If you’ve ever seen your dog suddenly “lose their lunch,” so to speak, it can obviously be a scary situation. When your pooch leaves a pile of undigested food on your carpet or kitchen floor, that can be alarming.
But what your pet might actually be doing is regurgitating their food, not necessarily vomiting. And vomiting and regurgitation are actually quite different. Here’s some information on those differences, as well as some possible reasons why dogs regurgitate their food.
Vomiting vs. Regurgitation
The end result of vomiting and regurgitation look very much alike. But knowing the difference between the two is important because they indicate a different set of potential issues.
When your dog vomits, they’ll usually contract their stomach muscles and retch first. You’ll probably have a bit of time to act before the vomiting actually occurs.1 This might give you enough time to put down a towel or possibly get your pooch outside. Vomiting might also be accompanied by other warning signs. These include making retching sounds, wandering aimlessly, or assuming a stiff, rigid stance.2
Regurgitation, on the other hand, is much quieter. Dogs who regurgitate won’t usually make much noise, if any. You might not even know regurgitation happened until you see the results or, unfortunately, step on them. A dog who regurgitates typically won’t show any signs of distress.3 Often, your dog will just drop their head toward the ground and “let go,” so to speak.
Vomiting may indicate a problem with the stomach or the large or small intestine. Regurgitation, on the other hand, could be a sign that something’s wrong with the esophagus.4
If your dog only regurgitates occasionally, there’s usually not cause for concern. If it happens frequently (more than once a week), then you’ll need to take them to your vet.
Reasons for Regurgitation
One of the common culprits responsible for regurgitation is a condition known as megaesophagus.5 This occurs when there’s a problem with the muscles that make your dog’s esophagus contract. A dog with megaesophagus will have a hard time getting food to the stomach, and regurgitation will be the result. A dog can be born with the condition, or develop it in later years.6
Other signs of megaesophagus can include:
- Sudden weight loss
- Trouble swallowing
- Drooling excessively
- Nasal discharge
- Weight loss
- Bad breath
Coughing and fever are also common indications of the condition.7
An even more troubling reason for repeated regurgitation could be an intestinal blockage. If there’s some sort of obstruction in your dog’s digestive tract, their body will move food in the opposite direction… and up and out it comes. This can lead to cramping and restlessness in your dog.8
You need to get your dog to the vet immediately if you suspect they have some sort of stomach obstruction. If your pup is unable to bring up the object on his own, it could perforate the intestine, potentially leading to a fatal infection.9
Examining Your Dog
If your dog is regurgitating regularly, try to identify the source of the problem. Has your pup recently eaten spicy or unusual food? Did they get into the trash and eat something they shouldn’t? Give your dog some slippery elm bark powder to see if that helps soothe their stomach.10
Check your dog’s gums as well to see if they are bleeding or bruised. Trauma there could mean your pup swallowed something sharp that might now be lodged in their digestive tract. Regurgitation can also be a sign of a respiratory problem. In general, if something seems off about your dog, and they’re distressed, take them to the vet.
Vomiting – What’s Normal and What’s Not Normal?
A perfectly healthy dog can vomit out of the blue and then go about the rest of the day just like everything’s normal. Your dog might have simply eaten food too quickly or ingested a little too much grass in the backyard. If the dog doesn’t show any other symptoms, they should be fine.11
But if your dog vomits a great deal at one time, vomits without stopping or vomits repeatedly, you need to be ready to take them to the vet. This is also the case if you notice blood in the vomit, or if it’s accompanied by bloody diarrhea.12
Frequent vomiting can be a sign of inflammatory bowel disease or some other serious condition that needs to be addressed as soon as possible. Get to your vet to see whether or not there’s a problem.
One Last Thought
Again, whether your dog is regurgitating or vomiting, if it only happens once in a while, you shouldn’t be too concerned. But if it happens with regularity, you’ll need to get your pup to the vet for a check-up as soon as you can.