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“Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” — Roger Caras

Does Your Dog Suffer From Heartburn or Indigestion? Treating Acid Reflux in Dogs

Acid reflux is a frustrating condition to have for either humans or dogs. Not only is it annoying, but it’s also a sign that there’s something wrong with your dog’s digestive system. The inability to ingest food properly means your dog isn’t getting all the nutrition it needs.

It’s crucial to treat acid reflux and its underlying conditions for the dog to live a happy life without worries. This guide can help you understand what it is and what can be done to treat it.

What is Acid Reflux?

Acid reflux happens when the contents of the stomach go the other direction for some reason. It’s involuntary and can result in pain and even the dog accidentally inhaling those contents when they go up the throat. This can give the dog considerable discomfort.

Unlike when the dog is ill with symptoms of vomiting, acid reflux doesn’t necessarily make the dog feel sick. The acid reflux just happens out of the blue, and you may not know about it right away until the stomach contents come out of the dog’s mouth.

Nausea and lip-licking are common signs of a dog having probable acid reflux. If you see these two indicators and notice that the dog hasn’t been eating and acting right, then it may be time to go to the vet for a check-up.

But these symptoms may not be evident enough for you to determine that the dog has acid reflux. Over time, chronic acid reflux with the dog having bile go up repeatedly can lead to esophagitis, which is inflammation of the esophagus. This is a painful condition that can make swallowing food difficult.

Causes of Acid Reflux in Dogs

Acid reflux is fairly common in dogs of any age. It can be due to a weakened or damaged lower esophageal sphincter, which is the muscle that usually keeps the contents of the stomach from going the other way. While the intestines have a lining that protects them from digestive juices, the stomach only has a mucus membrane to protect it. With acid reflux, this membrane may be diminished, which can lead to irritation of the exposed stomach lining.

Congenital Hiatal hernias can also increase the chance of your dog having acid reflux. The surgery meant to treat the hernia can cause acid reflux due to the anesthetic, which can cause the esophageal sphincter to relax. Improper positioning of the dog during the operation can then cause stomach contents to come out of the mouth. This is why fasting is recommended before surgery.

Treatment Options For Acid Reflux In Dogs

If the dog does indeed have acid reflux, three treatment options may be considered. First is the withholding of food for 1 or 2 days, after which the dog is then fed a strict diet consisting of small meals throughout the day. This strict diet contains fewer proteins and no fats that can raise the dog’s stomach acids and exacerbate digestion problems that may lead to acid reflux.

Medical intervention consists of using gastrointestinal prokinetic drugs to promote better motility in the dog’s digestive tract and strengthening of the esophageal sphincter.

Feeding a Dog That Has Acid Reflux

Diet is the main contributing factor to acid reflux, especially one that’s high in fat. Your vet may suggest giving your dog a low-carb low-fat diet to alleviate this problem. In some circumstances, lowering protein may also be necessary to reduce the production of acid in the stomach.

It’s best to feed the dog with meals that are smaller and in more frequent intervals instead of the usual regularity you may be used to. This is to give the dog enough time to digest each meal, making sure to not overwhelm the stomach with too much food at one time.

Wet food is usually recommended. Dry kibble soaked in water or bone broth may also be fed to the dog to lower acidity. Choose food for dogs that have a sensitive stomach, i.e. foods that are easier to digest and made of plain ingredients like chicken. Canned pumpkins in small quantities can also help calm the dog’s stomach, as well as sweet potatoes and bananas. Bone broth is also a nutritious alternative that can also lower acidity.

Putting the food in a raised bowl can also help with acid reflux as the dog won’t need to lower its head down while eating, which helps the food go down the esophagus more easily.

What can you give a dog for acid reflux?

Charcoal tablets can soothe a dog's digestive system, however if the problem continues, visit your veterinarian.

How do I know if my dog has acid reflux?

Your dog will appear uncomfortable and nervous, they may lick their lips, drool. and vomit or regurgitate food,

What foods cause acid reflux in dogs?

Heavily processed foods can cause problems with dogs, especially if they contain a lot of sugars and additives. Foods with a high fat content, garlic, and citrus fruits can all contribute, so it's always best to stick to a plain diet with your dog.

This video explains what to look for, and how to deal with, acid reflux in your dog: