Who can resist spoiling your dog every now and then? Sometimes, you finish your dinner and Noodle has been a particularly good boy, so you just can’t help but treat him to something… extra. Unfortunately, sometimes you end up with more than just a fat and happy pup. So before you find your lil’ guy throwing up or gagging, it’s worth learning a thing or two about Canine Acid Reflux.
It’s properly known as Gastroepashiocal reflux (or GERD). It feels a lot like heartburn does to humans- it’s a burning pain in the chest, with possible stomach sickness as well.
Basically, your dog’s stomach acid—which breaks down and digest your pup’s food once it shows up in the stomach—is splashing up and burning your pup’s esophagus. There’s a valve between the stomach and the esophagus which acts like the bay doors to your stomach. But when those doors are weak or damaged, the stomach acid can push through and get into the esophagus. The result? Burning, inflammation and discomfort for your dog.
Symptoms can include vomiting, whining or yelping while swallowing, a lack of appetite, and weight loss. After meals, your dog might be gassy, or gagging, or lethargic. If the acid reflux is more severe, your dog might experience a fever or heavy drooling.
It’s common across all dogs, but especially likely to impact younger dogs, since their “bay door” muscles are less fully developed. Acid reflux is most common after your pup has eaten a high-fat meal or after your dog has eaten too much and her stomach is totally full. So go avoid people food and food that could upset your dog’s tummy, and don’t overfeed. Acid reflux can also happen in surgery, if anesthesia is applied incorrectly. Another risk factor is if your dog was born with a hiatal hernia. If your dog is a chronic vomiter, that’s another risk factor.
Your veterinarian can diagnose the condition, usually with an esophagoscopy- a process that involves sending a tiny camera down your dog’s throat, so that the lining of the esophagus can be examined for signs of damage. If it’s not acid reflux, it might be one of these illnesses with similar symptoms: poisoning, a tumor or abscess in the esophagus, cancer of the mouth or throat, or a digestive disorder called megaesophagus.
Luckily, treatment is easy. Your vet my recommend that you fast your pup for a day or two, and then transition to a strict diet of small, frequent meals. Limit your dog’s fat and protein intake, since these substances increase gastric acid. Keep your dog on this diet and feeding schedule for as long as your vet recommends. Your dog may also be prescribed a gastrointestinal prokinetic agent, a type of drug that helps food move more easily through the digestive system and relieves the pain and symptoms of acid reflux.
Feed your dog a healthy diet and prevent your buddy from over-eating. Over eating and obesity are both linked to increased risk of acid reflux. Remember, each fresh instance of acid reflux weakens the esophagus and increases the risk of the issue coming back. So after that first episode, you should take caution with your pup. After all, there’s probably more ways to spoil him than just a steak bone… even if he disagrees.