Dog Regurgitation Causes and Treatment
See files for Dogs
Regurgitation in dogs is a relatively common phenomenon and something which shouldn't cause concern in occasional or exceptional cases. When a dog regurgitates their food regularly, it could be a pathological issue, but it may also be a behavioral problem associated with the dog's relationship with their food. It is also important to distinguish the difference between a dog regurgitating food and vomiting. Regurgitation is also particularly common in puppies, but determining whether it is a symptom of a problem is essential due to their vulnerability.
At AnimalWised, we look at dog regurgitation causes and treatment. By discovering the reasons why your dog keeps regurgitating food, we can prevent damage to the digestive tract which can seriously harm their health. We also compare regurgitation with vomiting and reflux.
The difference between dog regurgitation, vomiting and reflux
For us to better understand dog regurgitation, we will need to look at similar conditions in dogs. Specifically, we look at the difference between regurgitation, vomiting and gastroesophageal reflux:
- Regurgitation in dogs: the main function of the esophagus is to transport food from the mouth to the stomach. To carry out this task, there are reflex mechanisms that stimulate peristalsis, i.e. the contractional movement which allows food to pass. Contractions occur in the upper parts which then relax in the lower parts, resulting in a unidirectional flow of food. When the esophagus removes the swallowed contents retrogradely (into the oral cavity), regurgitation occurs.
- Vomiting in dogs: vomiting is expelling the contents of the stomach out of the body through the oral cavity. It is a protective reflex of the organism to eliminate potentially harmful substances from the gastrointestinal tract. The act of vomiting is a complex reflex that involves different systems and is coordinated by the vomiting center, located in the medulla oblongata. In the act of vomiting, the dog exerts force, using various muscles. It is always good to remember that vomiting is not a disease, but a symptom. It is a sign that something is not right in the animal's body. The type of vomit can help us know the cause, such as when a dog vomits black liquid.
- Gastroesophageal reflux in dogs: occurs when the gastroduodenal content is carried into the esophagus. It constitutes a serious problem with serious implications, such as deterioration in quality of life and the need for continued use of medication. A serious complication of reflux is aspiration pneumonia in dogs, which can lead to death.
Symptoms of regurgitation in dogs
Now we know the differences between reflux, regurgitation and vomiting, we will look more closely at dog regurgitation itself. As with vomiting, regurgitation is a symptom, not a disease. Specifically, the only thing that needs to happen to recognize regurgitation is for food to come back out of the dog's mouth shortly after eating. When it is part of a larger problem, regurgitation may be accompanied by the following symptoms:
- Difficulty eating
- Pain when swallowing food
- Repeated swallowing
- Appetite loss
- Weight loss
We can tell the difference between regurgitated food and vomit due to the level of digestion that has taken place. Regurgitated food will only be broken down by chewing and will not have been digested by any stomach acid. Vomit will come from the stomach and will be digested to varying degrees, depending on the amount of time spent in the stomach and top of the intestines.
Learn more with our article on why a dog is vomiting and has diarrhea at the same time.
Causes of regurgitation in dogs
In many cases, the exact reason for esophageal problems leading to regurgitation are idiopathic, i.e. they are not always known. When they can be determined, there are three main pathological causes of dog regurgitation. They are the following:
- Megaesophagus or esophageal weakness: a syndrome characterized by generalized dilation and decreased peristaltic movements of the esophagus, which is usually severe. It can be congenital or acquired. You can learn more about this serious condition with our article on the causes and treatment of megaesophagus in dogs.
- Esophageal foreign bodies: objects that dogs swallow and end up in the esophagus. They can include almost anything such as fishing hooks, sewing needles, bones, food, snacks and broken parts of toys. The severity of the damage caused by the foreign body depends on the obstruction generated, its size and the angle at which it is placed in the esophagus. If left untreated, it can cause necrosis of the esophageal wall by exerting pressure on the organ.
- Blood vessel abnormalities: also known as vascular anomalies, blood vessel abnormalities are congenital malformations of the main vessels and their branches, causing obstruction in the thoracic part of the esophagus. It is as if large blood vessels hug the esophagus preventing its expansion. The resultant constriction causes a secondary megaesophagus or dilation of the esophagus after constriction.
