Regurgitation is the
relatively effortless expulsion of undigested food, without retching. It occurs
because the esophagus is physically blocked or there is a breakdown in the
swallowing mechanism (peristalsis). In either case, the food accumulates until
the esophagus is overloaded, after which the food is passively expelled.
Regurgitation should not be confused with vomiting.
Vomiting is the forceful expulsion of stomach contents, preceded by retching.
Vomited food is sour smelling, appears digested, or at least partly digested,
and is often mixed with yellow bile.
Heartworm disease, so named because the adult worms live in the right side of
the heart, is common in dogs, less so in cats. In fact, cats may be
accidental hosts only, and certainly they are less perfect hosts for this
parasite than dogs are.
Chronic regurgitation (the kind that comes and goes but seems
to be getting worse) suggests a partial obstruction caused by megaesophagus,
stricture, or tumor.
A serious complication of regurgitation is aspiration pneumonia, in which the
lungs become infected as a result of food being aspirated (inhaled) into them.
When regurgitated food ends up in the lungs, aspiration pneumonia is the
result. Another potentially serious complication is nasal cavity infection.
This occurs when food is regurgitated into the nose.
Bouts of severe coughing
and gagging can be mistaken for either regurgitation or vomiting. It is
important to distinguish between all three conditions, because each denotes a
disease in a different system.
Dysphagia (difficult, painful swallowing)
If there is a partial blockage, swallowing can be difficult and
painful, but the cat does not necessarily
regurgitate. A cat with a painful esophagus makes repeated attempts to swallow
the same mouthful and eats slowly. There may be noticeable weight loss, and as
the condition becomes more painful, the cat may stop eating altogether.
swallowing can be associated with mouth infections, dental infections, sore
throat, or tonsillitis. Cats with these conditions also often have drooling and
halitosis. Sometimes, the cat can eat softened or liquid foods but not hard or
dry foods. Some cats will lick the “gravy” off canned foods but not eat the
WebMD Veterinary Reference from "Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook"