Acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) in dogs is actually an uncontrollable reverse flow of intestinal or gastric fluids to the esophagus. GERD occurs when lower esophageal sphincter (LES) opens and closes spontaneously at irregular intervals causing a partial vacuum in the lower esophagus. This results in the stomach contents rising up to the esophagus. Although younger canines are at a higher risk since their sphincter (LES) is still underdeveloped, acid reflux has been observed across dogs of all ages.
Analyzing behavioral history of your pet may reveal a number of symptoms of GERD such as vomiting of swallowed food, pain while swallowing, loss of appetite and weight.
- Erosive esophagitis symptoms (mild to severe) wherein the pet suffers from fever and abnormal salivation.
- Burning sensation in chest also known as heartburn is another vital symptom. This is caused due to regurgitation of hydrochloric acids from the stomach that irritated the esophagus lining.
- If your dog howls or whines while eating food. It shows that the dog is in pain or discomfort.
- The dog becomes less active especially after eating, as compared to other healthy dogs.
- At times, acid reflux may be an after-effect of anesthesia which causes the LES to relax.
- Improper positioning or not fastening the pet while administering anesthesia can also result in GERD.
- This condition in dogs may occur due to chronic disorders like vomiting. Vomiting in dogs is common, but if persistent for more than a couple of weeks, it should not be ignored.
- Acid reflux may also co-exist along with congenital hiatal hernia, which is known to precipitate GERD. Hiatal hernia is a condition where abdominal contents bulge out into the chest cavity via the esophageal hiatus (an opening in the diaphragm)
As is the case with any ailment, a right diagnosis at the right time is vital for early detection and cure.
- Firstly, if you notice the above symptoms, contact your vet immediately.
- Esophagoscopy is considered the best means of diagnosing GERD. In this method a miniature camera is inserted into the esophagus to view the internal linings of the esophagus.
- Occurrence of a foreign body or a tumor in the esophagus can be an indication of GERD.
- Megaesophagus, an ailment found in dogs where the esophageal muscles are not capable of pushing the food into the stomach, is also associated with acid reflux.
Though this ailment may seem a serious dog illness, its curative treatment can be mainly administered at home.
- Change in diet is necessary for a couple of days and later resuming with low fat, low protein dog foods in small and frequent meals is advisable.
- Antacids act as first-aid in acid reflux cases. They neutralize the stomach acids and reduce the irritation caused to the esophagus. One needs to consult a vet regarding certain dog medicines for heartburn, as they might cause side-effects.
- Active manuka honey is another alternative. It gives relief to the ailing pet by protecting the inner esophageal lining against the acids.
- Medications like gastrointestinal pro-kinetic agents are a few more viable options which help against problems in bowel movement and help to strengthen the LES muscles.
Following the initial treatment until the complete recovery of the pet is advisable. It is also crucial to continue monitoring GERD symptoms for a certain period of time. Occasional acid reflux is common but ignoring it for a long time may escalate into a more serious form known as Gastroesophageal Reflux disease (GERD) followed by Esophageal Cancer.
The best way to prevent future cases of acid reflux in your pet is by avoiding high-fat content foods completely from their diet plan. Hope this article proves to be a value addition for you and enhances the level of awareness with regards to this condition in your furry ally.