Regurgitation is the passive expulsion of matter from the mouth, upper throat (pharynx), or esophagus. In dogs, the expelled matter often takes the appearance of chewed food combined with a little saliva or mucus. It can also be tube-like in shape.
• Regurgitation is common in dogs
• Vomit can be mistaken for regurgitation
• Causes of regurgitation vary in severity from eating too quickly to more complex causes such as Addison’s Disease or vascular ring anomaly
• Diagnosis and treatment varies depending on the cause of regurgitation, and can include surgery, medication, and symptomatic care
• Regurgitation can be dangerous if recurring, leading to malnourishment and aspiration pneumonia
Regurgitation is common in dogs, especially dogs that eat too quickly.
The seriousness of the symptom depends on whether regurgitation is simply caused by a rushed meal or if there is another underlying cause. Dogs that regurgitate food once but otherwise seem happy and healthy are unlikely to require a veterinary visit. Repeated occurrences of regurgitating food may indicate a more concerning condition.
Regardless of the cause, regurgitation can be dangerous if it consistently recurs, as it can lead to malnourishment and aspiration pneumonia.
The causes of regurgitation can be split between either disruption of esophageal function or a physical blockage of the esophagus. Some of these conditions are:
• Scarring or stricture
• Vascular ring anomaly
• Hiatal hernias
• Esophageal worms
• Esophageal dysmotility disorder
• Exposure to toxins
The frequency of regurgitation differs more than the severity. Underlying causes can affect how often or how seldom regurgitation occurs, and the frequency of regurgitation can indicate whether the cause is more severe or simply a passing ailment.
Regurgitation may lead to inhalation of solids or liquids into the lungs. If this occurs, an infection can develop and lead to aspiration pneumonia, which can be life threatening. Recurring episodes of regurgitation warrant veterinary attention to prevent aspiration pneumonia from developing.
Ongoing presentation of regurgitation and/or vomiting may also indicate a GI foreign body obstruction which can also be life threatening. Prompt veterinary investigation is the best strategy to ensure early detection and treatment of GI obstruction.
Diagnosing regurgitation typically calls for a physical exam and may expand into diagnostic imaging including X-rays, advanced imaging like CT or MRI scans, as well as endoscopy (visualization of the GI tract using a camera).
Additional blood work may also be necessary to determine underlying causes.
The treatment that follows any diagnosis is specific to the underlying cause of regurgitation and may include:
• Surgery for tumors, stricture, and vascular ring anomaly
• Endoscope for removing esophageal foreign bodies
• Medication for myasthenia gravis, Addison’s disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease, or hypothyroidism
Supportive and symptomatic treatments such as a change in the consistency of food or upright feeding accommodation may be necessary for some conditions that cannot be fully resolved.
Regurgitation can be mistaken for vomiting, which is similarly the expulsion of matter. Vomiting is expulsion starting in the stomach, and the process is much more active than regurgitation. It generally includes retching and heaving as abdominal muscles expunge any stomach contents, and, unlike regurgitation, the vomit itself usually contains bile.
Other symptoms observed alongside regurgitation include:
Time for a check-up?
Start a video chat with a licensed veterinary professional right now on Vetster!