Acid Reflux in Dogs and Cats

In this article…
  1. What is Acid Reflux – GERD
  2. Who is at Risk of Acquiring GERD
  3. Causes of Acid Reflux – GERD
  4. Other Conditions That May Mimic the Symptoms of GERD
  5. Symptoms of GERD
  6. Strategy for Natural Treatment and Remedy
1.0 What is Acid Reflux – GERD
Acid Reflux in dogs is called Gastroesophageal reflux – GERD for short. GERD occurs when the sphincter muscle of the lower esophagus is damaged or weakened. The malfunctioning valve of the esophagus allows an uncontrollable reverse flow of gastric or intestinal fluids – bile salts, stomach acid and other GI juices to pass into the muscular tube that connects and passes food from the throat (pharynx) to the stomach. The lining of the esophagus is not designed to tolerate the strong stomach acids. As a result the lining of the esophagus can become irritated and further damaged.
GERD can result in a mild or more severe condition:
  • Mild esophagitis is a mild inflammation of the esophageal lining;
  • Severe esophagitis causes damage to the deeper layers of the esophagus.
2.0 Who is at Risk of Acquiring GERD
  • Dogs and cats of all ages;
  • Dogs and cats with a genetic pre-disposition to acquiring GERDS – this includes Brachycephalic breeds (short nose, flat face breeds) that are most susceptible to GERD;
    • For example:
      • Bully breeds such as the –
      • American Bulldog;
      • American Pit Bull and Staffordshire Terrier;
      • Boston Terrier;
      • Boxer;
      • Cane Corso;
      • Presa Canario;
      • Pug;
      • etc.
  • Other dog breeds such as –
    • American Cocker Spaniel,
    • Lhasa Apso
    • Shis Tzu
  • Feline breeds such as –
    • Himalayan Cats;
    • Persian Cats;
    • etc.
  • Dogs and cats that may be subject to any of the conditions listed under ‘Causes’ of Acid Reflux – GERD’ as provided just below…
3.0 Causes of Acid Reflux – GERD
  • Consumption of a meal (or a daily diet) that is very high in fat;
  • Consumption of too much food when the stomach is already full;
  •  Foreign matter in the esophagus;
  • Genetic predisposition – brachycephalic breeds as noted in section 2.0 above;
  • Hiatal hernia in the upper portion of the stomach – dogs with genetic pre-disposition for condition;
  • Megaesphagus – a condition caused by improper functioning of esophagus muscles;
  • Result of surgery:
  • Side effect or adverse reaction to a veterinarian prescribed antibiotic or other drug;
  • From improper fasting prior to surgery and/or;
  • Improper positioning of the dog or cat during surgery;
  • Placement of the breathing tube (used to provide anesthesia) and oxygen during surgery.
4.0 Other Conditions That May Mimic the
Symptoms of GERD
  • Abscess;
  • Cancer of the throat or mouth;
  • Hiatal hernia;
  • Ingestion of toxins;
  • Tumor in the esophagus.
  • Megaesophagus – a condition where the muscles of the esophagus fail to push the food into the stomach.
5.0 Symptoms of GERD
  • Appetite loss;
  • Burping;
  • Chronic vomiting;
  • Excessive salivation or drooling (in the case of severe esopagitis);
  • Gagging after eating;
  • Inactive after eating;
  • Inflammation of the espophagus;
  • Fever (in the case of severe esophagitis);
  • Regurgitation of food;
  • Pacing;
  • Pain while swallowing – dog or cat may whine, cry, howl, etc.;
  • Weight loss.
6.0 Strategy for Natural Treatment and
  1. Reduce factors that promote bacterial overgrowth and low stomach acid;
  2. Replace enzymes, nutrients and stomach acid that are essential for digestion and enable health;
  3. Restore beneficial bacteria and healthy mucosal lining in the gut.
Step One
  • With hold (fast) the dog for a day or two – this provides the esophagus with a chance to relax and heal a little;
  • After fasting change the feeding schedule…
Step Two
  • No more large meals, (i.e. 1 or 2 meals per day) instead do;
  • Frequent small meals throughout the day – i.e. 4 to 6 small meals/day, and;
  • Don’t add water to the food in the bowl as this can make acid reflux worse.
Step Three
Avoid Exacerbating GERD with the Wrong Dietary Choices…
  • While treating GERD eliminate all of the following from food and treats –
    • All grains – refined cereal grain, whole grains and grain by-products;
    • Legumes;
    • Refined sugars;
    • Starchy vegetables;
    • High fat poor source meat and fats;
    • Commercial off the shelf and veterinarian prescribed  and dry dog and cat food and treats contain many ingredients (and hidden ingredients) that can exacerbate GERDS.
Consider Changing to a Diet with Ingredients You Control…
  • You can use this homemade grain-free recipe;
    • Include the following –
      • Lean ground meat from organic pasture fed animals;
      • Squash, pumpkin, turnip or rutabaga instead of sweet potatoes or legumes;
      • Low fat cottage cheese and low fat kefir from organic pasture fed animals;
      • The recipe includes many herbs that help in the treatment of GERD.
Step Four
Add some nutraceuticals and herbs that help stop GERD by supporting good digestive health –
Probiotics to support health of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract
  • Add kefir to the daily diet this article explains how to choose a good quality kefir product for your dog or cat;
  • If you don’t want to use kefir you can use fresh sauerkraut (fresh sauerkraut can be found in the refrigerated section of a grocery store or speciality food store or you can make it yourself – don’t use wine sauerkraut or the unrefrigerated type of sauerkraut);
    • If you want to make your own sauerkraut you can use this recipe;
  • If you don’t want to use a probiotic food then purchase a good probiotic supplement;
    • Most probiotic supplements are not worth buying – make sure you really know how to select a good product – read here.
Bone Broth for protection and healing of the GI tract
  • Make a bone broth soup;
    • Bone broth contains glutamine – a metabolic fuel used by intestinal cells which helps the lining of the gut;
  • You can offer the bone broth as a mini-meal once a day;
  • You can use this homemade bone broth recipe.
Natural Honey for protection and healing of the GI tractNatural honey (raw, unpasturized) is called the world’s perfect food – for very good reason…Honey is a very healing food. Adding natural honey to your dog’s and cat’s daily diet can help in the reduction of the symptoms of GERD and the elimination of the condition.   Honey also contributes to overall health in multiple ways including supporting the immune system, provides antioxidants is a prebiotic, a probiotic and an anti-carcinogen.

