Symptoms of Acid Reflux in Dogs

By Jane Meggitt

Symptoms of acid reflux in dogs resemble those of other gastrointestinal ailments, so it's important to take your dog to the vet if he exhibits any signs of digestive upset. Dogs with acid reflux might show only minor symptoms if mildly affected, and more serious signs if the esophageal lining is severely inflamed.

Gastroesophageal Reflux

Canine gastroesophageal reflux disease, often referred to as GERD, is the equivalent of acid reflux in people. GERD results from an uncontrolled flow -- in reverse -- of intestinal fluids or gastric juices into the esophagus. The esophagus is the tube transferring solids and liquids from the throat into the stomach. The harsh gastric juices, including acid and bile salt, can eventually impair the esophasgus' protective lining, leading to inflammation and pain. While GERD occurs more often in young dogs, all dogs are vulnerable.

Vomiting Versus Regurgitation

While a primary symptom of canine acid reflux involves throwing up, it's regurgitation of food rather than vomiting. Since the dog action's resemble each other in both cases, you must inspect the result or watch your dog carefully when he's throwing up. Regurgitation usually occurs suddenly, without warning. It's generally much quicker than vomiting. With vomiting, the dog often appears ill beforehand and you'll see him heave much more actively. Regurgitated matter is undigested, looking like the food the dog consumed after chewing. Vomit, consisting of the dog's stomach contents, appears partially digested. If it contains bile juices, characterized by yellow fluid, it's almost certainly vomit.

Other Symptoms

Besides throwing up, signs of canine acid reflux include appetite and subsequent weight loss. The dog might experience pain while swallowing, so he whines or otherwise seems uncomfortable while eating. Lethargy and gastrointestinal noises also could indicate GERD. Dogs with severe cases of GERD might salivate excessively and run a fever.

Diagnosis and Treatment

If possible, take a photo of the contents of recent canine upheavals to help your vet determine whether your pet is vomiting or regurgitating. For a definite diagnosis, your vet likely will conduct an esophagoscopy, or the use of a tiny camera to view your dog's esophagus. The pictures show whether or not the esophageal lining is damaged, the most obvious evidence of GERD. Treatment may include dietary and feeding schedule changes. Your vet might recommend a low-protein, low-fat food fed several times daily, rather than in one or two meals. She also might prescribe medication to improve stomach content flow.