Acid Reflux in Dogs | Petlebi

Dog Health

Dogs can develop indigestion and other stomach problems that can cause acid reflux, just like humans do. Dog reflux is very similar to reflux that occurs in humans. Acid reflux occurs when intestinal or gastric juices rise from the stomach and reach the esophagus. These fluids can cause inflammation, sores and even damage to the lining of the esophagus. Normally, these fluids are not able to reach the esophagus due to the sphincter muscles at the end of the esophagus. But in dogs with acid reflux, the sphincter muscles relax, causing gastric juices to reach the esophagus. This can lead to various inconveniences.

Dogs vomit when their stomach contents reach the esophagus. This is more common in brachycephalic breeds, which have a much shorter esophagus than other dog breeds. Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux, can occur as a more serious digestive system problem in dogs. Often times, acid reflux is a one-time reaction. However, it may be necessary to consult a veterinarian to make sure there is no bigger problem. Severe acid reflux or repeated vomiting can damage the throat lining over time. It is important to contact your veterinarian to make sure there is no permanent damage to the esophagus and to reduce the short-term damage of acid reflux to the esophagus.

dog about to throw up

Acid Reflux Symptoms in Dogs

Symptoms of acid reflux may not appear until the dog vomits its stomach. In some cases, the dog may vomit acid even if the stomach is empty. However, in dogs;

  • Don’t try to lick the air,
  • Loss of appetite,
  • Bile vomiting,
  • grinding your teeth together,
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Vomiting immediately after eating
  • weight loss,
  • Fatigue is one of the symptoms of acid reflux.

The most common symptom of acid reflux in dogs is vomiting of bile. When dogs with acid reflux vomit on an empty stomach, a yellow liquid comes out. This fluid is called bile. Vomiting after eating formula is called regurgitation. The swelling of the stomach with food increases the pressure on the esophagus, causing the sphincter muscles to open. This causes the food to be expelled back from the esophagus. Regurgitated food is usually undigested. In cases where biliary vomiting or regurgitation is excessive, the dog is malnourished and weight loss occurs in a short time. However, painful inflammation occurs in the esophagus called esophagitis. Esophagitis makes it difficult to eat and causes pain in the chest area.

Not every dog ​​with acid reflux vomits. Therefore, other symptoms should not be ignored. It is important to contact your veterinarian immediately when you see a symptom such as straining while eating or constantly licking the air.

dog trying to eat sweets

What Causes Acid Reflux?

There are many causes of acid reflux in dogs. For this reason, when evaluating the dog’s condition, it is necessary to tell the veterinarian about the symptoms and the dog’s health history in full detail.


Anesthetic drugs cause the sphincter muscles to relax. Acid reflux due to anesthesia is quite common, especially if the dog’s head is lower than the stomach during the procedure. However, dogs receiving anesthesia cannot swallow properly. The epiglottis closes the entrance to the windpipe. As a result of loosening of the epiglottis with anesthesia, more serious conditions such as vomiting into the lungs can be seen. For this reason, dogs must be hungry before the procedure in which they will receive anesthesia.


Food allergies in dogs can also cause acid reflux. Common canine allergies, such as gluten, soy or GMO allergies, are among the causes of acid reflux. In addition, some dogs may have an allergic reaction to food dyes, preservatives or additional foods. For this reason, it is necessary to be very careful about the nutrition of dogs with food allergies.

Chronic Vomiting

Chronic vomiting, which occurs as a result of any drug use or a different disorder, also causes acid reflux after a while. As a result of continuous vomiting, the sphincter muscles weaken and they cannot hold the stomach contents any longer.

Anatomical Predisposition

Brachycephalic dog breeds such as Pug, English Bulldog, Boston Terrier have shorter esophagus. This leads to more frequent vomiting and regurgitation. In addition, these species are anatomically more prone to gastric hernia. Each of these causes significantly increases the risk of acid reflux for the brachycephalic species.

Overproduction of Stomach Acid

Some digestive system disorders cause excessive acid production in the stomach. Stress, hernia, bacterial infection, excessive oily or spicy foods can significantly increase acid production in the stomach. Excessive acidity of the stomach can lead to acid reflux over time.

Stomach Hernia

Gastric hernia, also known as diaphragmatic hernia, significantly increases the risk of acid reflux in dogs. Diaphragmatic hernia can develop congenitally or due to trauma. In diaphragmatic hernia, the diaphragm opens and part of the stomach, intestines or liver enters the chest cavity. Acid reflux can be seen with the pressure created by this strange placement.

dog examined by veterinarian

How Is Acid Reflux Diagnosed?

A procedure called esophagoscopy is performed to diagnose acid reflux. In this procedure, a tube with a camera at the end is passed through the dog’s esophagus to check for a change or bleeding in the esophageal lining. In addition, blood and urine analysis can be performed to determine the diseases that may cause acid reflux.

When there is no finding with these methods, imaging methods such as x-rays are used to check for hernia, foreign material, tumor or other abnormalities that may affect the dog’s muscles and to understand what is bothering the stomach.

dog watching food spill

What are the Differences between Acid Reflux and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease?

