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What Is Acid Reflux In Dogs?

Written by: Adri Sandoval
Adri Sandoval is the Special Projects Manager for iHeartDogs and iHeartCats. Her work has deepened her love for animals, fostering a strong passion for rescue and animal advocacy.Read more
| Published on November 8, 2017

Your dog’s stomach contains acid and digestive enzymes to break his food down. Acid reflux is when these enzymes and acid enter the esophagus, which can cause damage to the tissues. It can be caused by a weak lower esophageal sphincter, improper emptying of the stomach, or obesity. Some medications, like prednisone can also make a dog more susceptible to acid reflux.

If you have acid reflux, you know that it’s uncomfortable and can even be dangerous. The tissues of the esophagus will erode as they repeatedly take on the contents of the stomach, which will increase the risk of esophageal ulcers. Your dog may have acid reflux and be hiding it very well – but there are tell-tale signs that you can keep an eye out for.

Acid reflux itself isn’t very serious, but it can irritate your dog and cause tissues to die, and there’s a risk that his vomit may enter his lungs.

Symptoms of Acid Reflux in Dogs

  • Gurgling or burping sounds after eating
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Weak vomiting or coughing accompanied by small amounts of vomit.
  • Whining while eating
  • Eating a bit, demonstrating discomfort, then resuming eating.
  • Wheezing
  • Excessive salivation

Causes of Acid Reflux in Dogs

  • Excessive production of acid in the stomach
  • Hiatal hernia
  • Eating inappropriate food (i.e. spicy human food)
  • Obesity
  • High blood calcium

Diagnosis of Acid Reflux in Dogs

Your dog may not seem too bothered by his acid reflux, but if you notice any of the above symptoms, he needs to see a vet right away as acid reflux can develop into other complaints.

Your vet may want to sedate your dog to preform an endoscopy, which will allow the vet to take a look at your dog’s esophagus using a small camera on the end of a flexible tube. They’ll be able to identify any ulcers, inflammation or tumors.


Treatment of Acid Reflux in Dogs

Vets often recommend that your dog be fed several small meals throughout the day instead of a few larger ones. Dry kibble can induce acid reflux, so moistening it with water may also be recommended, but if it persists anyway, a more hydrated, bland diet, like plain boiled chicken, rice, and blanched broccoli can help.

In the rare case that serious hernias or ulcers are found, surgery may be required. It’ll depend on the underlying cause of the condition and the severity.

Recovery of Acid Reflux in Dogs

Changing your dog’s diet and managing his weight can often cure the condition. Should ulcers or tumors be present, the outlook will vary depending on the specific condition and treatment regimen.

Generally, acid reflux is manageable although uncomfortable. Ranitidine might be prescribed to help, and will not only reduce acid but will help move stomach contents along in the right direction.


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