AWARD WINNING RAW DOG FOOD & DOG SUPPLEMENTS

Home > Pawspectives: ProDog’s Blog > Health > Acid Reflux in Dogs: Symptoms and How to Help

Expert Advice

Acid Reflux in Dogs: Symptoms and How to Help

If you’re concerned that your dog may have acid reflux/GERD, this article will help. We’ll discuss how to determine if your dog has acid reflux, some common symptoms of acid reflux in dogs, and how you can help your canine friend recover naturally.

Updated: 5th September 2023

Alison Frost

Author: Alison Frost

Edited By: Anna Bain

Acid Reflux in Dogs: Symptoms and How to Help

Dogs are more like humans than we sometimes realise. They share many similarities with us in the physical sense, especially when it comes to certain health conditions; with acid reflux being one of them.Acid reflux in dogs is actually quite common, and it can be caused by a variety of factors, just as it can in humans.

What is acid reflux in dogs?

Acid reflux and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) are the terms used for the occurrence of stomach acid flowing upwards into the oesophagus. This condition occurs in both dogs and humans, and, like us, can happen to dogs for a variety of reasons.

Dogs’ stomachs are naturally highly acidic, allowing them to effectively digest raw meat and bones. The hydrochloric acid found in their digestive tracts is the reason dogs are able to consume raw meat without suffering ill effects from bacteria, as it serves to kill off any harmful organisms that they may ingest.

However, this acid is designed to remain in the stomach, where it breaks down food to be digested. When it flows upwards into the oesophagus, it can cause harm to other tissues that aren’t designed to contain it, and acid reflux in dogs.

Symptoms of acid reflux/GERD

Acid reflux in dogs can sometimes be tricky to diagnose, as your dog obviously can’t tell you how they’re feeling. However, aside from appearing generally uncomfortable, there are a few other tell tale symptoms of acid reflux in dogs that you’ll likely be able to observe:

  • Vomiting bile (yellow-ish coloured liquid). Please note this symptom alone could  be hunger pukes
  • Regurgitating after a meal
  • Licking their lips or the air
  • Burping, gagging, or retching
  • Bloating after eating
  • “Empty” swallowing (swallowing only saliva or air)
  • Eating grass more than usual, or in a frantic manner
  • Pacing or other restless behaviour
  • Attempting to ingest dirt
  • Licking strange surfaces
  • Bad breath with an acidic smell
  • Painful, uncomfortable swallowing
  • Coughing or wheezing
    Lethargy after eating
    Loss of appetite

If your dog is presenting one or more of these symptoms, they could be experiencing acid reflux. Not to worry; there are some things you can do to help ease their discomfort, discussed later in the article.

What causes acid reflux?

In dogs’ stomachs, there is a valve that closes to prevent stomach acid from escaping into the oesophagus. When dogs are eating species-appropriate foods that their digestive systems are designed to process, the chances of this escaping is less likely. However, there are certain foods that can change the pH of dogs’ stomach acid to make it more alkaline, confusing the valve and causing it to open at inappropriate times.

Highly processed foods rich in starch and carbohydrates are the main culprits for this confusion: the stomach needs less of an acidic environment to digest them, thus causing the valve to remain open. There are, however, other causes responsible for acid reflux in dogs. These are a few examples:

  • Anaesthesia
  • Poor gut health
  • Microbiome dysbiosis (such as yeast overgrowth, parasites, or SIBO)
  • Certain medications (such as antibiotics or NSAIDs)
  • Food intolerances, allergies, or sensitivities
  • Obesity
  • Nutrient deficiencies (such as Zinc, an essential mineral for maintaining stomach acid in dogs)
  • Stress
  • Hiatal hernia
  • Various health issues (such as IBD, liver disease, or intestinal tumours)
  • Throat or esophageal trauma (due to ingesting something sharp or too large)
  • Fluoridated water
Brachycephalic breeds, like the French Bulldog, can be more prone to acid reflux.

Breeds prone to acid reflux
Although any dog can experience acid reflux/GERD, there are a few breeds that are more vulnerable to it. Brachycephalic breeds (or those with shorter, flatter faces such as Bulldogs, Pugs, and Boxers) are generally more vulnerable. This is because it’s not only their muzzles that are naturally shorter than other breeds; their oesophagi are, as well [1]. Having a shorter oesophagus increases the occurrence of stomach acid flowing in the wrong direction, causing them to experience acid reflux more often than other dogs.

How will the vet diagnose acid reflux in my dog?

Since acid reflux in dogs can mimic other health conditions, your vet will likely take a multi-pronged approach to arrive at your dog’s diagnosis. As with any other visit, they’ll begin with a physical exam, whilst discussing the symptoms you’ve been observing in your dog, and possibly take some blood/stool samples. After that, they’ll decide which diagnostic tools to use that will best help them determine what’s causing your dog’s symptoms.

