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How to Treat Heartburn for Dogs

| Updated September 26, 2017

You might experience heartburn after eating a spicy meal. Your dog can also suffer from heartburn or canine acid reflux, but fat, rather than spicy ingredients, is the more likely cause for Bowser. Bring your dog to the vet for an examination if he exhibits any sort of esophageal or gastrointestinal upset. Don't give him any over-the-counter products for acid reflux without consulting your veterinarian.

Gastroesophageal Reflux in Dogs

Canine acid reflux is formally termed gastroesophageal reflux in dogs, or GERD. If your dog's gastrointestinal fluids back up from his stomach into his esophagus, acid reflux results. Sometimes, GERD occurs because of a specific event, such as anesthesia recovery. Avoidance of post-surgical acid reflux is one reason your dog must fast prior to an operation. Dogs born with hiatal hernias are at greater risk of developing GERD, as are dogs suffering from illnesses causing chronic vomiting. For diagnostic purposes, your vet will likely perform an esophagoscopy, which allows her to examine the condition of your dog's esophagus.

Canine Acid Reflux Symptoms

Symptoms of acid reflux include food regurgitation -- which means he throws up food shortly after consumption, before it reaches the stomach -- appetite and weight loss or painful swallowing. If your dog suffers from the latter symptom, he might whine or appear uncomfortable when eating. In severe cases, GERD results in damage to his throat lining. In a worst-case scenario, a dog requires surgical insertion of a feeding tube directly into his stomach so his esophagus can rest and heal.

Dietary Changes

Part of your dog's GERD treatment may include dietary changes. That's not just the type of food he eats, but the way he is fed. Fat lessens muscle strength between the esophagus and stomach; your vet might recommend a prescription diet low in fat and protein and may recommend your dog receive several small portions of food daily rather than larger amounts once or twice daily. Table scraps and treats are a thing of the past for your pet.

Metoclopramide for Dogs

Your veterinarian might prescribe metoclopramide to treat your dog's GERD. This human medication, marketed under the names Reglan, Maxalon, Clopra, Octamide and Reclomide, isn't approved for veterinary use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but your vet is allowed to prescribe it under "extra-label" use. The drug works by increasing the speed at which food passes through the gastrointestinal tract, along with improving esophageal muscle tone. Side effects include constipation or diarrhea, behavioral changes and lethargy.