Acid Reflux in Dogs

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Acid reflux is one of those annoying parts of life that reminds me that no, I can’t eat three cheeseburgers at a cook out, even if those cheeseburgers are grilled to perfection and my ultimate weakness.

It’s irritating, but I pop an anti-acid pill and I’m good to go.

I never expected to see it in my dogs.

They’ve had to switch food brands at times due to various reasons, and sometimes I saw them start to act funny.

They’d cough after dinner or burp a lot, which was especially a joy when they wanted to play fetch and panted in my face with their bad breath. Check out our article about Greenies to deal with that unpleasant problem!

I spent some time researching and found that acid reflux is actually pretty common in dogs.

Here’s what it looks like and how you can treat it.

Can Dogs Get Acid Reflux?

Yes, dogs can absolutely get acid reflux.

It’s a condition that occurs when acid in the stomach rises up to the esophagus, which can occur for various reasons.

Although a 1986 study found that dog’s stomachs are much more durable than a human’s, they’re still able to get acid reflux in some cases.

What Causes Dog Heartburn?

can dogs get acid reflux how heal extra stomach acid
Don’t give me that look. I know it was you!

Like with humans, dogs can get heart burn from overeating.

Normally, my dogs are strictly regulated with their daily meals, but sometimes they may get a few extra treats or nab something from the kitchen table when I’m not looking.

Other causes could be:

  • Obesity (Have an obese dog? We can help you find good foods to help them lose weight!)
  • Overproduction of stomach acid
  • High blood calcium levels

If you’re sure that your dog didn’t eat any spicy human food, then your vet is the best person to figure out what the cause is for your dog’s heartburn.

Symptoms of Acid Reflux in Dogs

It’s hard to tell sometimes when your dog isn’t feeling their best.

Before they were bred to be house pets, their ancestors had to live with their pack. That meant hiding injuries or illness so they wouldn’t be abandoned for being weak.

That instinct is still in dogs today, which is why so many dogs don’t get taken care of until it’s too late. Monitor your dog for these symptoms that are related to acid reflux:

  • Excessive burping
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Weak coughing or vomiting
  • Whining during meal times
  • Salivating constantly

I’m not saying every whiff of sour dog breath is acid reflux, but just keep an eye out for any reoccurring symptoms.

You are your dog’s best advocate!

What Can I Give My Dog for Heartburn?

Sometimes it’s hard to find time to get to the vet, or you may be like me and feel that a little heartburn may not justify a vet bill.

Bismusol bismuth subsalicylate pepto bismol for dogs acid reflux anti diarrheal
This seems about the right size for a chihuahua

I immediately went looking for over the counter acid reflux treatments for dogs and found that there are actually quite a few options to try:

Corrective Suspension

This medication is the dog version of Pepto-Bismol.

They both share the same ingredient, bismuth subsalicylate. It’ll fight acid reflux, but dogs who are pregnant, nursing, or have a bleeding disorder should stay away.

Otherwise, dogs can get one teaspoon of the medication for every ten pounds that they weigh.

Pepcid

Dogs should generally avoid food and medication meant for humans, but sometimes the two worlds collide.

Vets often recommend Pepcid for dogs who have stomach acid or other GI issues because it contains famotidine.

One ten-milligram tablet can be given for dogs that weigh 20 pounds, with dosages on repeat every 12-24 hours until you notice some relief.

Avoid giving this medication with food, as it will lessen the effects.

Does your dog have trouble taking pills? Click here for some tips to help the medicine go down.

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Slippery Elm bark powder to de-weaponize your dog’s bark

Slippery Elm Bark Powder

Those who would prefer a more natural remedy can look to Slippery Elm bark powder.

It’s bark from a North American tree that forms a gel substance when mixed with water. The gel can coat the esophagus and relieve the burning sensation caused by acid reflux.

After mixing a teaspoon of the powder in boiling water and simmering for up to 20 minutes, add it into your dog’s food so it’s tastier for your pup.

This treatment can be given to your dog up to four times each day, depending on their weight.

How to Prevent Canine Heartburn

Knowing that I had the power to help my dogs beat their acid reflux was a great feeling, but I was uncertain about the future.

I couldn’t guarantee that they wouldn’t jump up on the counter and eat human food again.

Preventing canine heartburn is easier than you’d think.

The best acid reflux prevention may be changing their dog food.

If your dog is on a grain-free diet but doesn’t actually have allergies, try introducing them to grains. They may be missing out on nutrients they need.

You can also give them a bed-time snack or spread out more frequent meals.

Acid builds up when dogs go a long time between eating, so eating more often can give them some comfort.

Conclusion

Acid reflux can be tricky, but it’s not impossible to defeat. There are some simple treatments and medications to beat the heartburn monster.

I watch my dogs more closely now after meals.

Even though they get the same thing every day, their bodies may change depending on if they’ve snagged a secret snack.

Even if I can’t make it to the vet, I always call if I’m afraid of acid reflux reoccurring. They’ll be able to recommend specifics on over the counter medication dosages when my home remedies seem to fail.

Canine heartburn is more common than you think, so learn what to look for and be your dog’s best advocate.

FAQs

Can you give a dog an antacid?

Yes, depending on which antacid you’re considering.

Not all brands are FDA recommended for dogs, so do your research and consult with your vet before giving your dog medication.

What are the best foods for acid reflux in dogs?

Easily digestible foods are the best kind to give your dog when they have acid reflux. Those foods can be:

  • Cooked chicken
  • Boiled rice
  • Water-soaked kibble

Making your own dog food can seem intimidating, but it can be easier than making your own dinner.

Can I give my dog Pepto Bismol for acid reflux?

Although the main ingredient in Pepto Bismol is the same in Corrective Suspension, it should never be administered without your vet’s guidance.

It contains salicylates, which may induce gastric bleeding and turn stool black.

Can Tums hurt a dog?

With the right dosage recommended by a vet, dogs should be fine taking Tums if it happens infrequently.

Tums may hurt dogs through its artificial sweeteners, dyes, and excessive amount of calcium if given too often.

Still Have Questions?
Ask a Vet!