Acid Reflux in Cats

Acid Reflux in Cats - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost
Acid Reflux in Cats - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What is Acid Reflux?

In healthy upper digestive systems, the stomach’s sphincter valve closes to prevent the digestive fluids from refluxing upward. However, stomach fluids might overwhelm this sphincter when the acids residing in the stomach become too great, which is usually caused by dietary influenced gastritis. Overtime, the feline’s esophagus becomes inflamed and painful, a condition veterinarians term esophagitis. The smooth tissues become scarred and narrowed, and tighten to protect the acids from further damaging the esophagus, forever affecting the cat’s ability to easily consume food.

Acid reflux in cats is a condition in which fluids within the stomach flow upward into the esophagus. Also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD, veterinarians do not know the exact cause of this chronic disease, but hypotheses have been made. The up flow of stomach acid chronically irritates the esophagus lining, medically termed mucosa, causing clinical signs of regurgitation. 

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Acid Reflux Average Cost

From 526 quotes ranging from $200 - $2,000

Average Cost

$800

Symptoms of Acid Reflux in Cats

Symptoms of acid reflux in cats mimic the clinical signs associated with human acid reflux disease. Vets assume a feline feels the same heartburn sensation paired with the feeling of a throat obstruction, which is why they display clinical signs similar to that of humans. Although the way a cat feels cannot be determined, cats do display clinical signs of acid reflux that clue pet owners in to an underlying problem. Symptoms of acid reflux in cats include: 

  • Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) 
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss 
  • Pain upon swallowing (noted by vocalization or pawing at the neck)
  • Regurgitation of food
  • Salivation 
  • Drooling 
  • Frequent vomiting 
  • Chronic non-productive cough 
  • Chronic nasal discharge 
  • General discomfort 
  • Change in the nature of the meow
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Causes of Acid Reflux in Cats

Acid reflux can affect cats of any breed, any sex or age, although acid reflux has been reported in more young cats than older felines. Felines that eat table scraps or have a diet that constantly changes are more prone to developing acid reflux than a feline that is fed a properly balanced diet. Acid reflux is also found in felines that are diagnosed with chronic vomiting and hairballs. Veterinarians have also hypothesized the possibility of a hiatal hernia being one underlying cause, as this hernia causes a tear in the feline’s diaphragm. Anesthesia is known to cause acid reflux in felines for a period of time following surgery, but this form of acid reflux is usually temporary and resolves on its own with time.

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Diagnosis of Acid Reflux in Cats

Following a thorough review of your cat’s medical history and performing a physical exam, the veterinarian will proceed to perform logical diagnostic tests to determine the underlying cause of the problem. The veterinarian will likely request the following diagnostic tests: 

  • A CBC (Complete Blood Cell Count): blood test used to evaluate the number of circulating platelets, red and white blood cells. 
  • A biochemistry profile: a blood test that provides information on the level of electrolytes and gastrointestinal enzymes the feline is producing. This blood test also indicates the functionality of the cat’s organs and overall internal health. 
  • Urinalysis: examination of the urine to screen for infection, metabolic conditions and damage to the kidneys. 
  • Radiographs: thoracic (chest) x-rays of the chest containing the heart, lungs and upper digestive tract, and abdominal x-rays of the abdominal cavity. 
  • Endoscopy: the use of a fiber-optic camera placed inside the esophagus, lower airways, or trachea for evaluation purposes. 
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Treatment of Acid Reflux in Cats

The treatment goal of acid reflux in cats is to address the underlying cause and protect the esophagus from further damage. Your veterinarian will likely recommend a dietary change, focusing on low-protein sources and feeding small, frequent meals. By decreasing your cat’s dietary intake, the esophageal sphincter can strengthen while the acids residing in the stomach will be decreased.  Additionally, the veterinarian may prescribe an antacid to reduce the amount of acids the stomach produces. He or she may also recommend a mucosal protectant to prevent further damage to the esophagus. A common esophageal mucosal protected medication is sucralfate. Lastly, drug therapy to improve the esophageal sphincter’s tone is often prescribed to cats with acid reflux, as it is beneficial to correcting the problem. 

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Worried about the cost of Acid Reflux treatment?

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Recovery of Acid Reflux in Cats

It may take a few weeks to a few months for a cat to fully recover from the symptoms of acid reflux. Acid reflux in itself may not be curable, but the symptoms can be managed with the prescribed medications to reduce stomach acid and protect the esophagus from further damage. Dietary changes and other recommendations made by your veterinarian should be followed exactly to gain the best prognosis possible for your cat.

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Acid Reflux Average Cost

From 526 quotes ranging from $200 - $2,000

Average Cost

$800

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Acid Reflux Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Dom SH cat

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Six Years

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8 found helpful

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8 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Throwing Up Clean Fluid And White Foam

My cat has thrown up for the last day white foam and clear fluid. He seems like he doesn’t feel well. I don’t know what to do to calm his stomach.

July 26, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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8 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. If your cat is continually throwing up, it would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian. There are many reasons for vomiting like that, including intestinal infection, foreign bodies, systemic disease, or parasites. Your veterinarian will be able to examine your cat, see what might be causing this, and get treatment. I hope that everything goes well for your cat.

July 26, 2020

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Snickers

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Cat

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9 Years

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10 found helpful

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10 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Vomiting

My cat was prescribed Omeprazole from the vet. I am having a hard time administering the capsules. Can the capsules be opened and sprinkled on food? Does it have a bad taste?

Aug. 26, 2018

Snickers' Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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10 Recommendations

I"m not sure if the formulation that you were prescribed has a bad taste without knowing which one it was... you should be able to open the capsule and sprinkle it on some canned food, though, and that might make it easier to give. Just make sure that you put it on a small amount of canned food so that you can see if Snickers eats it all before giving more food.

Aug. 26, 2018

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Acid Reflux Average Cost

From 526 quotes ranging from $200 - $2,000

Average Cost

$800

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