Acid reflux is an acute disease. That is, it is short-term and usually goes away within a few days. Gastroesophaggeal reflux disease is the chronicity of acid reflux.

Acid reflux is usually caused by a food that the dog eats uncontrollably. Temporary acid reflux can occur as a result of finding food from the garbage, eating something extremely fatty or spicy. Some treats can also cause excessive acid production in the stomach. When the dog switches to a normal diet or avoids these treats, his health returns to normal.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, on the other hand, is caused by a food that the dog regularly eats, such as its own food. Foods with highly processed ingredients and preservatives can be difficult to digest. In addition, the dog’s allergy to substances such as milk or cereal products in the food causes the body to develop an acid reflux reaction.

It is very difficult for pet owners to distinguish between acid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease. Because the symptoms of both diseases are the same. The only difference between the two diseases is how long the symptoms have been seen. Taking the dog to the veterinarian as soon as symptoms of acid reflux appear will prevent the condition from becoming chronic and turning into gastroesophageal reflux disease or esophagitis.

Acid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease are easily treatable diseases as long as permanent damage to the esophagus does not occur.

dog taking medicine

Acid Reflux Treatment

Depending on the cause of acid reflux, its treatment varies. In cases caused by a hernia, tumor or a foreign body, the disease causing acid reflux should be treated first.

In cases where acid reflux is mild, treatment is usually carried out with changes in nutrition and medications to be used. In some cases, the dog’s diet needs to change completely. Especially for dogs with sensitive stomachs, foods that will relieve the stomach are effective in the treatment of acid reflux.

dog looking after food

How to Feed Dogs with Acid Reflux?

The diet of dogs with acid reflux is determined by the veterinarian. In general, dogs with this condition should be fed high-quality food that does not contain processed and hard-to-digest food.

Dogs that consume home-prepared foods instead of dry food should consume foods rich in fiber, healthy fats and easily digestible protein. In this way, the acid level of the stomach is balanced and the risk of acid reflux is eliminated. A veterinarian can offer recommendations for home feeding dogs with acid reflux. Foods such as boiled and peeled potatoes, pumpkin puree, rice, fish, chicken, turkey, bone broth, and bananas may be recommended for feeding dogs with acid reflux. These foods are easily digestible and do not cause overproduction of stomach acid. In addition, thanks to its rich content, it has benefits for the general health of the dog. However, these foods should be given in portions recommended by the veterinarian.

A balanced diet is very important for the general health of dogs and the prevention of acid reflux. Foods containing allergens and preservatives, excessively fatty or spicy foods should be avoided as they will upset the stomach of dogs. However, it is also extremely unhealthy to give the dog leftovers or feed the food that people eat. The dog’s eating the food that humans eat will cause more stomach upset.

Dogs should not be fed too late. While asleep at night, the sphincter muscles relax, causing dogs to be more prone to vomiting. Night vomiting is more common in dogs that eat just before bedtime.

The dog needs to be fed frequently in small portions to prevent starvation and vomiting of bile. In addition, too much food in a single meal causes acid reflux by putting pressure on the digestive system. It is the healthiest method for the dog to receive its daily food in several meals during the day.

Soft foods are important alternatives for dogs with acid reflux. Soft foods such as puree require fewer enzymes to digest. Soft foods are very beneficial, especially for the weakened digestive system due to acid reflux. You can view canned dog food formulated for dogs by clicking here.

For dogs that are fed home-made foods instead of dry food, these foods must be fresh. Fresh foods are more beneficial for the sensitive digestive system. It also prevents loss of appetite due to acid reflux. The only problem at this point is to make sure the dog gets all the nutrients it needs. 95% of dogs fed home made food are malnourished. These foods lack the nutritional values ​​necessary for the dog to have a healthy life. How the dogs are fed should be shared with the veterinarian in detail.

Dogs with acid reflux should not consume foods that can trigger reflux. Therefore, dogs should avoid these foods. Changes to the dog’s diet must be made under the supervision of a veterinarian. However, there are some food groups that are certain to be prohibited for dogs with acid reflux.

Spicy Foods

Spicy foods cause stomach discomfort in dogs as well as humans and slow down the digestive process. The slowing down of digestion causes the consumed food to stay in the stomach longer, increasing the possibility of vomiting even more.

Fatty Foods

Fatty and fried foods cause the sphincter muscle to open completely, causing stomach contents to pass into the esophagus. Also, fatty foods such as spicy foods are extremely difficult to digest and take a long time. Therefore, regurgitation increases the risk.


When allergen-induced acid reflux is suspected, the dog’s diet must be completely changed in order for the diagnosis to be made. Because common foods such as gluten, soy or milk can cause allergies in dogs.


Preservatives, sweeteners, food dyes and additives in various foods can cause acid reflux. Consuming foods without such ingredients prevents acid reflux, while at the same time keeping the dog healthy in general.

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