If your dog is regularly spitting up her food, groaning or howling in discomfort while eating, or has lost her appetite completely, she may be suffering from gastritis-induced acid reflux. Though a cursory veterinary examination may reveal nothing unusual, long-term acid reflux can damage your dog's esophagus and lead to chronic salivation, fever, esophageal or stomach ulcers, or other damage to the digestive tract.
Diagnosing Digestive Disorders
If your veterinarian suspects your pet may have acid reflux or gastritis, he may examine the lining of your dog's esophagus with a tiny camera attached to a scope. An esophagoscopy procedure allows your vet to see subtle or distinct changes in the mucosal lining of your pet's esophagus -- an indication that gastroesophageal reflux is occurring. Other possible causes of irritation will also be addressed, including the ingestion of caustic materials, a hiatal hernia in the stomach, mouth or throat irritation, or megaesophagus, a disorder that inhibits the proper functioning of the digestive muscles.
Treatments for Your Dog's Gastritis and Reflux
The most effective treatment for acid reflux in dogs is dietary. Your veterinarian may ask that you not feed your pet for a day or two in order to calm the inflamed digestive tract and reduce the amount of acids in your pet's stomach and esophagus. After two days, you should give your dog several small portions of low-fat, low-protein pet food over the course of each day. In addition, she may prescribe gastrointestinal pro-kinetic medication to strengthen your dog's sphincter muscle and help with his elimination of foods.
Doggie Lifestyle Change
Monitor your dog's response to treatment, and report any recurring symptoms to your veterinarian. Maintain a low-fat, low-protein diet of several small meals, rather than one or two large meals, each day. Pet foods high in protein will add acid to your dog's stomach and esophagus, and foods high in fat will reduce his muscular strength, which can weaken his sphincter and contribute to difficulty in pushing foods through his digestive tract. Like humans, dogs that take part in daily exercise are less likely to suffer from digestive disorders than dogs that are sedentary, so be sure your pet has plenty of opportunities to romp.
The best prevention against gastritis and acid reflux in your dog is a moderate, low-fat diet. Overfeeding your pet can cause bloating and gas, which may cause a back up of fluids into his esophagus, leading to discomfort. Remember to keep portion sizes small, and feed your pet several times throughout the day. Avoid potentially harmful bacterial, yeast or fungal infections that may irritate your pet's esophageal mucous lining by keeping your dog's water bowl clean and filled with fresh water at all times.