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Vomiting Versus Regurgitation

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What Is That?

It is important to differentiate between vomiting and regurgitation.  

Vomiting is a dynamic process, with the dog actively using its stomach muscles.

The material produced by vomiting will look digested.
Regurgitation is a passive process, the dog appears to just burp up contents.
The material produced does not appear digested.

Talk to your veterinarian if you have any questions or notice continued vomiting or regurgitation from your dog.

When you come home to find a mess on the floor, it is easy to assume that the dog vomited. Vomiting is very common in dogs, as they often eat weird things! There are actually many other causes of vomiting, including parasites, kidney disease, liver problems, pancreatitis, and food allergies. Overall, there are probably at least 101 causes of vomiting.  

When you take your dog to the veterinarian, the doctor will ask questions and determine if the dog is truly vomiting, or if the dog really has regurgitation, because they have different causes. You will be asked if you saw the process and what the mess looked like.

Vomit

Vomiting has many causes, but results in the stomach ejecting its contents through the mouth. Very active vomiting can also cause intestinal fluid to be brought up. When vomiting, a dog will often precede the act by retching, actively using the abdominal muscles, to force the contents up and out of the body. The process is often strenuous and dynamic.

The vomitus, meaning the material that was vomited up, comes from the stomach or intestines, and therefore contains a lots of fluid. The fluid may be a range of colors, from clear, to white foamy, yellow, green, brown, or even red if there is fresh blood.  Blood that has been in the stomach longer will become digested, and look like coffee grounds when vomited up.

Of course, there could be many other things in the vomitus depending on what was eaten. There could be dog food, which will look like it is starting to digest rather than its original form. Non-food material may look digested, or it may look like the original form depending on whether the  material can be digested. Objects like metal, plastic, and many fabrics cannot be digested.

Regurgitation

Regurgitation, on the other hand, comes from problems in the esophagus, the tube that leads from the mouth to the stomach. A dog that is regurgitating will just burp up  material. There is no active movement from the abdominal muscles pressing on the stomach.   

Since the food or other material does not make it to the stomach, it is not digested;  food will look much like it did when it was eaten. Sometimes there can be water in the material that is regurgitated if the problem is a megesophagus. This is a disease where the esophagus is not a straight tube, but becomes flaccid and dilates. Things that are ingested may just sit in this dilated area, not reaching the stomach, and will be regurgitated later.  Often, there can be fluid with food that is regurgitated.

Diseases of the esophagus include ulcers, inflammation, foreign bodies stuck inside the esophagus, tumors, and megesophagus. This is why it is important to know if that mess on the floor is caused by vomiting, or by regurgitation.

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Don't take a good vet for granted, that's what I say. I currently live in another state and have taken my 10 year old dog to numerous vets over the years (California, Colorado, Vegas, and then some). Never have I ever received the attention and care I've gotten w/Dr. Hines. Within the past 3 months alone, my dog went to 3 different vets for a horrible and painful skin problem that broke out all over her body.

The first vet: I spent more time ponying up the $175 for the visit than the Dr. spent actually looking at my dog. He performed a woods lamp exam for ringworm. Even without Google or a veterinary degree, I could tell it wasn't ringworm. Thanks for taking my money.
Second vet: "Here's some spray, now here's your bill. Bring her back in two weeks so I can charge you another visit." No tests, nothing.
Between the two, I felt like I got nowhere. No definitive answer on why this affected my dog and the medication given wasn't even for a diagnosed condition. Just some general topical spray. I could have bought it at Petsmart and saved myself the time and money.
Recently, on a visit to Idaho, I planned ahead to bring my dog to the Rupert Animal Clinic. I asked the same questions, had the same concerns and now have different results. Dr. Hines gave me options on what route to take, ran appropriate tests and communicated with me every step of the way (even calling me personally when test results came in). My primary concern was cancer. Our dog is like our child- we'll pay the money if we can keep her healthy and safe. In the future, I've resolved to bring my dog to Rupert Animal Clinic on our annual trip for all of her exams. I know she won't be treated as a little cash cow to exploit an owner's love for pets.

Sung L.
Rupert, ID

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