If you’ve ever suffered from acid reflux, you know just how uncomfortable it can be. The condition can interfere with your daily activities and make meals you used to love into unenjoyable experiences.
Unfortunately, dogs are also susceptible to acid reflux and can suffer from the same symptoms. But thankfully, there are a few things you can do to help your four-legged friend feel better. Read on to learn more about what acid reflux is, the symptoms it causes, and how you can help your dog deal with it.
What Is Acid Reflux in Dogs?
Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux, is a condition that occurs when the acid and enzymes that help the stomach and intestines break down food move into your dog’s esophagus. If left untreated, the acids can wear away at the lining of your dog’s esophagus, which is uncomfortable and can lead to ulcers.
Acid reflux is common in dogs of all ages. But it’s especially common in younger dogs, as their esophageal sphincter (the opening at the base of the esophagus) is underdeveloped. It’s also prevalent in brachycephalic dog breeds, like Pugs and English Bulldogs, because of their shorter esophaguses.
What Causes Dog Acid Reflux?
Acid reflux is primarily caused by your dog’s stomach acids making their way into their esophagus, which eats away at the protective lining. There are many reasons why stomach acids can reach your dog’s esophagus, so it’s always best to consult with your veterinarian to determine the root cause. Some common causes of acid reflux include:
- Anesthesia: If your dog has recently had surgery, the anesthesia relaxes the esophageal sphincter which can lead to increased stomach acid in their esophagus.
- Allergies: If your dog is allergic to an ingredient in their food, their body might be reacting with excess stomach acids to break the food down.
- Chronic vomiting: Some medications or health conditions can cause frequent vomiting which can lead to acid reflux.
- Overproduction of stomach acid: There are many things that can lead to excessive stomach acid, including hernias, stress, or too much fat in your dog’s food.
Symptoms of Canine Acid Reflux
Because canine acid reflux is so common, it’s important to know the symptoms so you can get your dog treatment right away. Contact your veterinarian as soon as possible if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Frequent burping, gagging, or mild vomiting after meals
- Bad breath
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Whining, howling, or other signs of discomfort after eating
- Lethargy after meals
- Excessive salivating
6 Tips to Relieve Your Dog’s Acid Reflux Discomfort
The good news is that acid reflux isn’t life-threatening, and there are several things you can do to help your pup feel better. Here are our top 6 tips for relieving your dog’s acid reflux discomfort:
Feed Your Dog a Balanced Diet
In many cases, your dog’s food can agitate acid reflux symptoms, especially foods that are rich in fats and preservatives. Feeding your dog a balanced diet that meets all of their nutritional requirements lays the best foundation for their overall health.
Your veterinarian will be able to help you create a diet plan that’s tailored to your dog’s age, breed, and specific health needs. The following foods are recommended for dogs with acid reflux, as they are easy to digest and nutrient-dense:
- 100% pumpkin puree
- Baked sweet potato
- Bone broth
Avoid Late-Night Meals
Acid reflux is often caused by your dog’s esophageal sphincter relaxing, which lets in more stomach acid and makes your pup more prone to vomiting. At night, the esophageal sphincter naturally relaxes, so late-night mealtimes make your dog more susceptible to acid reflux discomfort.
It’s also helpful to elevate your dog’s head with a pillow or the side of their bed while they’re sleeping. Horizontal sleeping makes it easier for stomach acids to leak into the esophagus.
Feed Your Dog Smaller, More Frequent Meals
Instead of feeding your dog two large meals a day, consider splitting their daily food into several smaller meals that can be fed throughout the day.
Large meals put more strain on your dog’s digestive system than smaller meals, so they’re more likely to produce excess stomach acids. In addition, bile is usually created on an empty stomach, so spreading your dog’s meals throughout the day will keep food in their stomach for longer.
Feed Your Dog Softer Foods
Hard kibbles are difficult for your dog to digest, which means even more stomach acid has to be produced to break down the food. The softer the food, the easier it is on your dog’s digestive system.
For this reason, wet food or fresh food are great options for dogs with acid reflux. These foods are easier to digest, and they tend to be more palatable, which is great for dogs with waning appetites.
Give Probiotic and Prebiotic Supplements
Many canine digestive issues lead back to an unbalanced gut microbiome. Probiotic and prebiotic supplements can help correct this imbalance, boost the immune system, promote good digestion, and support your dog’s overall health.
For acid reflux, probiotics and prebiotics that target gut health can help balance your dog’s stomach acid production, lowering their chances of acid reflux.
Add Ginger to Your Dog’s Food
Ginger is great for treating nausea and upset stomach in your pup, both of which can lead to acid reflux discomfort.
The gingerol and shogaol compounds inside ginger help to stimulate your dog’s production of saliva and bile, which helps them to digest their food more quickly and easily. It also helps reduce bloat and decreases your dog’s need to burp.
Can You Prevent Acid Reflux in Dogs?
While acid reflux is common in dogs, it’s easily treatable and even preventable with the right diet and lifestyle. The most important thing you can do for your dog is to feed them a healthy, balanced diet and take them for regular veterinary checkups. This will aid in the maintenance of your dog’s digestive health while lowering their risk of acid reflux.
If you’ve followed the tips in this article and your dog is still suffering from acid reflux, it’s important to contact your veterinarian. They’ll be able to conduct a thorough physical examination and run diagnostic tests to determine the cause of your dog’s symptoms.
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