Acid Reflux in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment


Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), is a condition in which gastric or intestinal fluids reverse into the esophagus, causing inflammation and pain. It is a relatively common condition in dogs, especially in younger pups and brachycephalic breeds.


Most common causes of acid reflux in dogs include:

  • Anesthesia: During anesthesia, the muscle that connects the stomach to the esophagus may relax, causing acid reflux.
  • Diet: A high-fat diet or eating too quickly can cause acid reflux in some dogs.
  • Obesity: Excess weight puts pressure on the stomach, which can lead to acid reflux.
  • Hiatal hernia: A hiatal hernia is a condition where a portion of the stomach pushes through the diaphragm into the chest cavity, which can cause acid reflux.
  • Esophageal disease: Certain esophageal disorders, such as megaesophagus or achalasia, can cause acid reflux in dogs.
  • Medications: Certain medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can irritate the lining of the stomach and cause acid reflux.
  • Stress: Stress and anxiety can cause acid reflux in some dogs.


The symptoms of acid reflux in dogs may vary in severity, ranging from mild inflammation of the esophagus to ulcerative esophagitis. Some common symptoms include:

  • regurgitation of food,
  • lack of appetite,
  • lip-licking,
  • coughing,
  • weight loss, and
  • changes in the sound of the bark.

Evidence of pain, such as whining or pacing, may also be present.

When to See a Veterinarian

If you suspect that your dog is experiencing symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), it is important to take them to a veterinarian. Your veterinarian can perform a physical exam, review your dog’s medical history, and perform diagnostic tests to determine if your dog is suffering from GERD or another condition that may be causing similar symptoms.

It’s important to seek veterinary care promptly if your dog is showing signs of GERD, as the condition can cause pain and discomfort, and if left untreated, it can lead to complications such as esophageal stricture or aspiration pneumonia. Your veterinarian can recommend appropriate treatment options and help you manage your dog’s symptoms to improve their quality of life.

Treatment options

Treatments a veterinarian may recommend for managing gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) in dogs, depending on the severity and underlying cause of the condition, may include:

  • Dietary Management – Your veterinarian may recommend a low-fat, prescription diet given in small, frequent meals. This can help to reduce acid reflux by limiting dietary fat, which stimulates gastric acid secretion,
  • Medications – Your veterinarian may prescribe medications to reduce stomach acid production, protect the lining of the esophagus, or to help stomach contents move through the organs and strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter. Examples of medications that may be prescribed include proton pump inhibitors, H2 receptor antagonists, or prokinetic agents,
  • Lifestyle Changes – Depending on the cause of the GERD, your veterinarian may recommend lifestyle changes such as weight management, elevation of the food and water bowls, or avoiding feeding your dog within two hours of bedtime, or
  • Surgery – In severe cases of GERD, your veterinarian may recommend surgery to correct underlying anatomical abnormalities, such as a hiatal hernia.

Monitoring Your Dog’s Progress

Regular follow-up appointments may be recommended to monitor your dog’s progress and adjust their treatment plan as needed.

By working closely with your veterinarian and following their recommendations for managing your dog’s symptoms, you can help improve their quality of life and reduce the discomfort associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease.


Acid reflux is a painful condition that can cause damage to the esophagus in dogs. If you suspect that your dog may be suffering from acid reflux, consult a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. With appropriate management, the symptoms of acid reflux can be effectively managed, improving your dog’s quality of life.

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