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Acid Reflux in Dogs

Canine Acid Reflux - Symptoms, Causes and Treatments of Acid Reflux In Dogs 

Can dogs get acid reflux? Yes, they certainly can.

Gastroesophageal reflux or dog acid reflux is a condition where there is an uncontrolled reverse flow of the intestinal fluids or the gastric juices. These fluids flow into the tube that connects the stomach and the throat. This happens when the muscular opening, which is there at the base of the sphincter, relaxes for a brief period of time. This can happen if the dog is vomiting a lot too. Dogs’ acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux can happen to dogs of any age, though it you should keep in mind that younger dogs have a greater chance of suffering from acid reflux. During acid reflux, the gastric fluids that contain bile salts, pepsin, acid and other components, can damage the delicate mucus lining of the esophagus.

This causes esophagitis or inflammation of the esophagus. This condition can affect dogs as well as cats.

Acid reflux in dog breeds is a severe disorder of the digestive system in which the reverse flow of gastric juices or intestinal fluids takes place. This condition is also referred to as gastroesophageal reflux. The uncontrollable flow of gastric fluids goes into the tube connecting stomach and throat known as esophagus.This condition is caused by brief relaxation of the muscular opening at the base of sphincter. These gastric fluids containing pepsin, bile salts and other acidic contents may result in damaging the delicate lining of the esophagus, which may lead to a more severe condition referred to as esophagitis.

The intensity of the damage to esophagus lining may differ from dog to dog, depending upon the age and health conditions of the dog. In some cases only upper layer of the esophagus lining is damaged which is known as mild esophagitis, whereas in some case the lining is damaged much deeper and results in acute condition referred to as ulcerative esophagitis.

Although acid reflux can occur to the dogs of any age, younger dogs are more prone to this condition. This is because their sphincters are in the developing stage and not completely formed. Acid reflux in puppies is usually severe and must be attended to as soon as you observe symptoms of acid reflux in dogs.

Signs and Symptoms of Gastroesophageal Reflux in Dogs

The damage caused by acid reflux can vary from dog to dog. Some dogs might suffer from mild esophagitis, where in, there is mild inflammation of the mucus lining. In serious cases, dogs might suffer from ulcerative esophagitis that damages deeper layers of the lining. Some of the symptoms of canine acid reflux include howling or whining while eating food (the dog is showing pain), regurgitation of food, weight loss, and loss of appetite. Excessive salivation and fever are symptoms of severe esophagitis. If your dog is showing these symptoms, we suggest you take him to the vet for a physical examination.

In order to determine whether your dog is suffering from acid reflux, you need to observe the changes in his/her behavior, such as eating habits. However, you may not be able to identify the early signs of acid reflux in dogs if it is very mild.The common symptoms of acid reflux in dogs are as under:

• Change in normal behavior, such as repeated spitting after eating food.
• Howling and whining while swallowing.
• Loss of appetite or showing no eagerness for eating when you give the food to your dog.
• Loss of weight.
• Excessive salivation is one of the most common visible symptoms of acid reflux in dogs.

Canine Acid Reflux Causes

There are several possible causes: 

  • Anesthesia can cause the opening between the gastroesophageal sphincter and the stomach to relax.
  • Not fasting the dog before anesthesia or bad positioning of the dog while administering anesthesia can cause acid reflux.
  • Congenital hiatal hernia in dog can increase the risk of acid reflux in canines.
  • Severe vomiting for a long time can bring on acid reflux too.
  • A young dog, whose sphincters are still forming, is at a greater risk.
Some more causes for the occurrence of acid reflux in dogs are as listed below:

• Persistent vomiting, which may occur due to overeating or eating some food with high fat content.
• Food poisoning.
• Indigestion or some other disorder of the digestive system.

Treatment for Acid Reflux in Dogs

Dogs are treated by fasting them for a day or two. After that they are put on a strict dietary regimen – meals are low fat and low protein and given in small quantities at regular intervals. They might also be given medicines, gastrointestinal pro-kinetic agents.

For acid reflux in dogs treatment involves diet control and intermittent fasting. The treatment is usually done at home itself by feeding a proper diet. To treat acid reflux in dogs, medication is not usually required. However, in acute cases, certain medicines are administered in order to improve the movement of the contents of stomach to intestines as well as to strengthen the muscles of esophagus sphincters.

Fasting is one of the best acid reflux in dogs’ remedies. It does not mean that you will need to keep your dog hungry continuously for the whole day. You only have to increase the time intervals as compared to the usual intervals for feeding your dog. Also, you must avoid giving fats and protein rich foods to your dog.This is because, it may  result in further aggravation of the symptoms as the fat results in decreasing the strength of muscles where as protein results in stimulating the secretion of gastric juices in the esophagus.Thus, when it comes to acid reflux in dogs, diet is key.

If you notice any of the abovementioned symptoms, consult your vet, who will be able to provide you with advice and information on acid reflux in dogs and diet restrictions. The vet may also perform certain tests to confirm the diagnosis.

Gastroesophageal reflux Prevention in Dogs:

Do remember that foods rich in fats can be bad for a dog suffering from acid reflux. For dog health care, try to feed healthy dog diet that is low in fat.

  Submitted on September 30, 2011  

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