free shipping over $100 (USA & Canada)

1-877-937-4372 the pet expert hotline

free shipping over $100 (USA & Canada)

What is Acid Reflux in dogs?

Photo of a small furry dog, like a Pomeranian, with the tongue sticking out, like he is gagging, to illustrate acid reflux in dogs.

Acid reflux in dogs is defined as the uncontrollable reverse flow of gastric or intestinal fluids into the esophagus. This issue, also known as Gastroesophageal reflux (GER), is relatively common in dogs of any age. However, acid reflux happens more often in younger pups.

What Causes Acid Reflux in Dogs?

The relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter – a muscle that works as a valve between the esophagus and the stomach – can cause GER. Chronic vomiting episodes can also cause acid reflux, as this repetitive release of stomach contents, which includes acid, bile salts, and other juices of the gastrointestinal tract, can cause inflammation of the muscle at the base of the esophagus. Younger dogs have sphincters still in development, which puts them at greater risk of acid reflux.

Hiatal hernia is a condition that can also be associated with acid reflux in dogs. This issue can be congenital or acquired, and it happens more often in puppies under one year old. A hiatus hernia occurs when part of the stomach is pushed through the sphincter, forming a protrusion in the diaphragm.

Improper positioning during the administration of anesthetics can also cause acid reflux, as it can cause the sphincter’s relaxation, putting the patient’s life at risk.

What are the Clinical Signs of Acid Reflux in Dogs?

Most of the time, dogs with acid reflux won’t act sick and will only show subtle signs until vomiting of bile happens. It is also common for the signs to present themselves as the regurgitation of undigested food shortly after eating. 

If a vomiting dog is left untreated, this can cause continuous inflammation of the esophagus, leading to pain when swallowing. The discomfort can affect your little one’s appetite, which can bring on other issues. However, not all dogs will vomit or regurgitate. Some dogs will only show subtle lip licking, decreased appetite, teeth grinding, and restlessness.

Photo of a brown, black and white dog (like a Beagle) looking inside a toilet bowl to represent a acid reflux in dogs.

What are the Diagnostic Tests?

It can be challenging to diagnose acid reflux in dogs since, most of the time, the symptoms are subtle and similar to those of many other conditions. However, a veterinarian may choose to perform a comprehensive physical exam on your little one. The specialist may also request imaging exams like x-rays and esophagoscopy to determine if changes in the mucus of the esophagus are consistent with inflammation caused by acid reflux.

What are the Treatment Options for Acid Reflux in dogs?

With a confirmed diagnosis, the veterinarian might prescribe medications, such as the ones that control acid production and/or improve the movement of stomach contents and strengthens the sphincter. However, a change in diet is the most crucial aspect of addressing GER in dogs.

Treatment for acid reflux in dogs can be continued entirely at home, and it might involve withholding food for one or two days. You can then implement a restricted diet low in fat and protein and offered in small quantities multiple times a day. Protein stimulates the production of gastric acids, and fat weakens the sphincter, which is why a low-fat and low-protein diet is ideal.