Perhaps the most common causes of dog regurgitation are to do with a guardian's approach to feeding. Often a dog will eat too voraciously, leading to them regurgitating food since they have not allowed sufficient time to swallow. The reasons why a dog eats too fast and regurgitates their food include:
- Poor routine: dogs are creatures of habit and they will expect their food at the same time each day. If we do not feed them in a prompt manner or have haphazard feeding times, it can result in the dog having food insecurity. This means they will fear they won't be fed again, so they will eat too quickly to ensure they are fed.
- Poor nutrition: if the dog is not being fed the right nutrition they require for their organism, they may always be hungry. This means they will eat too fast when they are fed because they are trying to get the nutrition they are missing.
- Stressful home: if the dog lives in a stressful environment, they may eat too fast out of a generalized fear. In these cases, the dog may exhibit various behavioral issues, including eating too fast.
Voracious eating can be a choking hazard, especially if they do not regurgitate the food easily. Learn more with our article on why a dog chokes when eating.
Regurgitation in puppies
Dogs tend to be very anxious when it comes to eating, especially puppies. Some eat very quickly and in large quantities, regurgitating soon after. In such cases, there are no problems with the animal. We will simply have to divide their food into several smaller meals during the day. Puppies should eat at least 3 times a day, avoiding getting too hungry and eating too much too fast.
If the reason is not voracity, it is not normal for a puppy to regurgitate. Regurgitation may be a sign that something is wrong with the puppy and the cause should be investigated as soon as possible.
Dog regurgitation treatment
The first thing we need to do is determine the cause of regurgitation in the dog. We will need to take them to a veterinarian if we cannot clarify it ourselves. Foreign bodies and vascular anomalies are usually resolved with surgical procedures, depending on the severity of the condition and the involvement of the esophagus.
Megaesophagus should be treated by feeding the dog with their head in an elevated position, holding it for 10 to 15 minutes in that position after feeding. The use of soft foods such as wet dog food reduces regurgitation in dogs with good results. The use of metoclopramide may also be helpful in controlling regurgitation, but its use should be evaluated by the veterinarian.
Unfortunately, the prognosis of megaesophagus in dogs is generally poor. This is largely due to the complications of aspirational pneumonia.
If the problem is due to voracious eating, then we need to address our care. We will need to set a strict feeding routine and stick to it. We will need to check their nutrition and amend the type of food we provide if they are deficient. We will also need to asses their mental wellbeing and determine if there are any stressors in the home. If we are unsure, we should speak to a canine ethologist who can help us evaluate the specific needs of our dog.
This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.
If you want to read similar articles to Dog Regurgitation Causes and Treatment, we recommend you visit our Intestinal problems category.
1. Münster, M., Hörauf, A., Lübke-Becker, A., Grest, P., & Rütten, M. (2013). Idiopathic esophagopathies resembling gastroesophageal reflux disease in dogs. Tierarztliche Praxis. Ausgabe K, Kleintiere/Heimtiere, 41(3), 173–179.
2. Nakagawa, T., Doi, A., Ohno, K., Yokoyama, N., & Tsujimoto, H. (2019). Clinical features and prognosis of canine megaesophagus in Japan. The Journal of veterinary medical science, 81(3), 348–352. https://doi.org/10.1292/jvms.18-0493
- Pimentel, YL et al . Acquired secondary megaesophagus in a dog – Case report. Federal University of Uberlandia. Available at https://repositorio.ufu.br/bitstream/123456789/24498/3/Megaes%C3%B4fagoSecund%C3%A1rioAdquirido.pdf. Consulted on 04/24/2023.
- Tabanez, P. Emesis in dogs. Information from Veterinarians for Veterinarians, 2020. Available at https://vetsmart-parsefiles.s3.amazonaws.com/19135374958bcc0541c97ea0ab7b8c4f_vetsmart_admin_pdf_file.pdf. Consulted on 04/24/2023.
- HF Hartmann et al . Gastroesophageal reflux in bitches undergoing conventional or video-assisted ovariohysterectomy. Bow. Bras. Medicine. Vet. Zootec., 2018. Available at https://www.scielo.br/j/abmvz/a/xmk6456wgXN3jPqvqgdCRVL/?lang=pt. Consulted on 04/24/2023.