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What can I give my dog to help with Acid Reflux?

Written by: Helena Lawrence



Time to read 4 min

Many of us may well know that uncomfortable and often painful feeling when you suffer from ‘heartburn’. But did you know that dogs can suffer too? 

Of course, all dogs will sometimes eat something they shouldn’t or ‘wolf down’ their food too quickly causing digestive problems.  Sometimes though this could be due to acid reflux or even GERD – that’s gastroesophageal reflux disease - which is when a dog has chronic acid reflux.

If you're wondering 'How do I help my dog with acid reflux?',  or you simply want to find out more just in case, then we've put together this article to give you all the information you need to help reduce the chance of your dog dealing with this condition.

What is Acid Reflux and What Causes it in Dogs?

In dogs, acid reflux is caused by the ‘backflow’ of stomach acid and intestinal fluids into the oesophagus, or throat, with the potential to damage the lining of the oesophagus. Gastroesophageal reflux disease  (GERD) is a chronic condition in which stomach acid flows from the stomach to the oesophagus (the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach). Normally, a valve called the  lower oesophageal sphincter  prevents this reverse flow of stomach acid. In dogs with GERD, however, stomach acid passes through this valve and enters the oesophagus.

Typically, it may be caused by poor digestion, food intolerances and allergies or medical conditions such as hypochlorhydria – low levels of stomach acid - or intestinal/bowel disorders.

Many different factors can disrupt that important balance and possibly lead to other health problems:

  • physical or emotional stress (sometimes caused by a change in routine or environment)
  • a sudden change in diet
  • chronic vomiting
  • some veterinary drugs – such as antibiotics, steroids and vaccinations. It has been reported that the earlier in life that an animal is prescribed antibiotics, the greater is their risk of developing obesity, diabetes and liver disease.
  • Poor quality diet, or inappropriate diet
  • Surgery
  • Pica (that’s eating non-food items like sticks, faeces, or pebbles etc)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease or other gastrointestinal diseases
  • Ingesting pesticides, insecticides or fertilisers or drinking contaminated water

How to Spot the Signs that your Dog has Acid Reflux

Your dog can’t tell you if they don’t feel well or what’s hurting and the symptoms may not always be easy to detect. There are some common signs to look out for that might indicate your dog is suffering from acid reflux, such as:

  • Loud tummy gurgling
  • Vomiting bile
  • Loss of appetite, especially in the morning
  • Eating grass after eating their food, and then being sick
  • Hunching over after eating
  • Regurgitating undigested food
  • Restlessness, pacing, panting or licking of the lips after food due to being uncomfortable

How is Acid Reflux Diagnosed in Dogs?

Acid reflux is tricky to diagnose as there aren't any visible signs for vets to spot unless they see it happening to your dog firsthand. That's why it's important to give them as much information as possible about the symptoms you've spotted. They may ask questions about:

  • the colour of your dog's sick
  • how often the symptoms happen
  • if there are any patterns to when your dog has these symptoms e.g. does it happen after eating certain foods? Does it happen only in certain situations?

The more information you're able to give your vet the better as it will help their diagnosis and treatment plan. As unpleasant as it is you could even take along a video of your dog regurgitating their food, as that will help determine if they're vomiting or if they're suffering from reflux.

If your dog has been suffering for a while then it may be your vet decides to do an endoscopy, putting a camera down your dog's throat, to check for any inflammation or redness that are signs that your dog has had acid reflux for a while. This will also involve your dog being put under anaesthetic so it's important to speak to your vet as soon as possible if you think your dog is suffering from acid reflux to avoid an endoscopy if possible.

How Do I Help My Dog with Acid Reflux?

It's best to check with your vet first but if your dog does have acid reflux then one thing to try is a change in diet. Often, it's advised that dogs suffering with GERD are best to have low fat and low protein diets. You can also try feeding your dog smaller amounts of food at a time more frequently throughout the day. If you are concerned about making dietary changes speak to your vet about what's best to do. 

Next, let's talk about probiotics and their benefits on your dog's gut environment...

The beneficial bacteria that are needed by your dog to maintain a healthy level of ‘friendly’ bacteria in the gut can also help and to discourage the increase of possible ‘unfriendly’ or ‘pathogenic’ bacteria.

Your dog’s digestive tract is designed to cope with the bacterial load from their food but it's not designed to deal with stomach acid going into their oesophagus. Studies have shown that dogs who do not have those friendly bacteria, or who have a poor balance of good and bad gut bacteria, are at an increased risk of developing other digestive health problems from allergies to autoimmune disease too so making sure your dog has a balanced gut is crucial to their health. Adding prebiotics and probiotics to your dog's diet is a great way of helping with this balance and helping prevent them suffering from acid reflux.