Acid reflux in dogs is a common disorder. The digestive enzymes and acid in the dog’s stomach recede into the esophagus (muscular tube connecting the stomach and throat). The esophagus lining is not protected from acid like the stomach is. Acid reflux results in burning of the dog’s esophagus causing inflammation, burning discomfort, and pain.
Acid reflux is treatable. Below is more on its causes, symptoms and most importantly it’s treatment.
Causes of Canine Acid Reflux
Acid reflux in dogs or Gastro Esophageal Reflux (GERD) can be caused by several factors. Knowledge of these causes will help in early noting of the symptoms. Here are the most common causes of acid reflux in dogs:
- Rare fragility in the lower esophageal sphincter.
- High-fat dog diet
- Poor positioning of your dog during surgery.
- Medication can also cause acid reflux e.g. Prednisone
- Improper esophagus muscle functionality”Megaesophagus”
- Grains or legumes in dog’s diet. Other foods include vinegar, starchy vegetables, garlic, refined sugars, bacon, and pepper.
- Incorrect fasting before surgery.
- Hiatal hernia abnormality is a genetic disorder that can also bring about acid reflux.
- The dog was continuously eating although its stomach is full.
- The weight exerts pressure on the stomach resulting in acid from the stomach being pushed through the gastric valve to the esophagus.
- High blood calcium
- Long-term or chronic vomiting
Common Breeds Affected by Acid Reflux in Dogs
There are canine breeds that have a higher risk of getting acid reflux than others. Some of these breeds transfer this disorder to their offspring. It is advisable to breed these dogs to prevent genetic transfer of this condition.
- American Pit Bull
- Boston Terrier
- Staffordshire Terrier
- Shis Tzu
- Cane Corso
- Presa Canario
- American Cocker Spaniel
- Lhasa Apso
- American Bulldog
Young dogs are at a higher risk of getting acid reflux more than adult dogs mostly because their inner muscles are still developing.
Symptoms of Canine Acid Reflux
Acid reflux can cause a lot of damage to the dog’s esophagus. In a mild case, the disease causes moderate heartburns and inflammation in the esophagus. Although acid reflux is not so severe in most cases, the intrusion of acid can cause damage to the inner layer of the esophagus. This can lead to necrosis or even ulcers. The symptoms are indefinite and non-specific, but there are obvious signs for dogs with acid reflux, here are the symptoms:
- Your dogs has loss of appetite
- The dog might be whining while eating
- Your dog becomes inactive after eating
- The dog has burping sounds after eating
- Persistent lip licking or gulping
- Gagging after eating
- Because of luck of eating the dog has weight loss
- The dog seems to be in distress or pain
- The dog has persistence bad breath
- Excessive drooling and fever in severe cases.
- Pain while swallowing
- Regurgitating food while eating
Most of these symptoms are common in dogs with acid reflux, but it’s hard to say they are a concrete finding when it comes to making a diagnosis. This makes it necessary to get to a vet so that he can give a complete and accurate diagnosis. It’s important to note and record the signs because the vet also needs them to ease his diagnosis of your dog’s condition.
For a definitive diagnosis, the best-known method is endoscopy. A qualified vet uses an endoscope (a small flexible camera) and inserts through the dog’s throat to the esophagus. This tool helps the vet see if there is any inflammation, active bleeding, irregular surface in the esophagus lining, or changes in the mucosal membrane. With this, the vet can then use the information received to come up with a diagnosis.
There are other means that the vet can use to diagnose acid reflux including a blood test to determine high blood calcium, chest X-ray and biochemical profile however the accurate one is the endoscopy.
Other causes that mimic symptoms of acid reflux in dogs include:
- Foreign body in the dog esophagus
- Growth of a tumor
- Disease or cancer of the throat or mouth
Treatment of Acid Reflux in Dogs
Treatment options mostly depend on the severity of the acid reflux. Most cases of acid reflux don’t need to be hospitalized. In some cases i.e. ”severe case when the dog needs nutritional support through an intravenous (IV) or stomach tube feeding” the dog will be hospitalized. After diagnosis, the vet will let you know if you can use diet control (natural treatment) or use of medication depending on the severity of the disease
The main aim of treatment is to reverse any damage caused to the esophageal lining and correct any underlying issue that might be the cause of the esophagus.
Natural Treatment of Canine Acid Reflux
Restrain your dog from feeding for a day or two but it can still drink water. This reduces the stomach acid production. This gives the esophagus grace period to be able to relax, heal and create a new layer of mucus that protects it from stomach acid.
After one or two days it will be safe to feed you dog. Feed him in small portions of the day- avoid large meals. This will prevent over feeding which is one of the causes of acid reflux in dogs. 4-5 small meals a day are sufficient. Another factor to consider while feeding your dog is its diet. Foods you should remove from the dog’s diet include:
- Fatty Mince
- Refined Sugars
- Starchy Vegetables
Feeding him this type of food may affect treatment. Feed him a diet with low fat and avoid adding water to his food as it may worsen the acid reflux.
Feed your dog this diet containing the following foods:
- Bone broth. It contains glutamine which helps heal internal cells of the gastric track.
- Pumpkin, turnip or squash
- White meat
- Low-fat cottage cheese etc.
And after one week your dog will be feeling better again. You can resume to his regular but revised diet. Reduce the food substances with high fat and protein levels. The dog will also lose weight which removes obesity as an underlying cause of acid reflux.
Acid reflux can be managed using medications prescribed by the vet. These medications are used when natural diet control treatment doesn’t work. Some of the medications are used to help reduce stomach acid production, and others assist in the healing of the esophagus lining. Here are types of medication used:
- Anti-acid medication which limits damage to the esophagus by neutralizing and decreasing acid production in the stomach e.g. famotidine or omeprazole.
- Protective medicine such as Sucralfate, Gastroprotectants medication which strengthens the esophageal sphincter, gastrointestinal prokinetic and also Metoclopramide which helps in the contraction of the muscles hence keeping the esophageal sphincter closed.
Surgery is only advisable in rare cases where the underlying cause of the acid reflux can’t be prevented or stopped either through diet treatment or medication. Cases like these are usually hereditary or are as a result of a severe case of acid reflux. The vet surgeon is required to correct the serious ulcers, abnormality of the esophagus or hernias. Surgery can cost $2,000 to $3,500.
The only prevention measure required is feeding your dog on a healthy diet low on fat.