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What is Acid Reflux?

In healthy upper digestive systems, the stomach’s sphincter valve closes to prevent the digestive fluids from refluxing upward. However, the fluids seem to pass 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. 

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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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

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Dom SH cat

dog-age-icon

Six Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

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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0 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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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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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1611 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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Joey

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American Shorthair

dog-age-icon

12 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting

My cat is vomiting about twice a day. He has been on several different foods in the last few months while the vet tried to figure out his itchy skin. He was put on 2 hydrolyzed foods, both of which caused him to vomit. His skin didn’t improve so the vet told me to put him back on his prior limited ingredient diet. Each time his diet changes he’s fine for about a week then the vomiting starts usually twice a day - the middle of the night and the middle of the day. He eats wet and dry food but has recently been resistant to the wet food. What might be causing his vomiting?

Aug. 21, 2018

Joey's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

It is difficult to say what specifically is causing the vomiting especially if he is alright for around a week after a diet change; you should revert back to the limited ingredient diet and follow up with your Veterinarian. It is important also to keep track of the ingredients in the foods you give to see if any particular ingredient is a common issue. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 21, 2018

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Yolandie

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Siamese mix

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9 Years

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Weight Loss
Vomiting

I’ve been to numerous vets about my cats fluctuating vomiting and weight loss and they said acid reflux. I put probiotics with enzymes in her wet food but she is a picky eater. I use to keep her hard food out so she can nibble on when she doesn’t want wet food but then she pukes and the wet food dries out. What is the best hard food for reflux?

July 6, 2018

Yolandie's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

It is more important to find a food which is tolerated well by Yolandie, however you may want to use a restricted ingredient gastrointestinal sensitive diet to see if there are any improvements in symptoms. There is rarely a one diet fits all solution so you should try her on a simple diet for a few weeks to see if there are any improvements, also using an acid reducer may also help but discuss with your Veterinarian especially if she is on other medication. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 7, 2018

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Lola

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American Shorthair

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14 Years

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Mild severity

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2 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

My cat has times (much more rarely now than in the past) when she smacks her lips and swallows repeatedly. It can go on for a few minutes. (Today it went away when I gave her a plate of food). It looks like she has hiccups between the swallowing. She has IBD. Could she have GERD, too?

June 20, 2018

Lola's Owner


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3320 Recommendations

It is possible that Lola is having some issues with acid reflux, you should think about feeding her smaller meals more often so the stomach isn’t empty for long between meals; see how she goes with the change in meal frequency but if there is no improvement you should discuss with your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 21, 2018

Thank you!!!!! I have noticed that she stops when she eats. Thanks for the help!

June 21, 2018

Lola's Owner

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Steve

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Siberian

dog-age-icon

17 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting
Sneezing
Smacking Lips

Steve the cat was diagnosed with gastro lymphoma, for which he is takes steroids and chemo (has been for past 6 months). Last month he has thrown up a few times, vet thought maybe acid reflux from the drugs and thought I should try prilosec (which I did for a week, but his appetite took a nose dive, so I took him off). He's also started sneezing a lot. Two questions, read that prilosec can suppress appetite and also prevent absorption of drugs and B12 (so important for his survival!) - is this true? Question 2: could acid reflux cause sneezing??

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Zoey

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short hair

dog-age-icon

10 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Burping
Vomiting White Foam

My cat has been throwing up very small amounts of clear foamy liquid or just white foam for maybe 36 hours, & sometimes nothing. It's not constant, but has happened at least 10 times or more - one of those 3. She is eating fine, mostly at meal times - wet & dry food. She is also acting normal. I treated her for hairballs twice yesterday, with no results.

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Hima

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Domestic short-haired tabby

dog-age-icon

3 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Drooling
Burping
Overgrooming

I have a female adult tabby. She has had too much gas with all grainy foods I have tried. She's been on a grain-free wet and dry food diet for months now since that worked the best (so far) but there are still some issues. She what appears to be "burping" quite frequently and swallows afterward so I guess that's heartburn maybe. She already eats small portions throughout the day. She has medium stage gingivitis and two broken teeth and her at times drooling is assumed to be the result fo that but I'm wondering if it could be about her diet instead, or if she might have acid reflux. In the last bloodwork she also had abnormally low WBC 2,98, and a tad high RBC, and high PLT. She had no clinical symptoms the bloodwork was just done to check if it was OK to vaccinate her that day. In last January she was hospitalized with high fever, lethargy, not eating, and change in voice after not eating for 3-4 days. Her bilirubin was high in the bloodwork. The vet went between FIP and gallstones and when she responded to the antibiotics came to the conclusion on gallstones over her getting better and bloodwork solely. (No ultrasound or x-rays or urine/stool test.)

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Kitty Lou

dog-breed-icon

Blue Eyed Siamise

dog-age-icon

4 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Weird Sounds Like She'S Choking

Hi, I'm very frightneed for my cat. She's 4yrs Old & I think she has acid reflux. Very aloof attitude, doesn't act the same. Makes a peculiar sound, as if she's going to throw up, but doesn't, Irritable. Is their a possible home remedy for this condition? Or should I call or take her to the Vet? Thank You!

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kyra

dog-breed-icon

hairless

dog-age-icon

6 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Gagging, Moody

took my cat to vet today, since last night shes been dry heaving like every 30/40mins , no vomiting, still eating, we did get another cat 5 days ago and the older cat has been over eating(getting into the kittens food) Vet said her lungs sound clear, No fever, pressed her belly and didnt seem bothered, so to basically monitor her for the next 24hrs, she said it could be acid reflux.. Now im noticing that she has her lower jaw slightly open with a look of wanted to vomit but doesnt.. she is also very mood not wanting to be bothered at all

Acid Reflux Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$800

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