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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 it was eaten. This can be serious because the larynx may be unable to close quickly enough, 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 sign, more than than a disorder. It may be a congenital disorder, and these are more 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, systemic, 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 signs 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 may also be 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 a foreign object, the veterinarian may be able to remove it and prescribe medications to go home. 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 signs, which should control the regurgitation as well.

Poisoning

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

Gastric Reflux (such as 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

The prognosis varies for this condition, depending on the cause.  It can vary from very good to very poor, depending on the situation.  Discussing recovery and management with your veterinarian will give you an idea as to what to expect.  

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Written by a Pugs lover Grace Park

Veterinary reviewed by: Michele K.

Published: 04/20/2017, edited: 04/05/2021

Regurgitation Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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erichey55@gmail.com

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Erichey55@Gmail.Com

My puppy ate some caned dog food he normally doesn't eat. Now he won't eat his food and he is throwing up.

Dec. 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Hello so sorry to hear about your dog. The change in diet can cause this. Also your puppy is very young and vomit can be a sign of parvo. If this continues, I would have your vet test him for parvo.

Dec. 28, 2020

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Regurgitation

He was sitting next to me, one second there was nothing, next thing I know there was undigested food next to him

Nov. 17, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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13 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Puppies can be affected by parasites and infectious intestinal diseases, but they can also just eat too fast and bring it back up. If he is acting normally otherwise and this is a one-time occurrence, it may be nothing to worry about. If it is something that continues to happen, or he is lethargic or does not want to eat, then it would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Nov. 17, 2020

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Regurgetation

Sounds like choking on something threw up twice in the morning

Nov. 2, 2020

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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Hi there, you are through to Dr Linda. This kind of noise alongside vomiting could indicate Kennel Cough (a viral infection), a foreign body stuck in the throat (such as a piece of bone or a toy) etc. The dog needs to be assessed and may require some diagnostic tests such as an xray.

Nov. 2, 2020

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Noisy Breathing Regurgitating

He is a 65lb pit. My dog has sudden regurgitation.. he can be asleep and wake up regurgitating. He has lots of energy loves to play, it’s usually a clear liquid or i digested dog food. He does eat sort of fast I have bought him the bowl that is suppose to make him eat slower. He snores loudly and sometimes it sounds like he can’t breath well. He seems to have normal bowel movements and doesn’t act tired or different after he regurgitates he just keeps on going. He does lick his paws a lot though.

Sept. 29, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. The amount of regurgitation that you're describing is concerning to me. It may be related to him snoring or having breathing problems, or it may not. I think it would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine him, assess what might be going on with his breathing, and take X-rays if needed. I hope that everything goes well for him.

Oct. 1, 2020

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Regurgitation Clear Liquid

My pup seems to be regurgitating clear liquid or mucus. It's as if he's trying to clear his throat. He just started doing this, but ate his breakfast with no problem. He's just doing it once every 30 minutes or so.

Sept. 27, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. This may have been a short term GI upset, and he may be fine by now, but if the problem is still going on, It would be best to have them seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine your pet and see what might be causing this, and let you know what treatment might help.

Oct. 11, 2020

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Otto

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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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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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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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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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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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