An acid reflux diet for dogs can help dog owners better manage this challenging condition of the digestive system. Many dogs suffer from acid reflux and there are several options dog owners can partake to help their canine companions better cope with their digestive issues. In order to better manage acid reflux in dogs, it helps to better understand what happens exactly in dogs suffering from acid reflux. Veterinarian Dr. Anna Cherry explains acid reflux in dogs, its associated symptoms, and provides pertinent information about supplements and guidelines for implementing an acid reflux diet for dogs.
Understanding Acid Reflux in Dogs
By Dr. Anna Cherry BSc Hons BVSc MRCVS
Acid reflux is a fairly common condition in dogs and varies in severity. For some dogs, it can be debilitating and prevent them from eating, whereas others may just experience mild discomfort from time to time. What is acid reflux in dogs?
Acid reflux in dogs is similar to ‘heart-burn’ in humans and can affect any dog at any age, although, younger dogs do seem to be more predisposed to this condition. It can cause discomfort, pain, nausea, vomiting or regurgitation and may even cause your dog to stop eating.
During acid reflux, the acid that is normally safely contained within the stomach leaks out of the entrance of the stomach and washes back up your dog’s oesophagus (this is the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach). This can cause damage to the delicate lining of the oesophagus, resulting in burns or even ulcers.
Acid Reflux Diet for Dogs
How can an acid reflux diet for dogs help? Diet is often the key to managing this condition long-term and may be the only form of treatment required in some cases.
The goal of feeding any dog with acid reflux is to try and reduce the amount of acid sitting in the stomach, by reducing acid production and decreasing the time that food is held in the stomach. Just by making a few simple changes to the type of diet and the way you feed your dog can have a big impact.
Dividing the dog's daily ration into several smaller meals (around 3 to 6) and spacing these out over the course of the day (leaving at least 1h 30mins between them), can help to reduce the amount of acid produced at each meal.
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You should also try to avoid feeding treats between meals to help keep acid production to a minimum. For dogs that experience regurgitation, feeding them from an elevated position (using a step or a stand) can be beneficial. If your dog suffers from symptoms overnight, feeding a small snack before bedtime may give them relief.
Dog Food for Dogs with Acid Reflux
The composition of the food (and treats!) that you feed your dog is also important. Ideally, you should feed a diet that is highly digestible and low in fat, protein and fiber. This is because protein triggers acid production and fat and fiber can slow the passage of food through the stomach.
The type of food fed (e.g. wet, moist or dry) can also influence how quickly the stomach empties, with wetter foods passing through more quickly than dry foods. However, adding water to dry kibble can exacerbate acid reflux and should be avoided.
In cases of acid reflux, where an underlying food intolerance or allergy is suspected, feeding a diet that has been hydrolyzed or contains a novel protein and carbohydrate may also be beneficial.
Medications for Acid Reflux in Dogs
Antacids can be used to reduce stomach acid secretion and help protect the lining of the oesophagus, giving it time to heal.
For example, omeprazole is a complete acid-blocker and considered to be one of the most effective antacids in managing acid reflux (especially when given to dogs every 12 hours).
In addition, to help increase the rate at which food passes through the stomach, drugs called ‘prokinetics’ can also be used (e.g. metoclopramide). Medications can also be given to help strengthen the valve that sits between the stomach and the oesophagus to help prevent acid leaking out.
About the Author
Dr. Anna Cherry BSc Hons BVSc MRCVS
Since graduating from Liverpool Vet School in 2006, Anna has worked in small animal practice and has setup and run her own mobile veterinary service.
She has a special interest in canine nutrition and internal medicine and recently completed a certificate in Canine and Feline nutrition.
Away from the world of veterinary, she loves spending time with her Golden Retriever Chester, who likes to keeps her one toes with all his various ailments.