Acid Reflux in Dogs | Causes & Symptoms
Humans and dogs have a lot of similar health issues. One of them is acid reflux. Like us, dogs can be prone to indigestion and other uncomfortable stomach issues. If you don’t have it, you can consider yourself lucky. Acid reflux can be painful, uncomfortable, and can even lead to vomiting. If you’re worried about your dog’s health and you suspect they have this condition, here are the leading causes, symptoms, and treatment you should be aware of about acid reflux in dogs.
What is acid reflux in dogs?
Canine acid reflux is very similar to the human condition. It happens when the stomach or gastric acid flows into the esophagus. The muscle opening that controls the stomach’s “entrance” is called the sphincter. Dogs without acid reflux have a healthy sphincter that regulates what comes in or out of the stomach. Dogs that have this condition have a relaxed sphincter that allows stomach acid to flow into the esophagus.
What causes acid reflux in dogs?
Like many other health conditions, acid reflux in dogs can happen for many different reasons. Some reasons are well documented, and some are still being discovered as veterinary medicine advances. Here are the most common reasons dogs get acid reflux;
One of the most common reasons dogs get acid reflux is anesthesia. Anesthesia will relax the dog’s sphincter, which means the fluids can flow into the esophagus and cause acid reflux.
Stomach acid overproduction
Dogs with gastrointestinal issues, like bacterial infections, oily foods, stress, or hernias can cause stomach acid overproduction. That will cause fluid “overflowing” into the esophagus.
Stomach acid underproduction
Both stomach acid underproduction and overproduction can end up in acid reflux. The dog might develop this condition due to acid-reducing medications.
Dogs that suffer from chronic vomiting can end up with a weakened esophagus and sphincter. Vomiting can happen because of acid reflux or any other potential cause. If that happens, the sphincter will become weaker and fail to prevent acids from coming back into the esophagus.
Dogs can have an allergic reaction to ingredients in their food. If that happens, the stomach can start overproducing acid and allowing it to flow to the esophagus. Dogs can be allergic to preservatives, protein, food colorings, gluten, soy, etc.
Diaphragmatic hernias are also called Hiatal hernias. Dogs can be born with them or get them because of trauma they sustained. These hernias can cause a diaphragm opening and result in the stomach, intestines, or liver ending in the dog’s chest cavity. The added pressure to those organs can result in acid reflux.
Brachycephalic dog breeds, like the Bulldog, French Bulldog, or Shih Tzu, have shorter esophagus’ than other dog breeds. Unfortunately, that makes them more prone to developing Hiatal hernias and acid reflux. They are also more prone to respiratory issues and vomiting.
How can I know if my dog has acid reflux?
There are a few tell-tell signs your dog has acid reflux. However, if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you might not be completely aware of what is precisely bugging your dog. The best way to find out your dog has acid reflux is by taking them to your vet for an examination. The second thing most dog owners notice is their dogs vomiting undigested or partially digested food.
Symptoms of acid reflux in dogs
Another way of finding out your dog has acid reflux is by learning the common symptoms of this condition in dogs. If you know the symptoms, you can keep an eye on your dog and spot early signs of acid reflux. Some of the most common symptoms of acid reflux dog owners noticed in their dogs are;
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Painful swallowing (dogs might cry or whine)
- Vomit including bile
- Teeth grinding or jaw snapping
- Restlessness or discomfort
- Licking their lips or licking the air
VET TIP: Dogs can vomit for many different reasons. However, if you notice your dog is mostly fine and suddenly throws up their food, that might be a sign of acid reflux. Vomiting should not be constant, and if that is the case with your dog, take them for an examination.
How is this condition diagnosed?
The primary way vets diagnose acid reflux in dogs is esophagoscopy. This test is basically examining the dog’s esophagus with a camera. The vet will check for signs of changes in the esophagus lining or signs of bleeding. They can also ask for x-rays or urinalysis. That will give them an insight into the dog’s health and potential underlying issues that can cause acid reflux.
How dangerous is acid reflux in dogs?
Acid reflux in dogs is rarely fatal. It is mostly painful and uncomfortable. However, with proper treatment, dogs with acid reflux rapidly improve and can live a normal, happy life with the changes the vet will suggest. However, if the acid reflux gets untreated, the dog can become dehydrated, and dehydration can be life-threatening.
How is it treated?
The exact form of treatment will depend on the precise cause of acid reflux in dogs. There are several ways vets can help dogs with this condition. The good news is that dogs react really well to proper treatment. If acid reflux is caused by hernias, tumors, obstructions, or other diseases, the vet will mainly focus on taking care of that. If they do that correctly, acid reflux should be resolved.
One of the most common ways dogs with acid reflux are treated is with medications that will impact the amount of produced stomach acid, like famotidine. There are even medications that can help dogs strengthen their muscle tone and sphincter. Also, the vet will most likely recommend switching your dog’s diet. There are different dog food brands available for dogs with sensitive stomachs. Here are some recommendations - Dog food for sensitive stomachs.
World Dog Finder team