Good news! Your dog is not vomiting after wolfing down that chew he just happily finished - he is regurgitating! Regurgitating and vomiting are two totally different conditions that every pet parent needs to be made aware of to determine the proper remedy or health issue. With my new puppy in the household, she thoroughly enjoys her bones and chews… so much so that it can be hard to slow her down sometimes and she ends up spewing up undigested pieces without any warning or audible heaving. At first this worried me, until I realized a pattern that this was only happening occasionally when she would tear off a chunk a little too big or she ate it too quickly. That is when I came across the difference between the two - my puppy was not actually vomiting, she was just regurgitating!
What’s the Difference?
With regurgitation, food has not entered the stomach yet and the regurgitated contents are from the esophagus or pharynx. Holistic Veterinarian, Dr. Jean Dodds, explains that food that has been regurgitated can be “shaped like a tube and can also be glistening from saliva or mucus.” Ever notice after your pup regurgitates that they will eat the contents that come up? Sounds gross, I know, but wolves and even mother dogs regurgitate their food purposely to feed their young!
Although regurgitation is almost always harmless, here are some ways to prevent it from happening frequently:
Hold the bone/chew! If you are feeding a bone or chew, try holding it next time to help stop your pup from wolfing it down too quickly. This not only helps prevent regurgitation, but it actually teaches your pup to eat bones and chews slower so that you aren’t having to hold each one for them.
Smaller portions! When you feed larger portions in one sitting, this allows your dog to chow down too much at one time and can possibly lead to food getting stuck and resulting in regurgitation.
Slow feeding! Add a safe object to your dog’s food bowl to help slow down their eating and lessen the amount of food they get in each bite. Holistic Veterinarian, Dr. Karen Becker, goes more into detail on slow feeding techniques.
Adjust the consistency! If you are feeding kibble, add moisture such as water or goats milk to the food and let soak for about 15 minutes. This method changes the consistency of the dry kibble and will help slow your pup down from eating too quickly, food getting stuck, and the moisture also helps with digestion.
When your dog vomits, the contents are coming from the stomach or upper part of the small intestine and is almost always accompanied by bile, a yellow or orange-ish colored substance. Because food has traveled way down into the digestive tract and now needs to come up, dogs typically show discomfort by pacing, drooling, licking their lips and salivating before they vomit. Vomiting is basically a whole body act, and like humans, dogs will heave before they vomit. Unlike regurgitation, vomiting tends to be tied more with diet - such as food intolerances, allergies or toxins.
Should I Worry?
Let’s face it - when it comes down to it, you panic as soon as you see your furbaby upchuck a piece of undigested chew/bone/food. I have been working in the pet industry for a few years and even I get alarmed sometimes when it happens to my own dogs! I certainly don’t feel you should take an emergency trip to the vet at your pup’s first or second regurgitation, but if your furry friend is frequently regurgitating, I recommend seeking a veterinarian. It is important to understand that there are some underlying medical conditions that cause frequent regurgitation, such as:
- Inflamed Esophagus: This happens when there is damage done to the esophagus, usually by swallowing sharp contents like cooked bone fragments.
- Addison’s Disease: This is a disorder of the adrenal glands and hormones. When the adrenal glands are exhausted they do not produce enough cortisol.
- Megaesophagus: This condition is when the muscles of the esophagus are too weak to push the food down to the stomach. Another cause is from having something foreign is stuck in the esophagus for a long period of time and now the esophagus is enlarged. Avoid this by not feeding any smoked, cooked or raw hide bones.
Although regurgitation may take you (and your pup) by complete surprise, I would not worry too much if you are noticing it happens every once and awhile after they have just enjoyed a safe, fresh raw chew or bone, particularly if you notice them eating too fast. If regurgitation is happening quite a bit after meal time, just refer to the tips I listed above on how to slow down your pup’s feeding. Now sit back, relax and enjoy your T.V. series while your pup gets chew drunk!