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Nutritional management of acid reflux in dogs.


Has your dog recently been diagnosed with acid reflux? Us humans know from our own experiences how unpleasant this can be.

In dogs, acid reflux can be chronic or symptomatic of an underlying medical condition requiring prescribed medications from your vet (check out our full fact sheet for more information on causes of acid reflux).

However, if like many dogs, your pet suffers a ‘mild’ case that occurs less regularly, or “hunger sickness” (vomiting bile with no other underlying cause), acid reflux may be managed successfully with careful nutrition and dietary changes. If this is an option for your pet, here is how these methods may help:

1. Feed a diet with reduced protein and fat levels. Protein stimulates the secretion of the gastric acid, whilst fat decreases the strength of the muscle between the stomach and oesophagus. Our Adult Light Dog food meets these criteria.

2. Feed soft foods or kibble that has been soaked in water prior to serving. The oesophagus may be sore and inflamed as a result of acid damage. Soft food also eases the initial workload of the digestive enzymes, which can be beneficial for any dog with a compromised digestion. Read more about the benefits of soaking your pet’s food. Our Partners Sensitive is a wet food that requires no soaking, and it is low in fat with a moderate protein level.

3. Review feeding times. Smaller more frequent meals can be especially beneficial if a dog is vomiting bile as a result of having a very empty stomach. Large meals can exacerbate reflux because an overly full stomach places excessive pressure on the diaphragm, causing acid to travel upwards. Although an evening meal can be helpful in bridging the gap between teatime and breakfast, this meal should only be a small one because lying down can relax the oesophageal sphincter.

4. Address inappetence. Irregular mealtimes can exacerbate reflux. Insufficient nutrition can also result in weight loss, constipation, loss of energy and dietary deficiencies. Your dog’s chosen diet will need to be highly palatable but be wary of very concentrated dry foods due to their typically higher fat content. Read more about inappetence here.

5. Feed a highly digestible, low residue diet. A diet which is highly fibrous can exacerbate reflux, but dogs do need a moderate level of fibre. Diets such as Arden Grange that include beet pulp are a good option because they contain a good balance of soluble and insoluble fibre at a moderate level.

6. Review all treats and extras! Consider the nutritional makeup of treats and well as your dog’s main diet! Many popular treats are high in fat (e.g. peanut butter used to stuff feeding toys and cheese / sausage used as high value training rewards). Lower fat alternatives to might include the Arden Grange Light Crunchy Bites treats. It is also best to avoid large amounts of fruit and vegetables even if pulped or well-cooked, and discourage grass eating.

7. Address obesity. Being overweight can exacerbate reflux because fat can push the stomach forward and pressurise it. Of course, there are many other health implications of your pet being overweight or obese. If you would like to address your pet’s weight, let us help you. Check out our free diet club!

8. Assess the potential for adverse food reactions. Allergies and intolerance to particular ingredients may be significant. If your vet suspects that the current diet is causing or exacerbating acid reflux, a product with a novel carbohydrate and protein source (i.e. ones your dog has not eaten before) may be recommended. If your dog is having issues with popular chicken based diets, consider lamb, pork or fish (if these have not been staples of previous diets). Read more about adverse food reactions here.

For a more in depth look at acid reflux including causes and treatmets, check out our full fact sheet here.

By Ness Bird RVN CFVHNut

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