Make sure you read this article for a full list of health benefits, cautions, daily dosage and important information on selecting an appropriate honey product for your dog or cat. If your companion animal is a puppy or kitten make sure you read section 10.0 of the honey article.

Aid Digestion with Herbs

Prior to using any herbs make sure that you check each herb’s drug interactions if your dog is on any conventional medicines, and cautions if your dog has any additional medical conditions.
  • Add two to three of the following bitter herbs (use either dry herb or tincture form with no alcohol) to each meal;
  • Bitter herbs stimulate stomach acid production which helps with the proper digestion of food;
    •  Add two to three of the following bitter herbs (use either dry herb or tincture form with no alcohol) to each meal;
      • Use 1/8 to 1/4 tsp of each herb if using dry herb or powder
        (of the two or three herbs that you select from the list below);
      • Add 1 to 2 drops of each herbal tincture (of the two or three herbs that you select from the list below);
You can also add a papain or bromelain based digestive supplement to your dog or cat’s food or use fresh minced Papaya – you can read about that here.
Add fresh garlic to food once a day – make sure you read this article on garlic to understand best preparation methods, daily dosage, cautions, drug interactions.
Mix the following together and add to each meal…

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  1. I don’t know if the descriptions & symptoms described about Acid Reflux fits..But my brother’s dog (a lhasa Apso) keeps vomiting (since late August), doing gagging motions & what sounds like coughing. At least it sounds like coughing to me. But it’s more like a huffing/puffing/gagging before & after eating. There’s no blood in it! Mostly foam & sometimes you can see bits of food in it.

    She’s acting fine. She’s pretty energetic. Is in a good mood mostly. Her appetite is good so far. A lot of times (or in most cases) it seemed she vomits when she’d get excited by seeing me when i come to take her on walks. Sometimes she’d do it on days when i suspected she had too much to eat or ate too fast. So, at times i assumed it’s either caused by excitement/stress or over eating.

    It’s important to mention that for years they’ve fed her just chicken & rice, at times with some vegetables. I’ve been telling them all along that no dog should live on just chicken & rice. Since they wouldn’t listen to me (my parents were the ones making & taking her food) & they’d claim that the vet approved that diet for the dog…that’s when i started adding a teaspoon of organic coconut oil, a tsp. of ACV (with mother) & vegetables. But not everyday! At times it seemed her symptoms stopped & just when i’d think she’s fine, she’d vomit again. Not much & not as often lately but still, the fact that it hasn’t stopped is worrying me.

    I’m keeping her with me now. Taking care of her. Giving her coconut oil. ACV, adding parsley, veggies, a drop or two of dandelion extract to her food, adding tiny bit of Vitamin C powder to her drinking water…etc…

    I recently took her to the vet & after describing her symptoms & the vet, after giving her the routine type of check-up, she let us know the dog seems fine, but that she has fleas which “automatically means she’d have heart worms” & that (due to her diet) she must be low on calcium.

    She prescribed a heart worm med. called ‘Drontal Plus 22.7mg.’ & asked us to buy some canned dog food ‘I/D Canine Gastrointestinal Health (there’s corn in the ingredient) by hills products. That was a week ago. I still haven’t given her the med. as i dont’ trust in nor believe in giving medications. I especially didn’t like the fact that she prescribed that even without doing any blood test or any other thorough testing. Just a general one.

    I don’t know what to do! I no longer trust vets. because i know how most of them work. Plus i believe in allowing nature, with help from (as much as i know) with diet, supplements (the ones mentioned above). But it’s hard to figure out & diagnose the real issue. Everything, i read anywhere is confusing.

    I’ve been reading info.on your site for almost a year now & it seems you genuinely care, know what you’re talking about & are very thorough & responsible with everything! So, please help me figure out what may be wrong with this sweet puppy.

    Let me know if you need more info. before suggesting anything.

    Thanks in advance!

    • I would be pleased to assist you provided you are serious about doing this properly with a properly designed diet nutrition wellness plan. If you are seriously interested in doing so you can email me.

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