Viable Pet Acid Reflux Solutions
People and their pets share a special relationship. And they may also share a common digestive problem: acid reflux. Typically, cats and dogs develop acid reflux just as their human counterparts do. When the valve, or sphincter, located at the lower end of the esophagus is weak, stomach acid may splash up from the stomach, irritating the lower esophagus and causing pain and burning. When the sphincter becomes very weak, dogs and cats may regurgitate their food, causing additional acid to wash over the esophagus. And in some cases, some of the acid may be aspirated, causing respiratory problems, such as bronchitis or pneumonia.
Less frequently, pets may experience a medical condition called “megaesophagus,” which literally means “large esophagus.” In these pets, the esophagus is enlarged, either as the result of an underlying condition or as a congenital defect. Often, these pets will regurgitate undigested food, and may have a bulging area in their throats. These pets should be seen immediately by a vet to rule out tumor, and so that the megaesophagus may be more effectively treated. In some cases, megaesophagus may require surgery or tubal feeding.
Acid reflux can cause dogs and cats to become inactive and lethargic, and may result in loss of appetite, weight loss and other serious health conditions. Although dogs and cats which are overweight, or that have poor dietary habits, are most at risk for acid reflux, any dog or cat can develop the disease, and pet owners need to be aware of the symptoms that indicated acid reflux may be occurring.
The first step in preventing or combating acid reflux in pets is to call your vet. He or she can rule out potentially serious underlying conditions, including tumors and vascular disorders which may cause acid reflux.
Most acid reflux problems develop as a result of poor nutrition. You need to be sure your pet has a consistent, healthy diet of well-balanced nutrition. Cats and dogs should be fed according to the feeding guidelines for their size and age, and regular feeding times should be maintained. Never deny your pet food. While some websites and other sources may advise that denying a pet food for a day or two is a good way to address acid reflux, this technique is absolutely not recommended by professional vets.
You may also consider using one of the low-acid pet foods currently available. Most importantly, avoid feeding your pet leftovers – no matter how longingly they may look at your own plate.
When most pets eat, the must lower their heads to reach their food dish. In pets with weak esophageal sphincters, this can also cause acid to reflux, or flow upward into the esophagus, and can also lead to vomiting or regurgitation of food. Consider raising your pet’s food dish so that they do not lean down as much – but be sure they are still able to easily access their food. You may also try raising the dish on a platform so that your pet rests their feet on the platform as well, which creates an even greater angle and allows gravity to help keep food in the stomach.
If changing your dog’s or cat’s diet or dish position does not help, your vet needs to be consulted to determine what treatments can be given to prevent more serious conditions from occurring.In most cases, the first step your vet will take will be to advise putting your pet on over-the-counter antacids available at regular drugstores to help neutralize the stomach acid. The vet may also prescribe medication to help block the overproduction of stomach acid, as well as medications to soothe and heal the esophagus. If your dog or cat is also prone to coughing, the vet will probably check to ensure that the windpipe, or trachea, has not been damaged by aspiration of the stomach acid into the airway.