Commonly, this includes using ultrasound to rule out any internal masses, infections, obstructions, or other abnormalities. They may also perform an endoscopy, which will allow them to see the inside of your dog’s oesophagus with a small camera. This is the most accurate form of testing to help determine acid reflux in dogs. If they do observe the presence of acid reflux/GERD, they’ll then discuss the dog acid reflux treatment options that are available.

A word on prescribed acid reflux medications

It’s important to be aware of the potential side effects caused by certain dog acid reflux treatments. Often, vets will prescribe acid-reducing medications such as omeprazole for dogs with acid reflux. However, these types of medications, called pump-proton inhibitors, can actually cause more issues than they’re supposed to prevent [2]. Though they may alleviate acid reflux symptoms in the short term, their very nature is to reduce the acidity in dogs’ stomachs, which is often the reason for the acid reflux in the first place.

Another type of acid reflux treatment for dogs is prokinetic drugs, which stimulate the emptying of the stomach. However, these have been known to cause other issues as well, including:

Reduced ability to absorb essential nutrients (such as calcium, vitamin B12, iron, and magnesium)
Increased potential for developing autoimmune diseases
Potential stomach cancer with long term use (found in human patients)

Due to the increased health risks associated with these commonly prescribed medications, we advocate for the use of natural solutions whenever possible. Holistic vets are more likely to prescribe natural supplements or remedies for acid reflux, reducing your dog’s chances of developing the above mentioned side effects. We’ve also listed some helpful remedies for your dog’s acid reflux below.

What to feed a dog with acid reflux

A raw, meat-based diet including lean meat protein, raw bones, healthy fats, and species-appropriate plant fibre is the best diet for any dog, but especially for those suffering from acid reflux/GERD. These nutritional elements work to create the gut environment that dogs have naturally; one with high acidity and balanced bacteria levels.

Increased fibre intake is often recommended for dogs with acid reflux, as decreased fibre in the diet is often associated with low levels of gut motility, as well as delayed gastric emptying. Our Complete raw dog food range includes all the essential nutrients dogs need to feel their best, including healthy plant fibre. Feeding dogs more frequent, smaller meals can also help to calm acid reflux symptoms.

Experience the ProDog Difference

Shop quality raw dog food
Shop Raw Dog Food

Helpful supplements for acid reflux in dogs

Aside from a raw, species-appropriate diet, there are other natural remedies and supplements that aid dogs in recovering from acid reflux. Here are a few we recommend:

Probiotics
Probiotics enhance the good bacteria in the gut, allowing it to heal and restore itself. They create a balanced environment, which then stimulates healthy gut activity, decreasing the occurrence of acid reflux in dogs. We recommend soil based Kiki Body Biotics to start with.

Apple cider vinegar
ACV is a natural, highly acidic superfood that helps to balance the pH in the gut and restore normal function. It increases the acidity level in dogs’ stomachs to where it should be naturally, helping to reduce the occurrence of acid reflux. It can be given daily in food or water, and the guideline amount is at ½ teaspoon per 10 kg of body weight, but you may need to experiment a little to get the desired result . Start with a quarter dose and work up to the desired amount, and the raw unpasteurised form is the most beneficial.

Digestive enzymes
Digestive enzymes are naturally occurring in dogs, though additional support can be helpful for certain health conditions; specifically those pertaining to digestion [3]. They aid dogs in absorbing and utilising nutrients more efficiently, and can be very useful in relieving acid reflux. We highly recommend ‘Adored Beast Healthy Gut’.

Soothing herbs
Certain herbs are very soothing for acid reflux in dogs. They act as natural antacids thanks to their high content of mucilage; a thick, gelatinous substance that soothes and calms the tissues of the digestive tract, including the oesophagus. Some helpful options are slippery elm, marshmallow root, liquorice, and ginger.

ProDog’s Digest supplement
Our Digest supplement acts as a natural digestion conditioner: it’s expertly formulated to soothe the gut lining, promote healthy bacteria, and restore balance to the gut. Its ingredients include marshmallow root, psyllium husk, sea kelp, and several other whole food, gut-friendly nutrients to relieve dogs of various tummy troubles, including acid reflux.

Chamomile tea
Chamomile tea is a universal remedy for upset stomachs, and can also be helpful in providing dogs relief from acid reflux. Simply brew the tea as normal, allow it to cool, and spoon a little over your dog’s meals for a calming, soothing effect.

What to avoid feeding dogs with acid reflux

While humans are advised to eat less acidic foods when experiencing acid reflux, the opposite is actually true for dogs. Causing their natural stomach acid levels to decrease will aggravate acid reflux, rather than relieving it.

