and let him eat whenever he feels hungry. What do I do about my dog’s regurgitation though? Should I be concerned?

Aug. 23, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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Hello- Thank you for your question. I do think if your pet is regurgitating more than once per week it would be a good idea to have him evaluated by a veterinarian. They may want to take x-rays of his esophagus and GI tract to evaluate for any problems. The can rule out megaesophagus and a partial obstruction in the GI tract. I would also recommend having a stool sample checked for intestinal parasites. Then they will be able to provide you with medications or other treatment recommendations to decrease the frequency of the regurgitation. Take care!

Aug. 23, 2020

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rat terrier / miniature dachshund

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Eleven Years

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Vomiting At Night. Emesis Is Brown In Color And Very Liquidy. He Seems Fine During The Day But At Night Is The Only Time He Vomits.

I dont understand what is wrong with him. We have not changed anything. He does not eat like he used to but this has been like that for a while now.

Aug. 5, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question . Things can change as dogs age, and he may have a metabolic or intestinal disease causing these signs. A loss of appetite over time and chronic vomiting is something that should probably be addressed, since you are noticing it more dramatically. It would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine him, run lab work if needed, and see what might be going on. Once they know more, they will be able to let you know what treatments may be needed. I hope that he feels better soon.

Aug. 5, 2020

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Labrador Retriever mix

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Eight Years

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

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Regurgitation

Melissa has been throwing up her whole meals after couple hour of eating. Throw up doesn’t have any liquid and it’s just undigested food. Before the whole ordeal started we got zesty paws multivitamins which helped her to be more active and playful. She still seems to be fine and she still plays with her brother pit bull mix Bobo. So we haven’t noticed any signs of tiredness beside the usual (she loves to sleep). She still poops and it not exactly diarrhea or solid. We are however in the middle of the move and have been packing and moving furniture. Can anxiety be the cause of regurgitation?

July 31, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. I would not think that anxiety would cause her to vomit that frequently, and it may have something more to do with the vitamin if that was around the same time. What you may want to try is to feed her a bland diet of boiled white chicken and boiled white rice for a few days and see if that helps. If it does, then consider starting her food back without the multivitamin. If it does not help, then it would probably be a good idea to have her seen by a veterinarian, as there can be other causes for that. I hope that she is okay and feel better soon!

July 31, 2020

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Mutt

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Five Years

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Unknown severity

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Mucus Throw Up, Tiredness

Max has been really tired lately.. and this area between his ear and his eye seems to be like.. sinking in. And today he had a very mucus throw up. I want to take them in.. I just want to maybe get a general idea for next steps.. thank you

July 29, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. From your description, I think that your veterinarian will likely want to do some lab work to rule out any systemic disease for Max. There will be a lot of information that they will be able to gain from that, and they will be able to discuss next steps with you once they have more of that information. I hope that he feels better soon.

July 30, 2020

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Otto

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Black Lab /Golden Retriever Cross

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2 Years

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Moderate severity

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Regurgitating 7 Times Overnight.

I have a 2 1/2 yo Black Lab/Golden Retriever Mix. He began "regurgitating" last evening, about 2-3 hours after eating. I say regurgitating vs vomiting since he did not appear to heave, although some of the contents did appear to be partially digested. The rest were swollen undigested particles of food, and liquid. He continued to do this throughout the night and into the morning, about 7 times until early this morning. I have with-held food and only given a little water. After the 2nd incident, the contents were composed strictly of liquid, Yellow, tan, and white in color. He appears to have allergies and 2 weeks ago the vet ordered hydroxyzine for his persistent scratching. He has dandruff, so I also with her approval switched his diet from chicken and rice to cold water fish & sweet potatoe with the same company. The (All natural) Nutrition company, Natures Select, stated that many dogs seem to develop an allergy to chicken and do well on the fish. "This recipe is the perfect solution for dogs who suffer from skin allergies, poor digestion, sensitive stomachs, and finicky eaters. Dogs love the taste of Menhaden Fish! Fish is a great way to improve the overall appearance of a dog’s skin and coat." I don't often give the hydroxyzine as it appears to make him a little drowsy. He has eaten grass since I have had him. Although I attempt and am successful at limiting the actual ingestion. He is a service dog and exceptionally well behaved.I have only had him for the past 9 months. He has never "upchucked" since I have had him. I don't believe he has ingested anything he shouldn't have, or that should have upset his stomach. He never gets "people food." I see that several times you have recommended chicken and rice diet for recovery, I was thinking of banana or sweet potatoe, or would you recommend something else? And would you allow free access to water or limited small amounts? I planned to try the soft food this evening, or should I wait until tomorrow am? I would go to the vet or call the vet where he was trained, but they are closed today. I was hoping you might guide me?

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Ruby

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Patterdale Terrier

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9 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

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My dog has been diagnosed with bid which mainly affects her stomach. We are feeding on a z/d diet as proteins are small. After feeding, usually an hour, she will start to cough. If you give her a little more food this stops the cough but if I am not around she will vomit her food up.

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Shiloh

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Labrador Retriever

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5 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

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Spitting Up

I have a 120lbs 5 yr old English lab and he’s been having a problem with spitting up water and undigested food on and off for about a year seen a vet multiple times with no real answers. He has had lung infection before. And has a hug neck. I have elevated his dishes. I have changed his food multiple times. I’m even getting water filter on sink to see if it’s the water. He makes a lot of noise breathing and coughs a lot. And it seems to be getting worse. He’s loosing energy and every time he gets excited he hurry and lays down. I’m getting really worried. Any help is appreciated

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Tyson

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Rottweiler

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3 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Regurgitating

I have a 3 year old Rottie who we adopted from a shelter a little over a month ago. He started vomiting and having running stools so we took him to 24 hr vet who did an xray said he had a possible obstruction in his stomach. She also had a radiologist review his xray and they said they didn't see anything. They proved him with fluids suggested we take him to our vet. The next day we took him to his vet who also couldn't see anything on his xray. He suggested to watch him and his diet and said that whatever it was that was obstructing had since passed. We started him on white rice and his stools began to harden however he's now regurgitating his food. Last night his food came up within an hour of exactly how he had eaten it. My husband and I noticed his teeth had been filed down which leads us to believe he may not be able to chew his food properly. It hasn't stopped him from eating. So I'll try putting it in the food processor. It this doesn't work back to the vet for the ultrasound. My poor pup has been thru so much in his short life I hate having to have him pinched and poked.

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Daisy Mae

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English Bulldog

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7 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Regurgitation

severe sporadic regurgitation episodes, causing dehydration and kidney failure requiring fluid therapy. Have tried different prescription food and homemade food. Abdominal ultrasound and upper/lower x-rays have been normal, currently having a barium swallow xray series.

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