Difference Between Regurgitation and Vomiting

By Valdette Muller| July 31, 2018 | Blog

Vomiting is one of the most common reasons why people take their pet to the vet.

Many pet owners do not know or understand the difference between vomiting and regurgitating or what to do when something suddenly flies out of their pet’s mouth.

Having this information and knowing the difference can be very helpful in determining whether you should go to a vet, and what to tell your vet when you see them.


“Is when the body forcefully ejects the material from the stomach or upper part of the intestines. It is an active process, typically accompanied by retching and contraction of the abdominal muscles.” by Dr. Jason Nicholas.

If your pet is about to vomit, it will stem from your pet feeling nauseous. Signs of nausea will show when your pet’s abdominal walls are beginning to contract. Your pet may drip or drool saliva, begin licking their lips right before they retch out. Often there is a dramatic heaving motion they do, where your pet’s abdominal muscles begin to contract several times before they actually empty the contents of their stomach.

When a pet vomits, the contents will be brought up comes from the stomach and sometimes the first part of the small intestine. If there is yellow/orangish or greenish-colored bile, then you know your pet is vomiting. Not all vomit contains bile, but it always contains digestive fluid, so if you do not see any bile, it does not necessarily mean that your pet did not vomit.


“There really isn’t often any noise associated with regurge, it’s much more stealthy — quietly occurring and often only discovered when you step in the results. In cases of regurge there really aren’t any contractions of the abdominal muscles, and there typically aren’t any signs of nausea. Rather a cat or dog just lowers their head and out falls the food or other material — again, very passive.” by Dr. Jason Nicholas


Yes, there is even a third type in this lovely subject. Many pet owners can confuse this event with vomiting. When an animal coughs a few times, and then produces a blob of mucous. This is expectorating, which is very different from regurgitating or vomiting.

The key difference with expectoration is that there is always a cough involved. It is a process of coughing up something from the lungs, such as mucous, phlegm, or food or drink that has gone down the wrong way. Cough medicines for people are often described as an expectorant, or something that is designed to clear mucous and fluid from the lungs.

Different treatments for different problems.

Both vomiting and regurgitating are different problems that can have different causes, and they also have different treatments depending on those causes.

When a vet is presented with a “vomiting pet,” the first thing they have to determine is whether the animal is actually vomiting.

Since your dog or cat will not simply just vomit or regurgitate on command in front of the vet, knowing what your dog or cat was doing before the episode can be helpful in diagnosing your pet’s problem.

If you can manage it, try to get a video recording on your phone of your pet during one of their episodes, and then take it with you to show your vet. This can also be really beneficial in diagnosing the cause of the problem.

As a pet owner, another good way to help determine the problem is to take with a sample of the product that is thrown or coughed up for examination, and if you can explain to your vet that you understand the difference between the three processes and have identified exactly what is happening to your pet, it can help them accurately diagnose the problem and prescribe treatment for your pet.


Sources: https://www.petmd.com/blogs/fullyvetted/2012/july/differences_of_vomiting_regurgitation_in_pets-26383




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