Foods that contribute to decreased acid production in dogs include those high in starches and sugars, preservatives, and known canine allergens such as grains, corn, and soy. All of these ingredients will only stress and irritate your dog’s digestive tract, causing inflammation and promoting acid reflux. For this reason, we recommend avoiding kibble, as it often contains high amounts of these irritants.

Get help today

With your dog's acid reflux symptoms. Contact our nutritional advisors for FREE advice.
CONTACT US

Acid reflux in dogs FAQs

Is coconut oil good for dogs with acid reflux?

Whilst it won’t prevent acid reflux happening, Coconut oil has natural anti-inflammatory properties that can help heal injuries in the digestive tract and soothe the oesophagus.

Is yoghurt good for acid reflux in dogs?

Probiotic natural goat yoghurt or kefir yoghurt can help strengthen the digestive system by helping to restore good bacteria in the gut and therefore lowering inflammation.

Is honey good for acid reflux in dogs?

High quality honey can help soothe any irritation in the oesophagus caused by the acid, but it doesn’t actually help treat acid reflux.

Are probiotics good for acid reflux in dogs?

Yes, probiotics can be very helpful for dogs with acid reflux. Their ability to promote good bacteria and restore balance to the gut can encourage healthier digestion, providing dogs relief from acid reflux symptoms.

Can you use pumpkin to help a dog’s acid reflux?

Pumpkin is quite alkaline and hence can help neutralise acid, it’s also helpful, due to the fibre content, for other digestive issues which maybe contributing to acid reflux.

What foods cause acid reflux?

Any foods that irritate dogs’ digestive tracts or decrease stomach acidity can encourage acid reflux. Foods high in starches, sugars, preservatives, and known allergens are best avoided for dogs with acid reflux.

Are hunger pukes linked to acid reflux?

Bilious Vomiting Syndrome, commonly referred to as “hunger pukes,” can sometimes be mistaken for acid reflux due to the shared symptom of vomiting. However, hunger puke is characterised by vomit that is yellowish or greenish and frothy in appearance, and it occurs due to stomach inflammation and the presence of bile. This phenomenon often occurs during the late night or early morning when the dog’s stomach is empty. Another trigger for hunger pukes in dogs is the anticipation of food, particularly when they are accustomed to being fed at specific times. Additionally, dogs on a raw food diet may experience this issue because the digestion of raw, natural ingredients is quicker compared to processed dry food.

To stop hunger pukes in dogs, it is important to find the right combination of ingredients, feeding times, and portion sizes that suit your dog’s needs. This can effectively resolve the problem. Providing a late bedtime snack for your dog can also help prevent hunger pukes in dogs.

How do you know if your dog has acid reflux?

Dogs will often exhibit common signs such as vomiting bile, licking the air, and regurgitating after eating. A complete list of symptoms can be found above, as well as which tests veterinarians perform to diagnose acid reflux in dogs.

How do I help my dog with acid reflux naturally?

Feeding a raw, species-appropriate diet allows dogs to maintain their naturally acidic digestive systems, reducing their risk of experiencing acid reflux. Read more in our article about the benefits of raw dog food and our beginners guide to raw feeding in Natural remedies work best for acid reflux symptoms, as they minimise the risk of side effects often brought on by antacids and other acid reflux treatments.

Dogs can’t tell us when they have acid reflux, which can make it harder to help them. As their guardians, it’s up to humans to decode their subtle signs and symptoms, so we can help them to start feeling like their old selves again. The tips and advice in this article will help your dog find relief from acid reflux, and prevent it from returning.

References

1. Eivers, C., Rueda, R., Liuti, T., Schmitz, S. June 2019. Retrospective analysis of esophageal imaging features in brachycephalic versus non-brachycephalic dogs based on video fluoroscopic swallowing studies. Journal of Veterinary Medicine;, 33(4):1740-1746. Doi: 10.1111/jvim.15547

2. McColl, K., Gillen, D. July 2009. Evidence That Proton-Pump Inhibitor Therapy Induces the Symptoms it Is Used to Treat. Journal of Gastroenterology;, 137(1):20-22. Doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2009.05.015

3. Julia Henriques, Dogs Naturally Magazine. When to Give Digestive Enzymes for Dogs. Accessed July 2023.
https://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/enzymes-and-your-dog/

Image credit: Pixabay
Image credit: Andrew Patrick from Pexels
Image credit: Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

4 comments

MaryAnn Foley

Very helpful article. Thank you.

Alison Frost

you are very welcome

Marian

What if you’ve done EVERYTHING mentioned here and your dog still has reflux? He’s a year and a half old and he’s never been free of reflux, he can’t take more of this, nor can I.

Alison Frost

Hi Marian , sorry to hear this. Can you email [email protected] for the attention of Alison , with details of his breed, age, diet etc and she will advise accordingly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *