What is Heartburn?
Although heartburn may not be dangerous on its own, it may be a symptom of a serious illness such as cancer or an ulcer. In addition, the acids will erode the esophagus and may cause necrosis, thinning and narrowing of the esophagus, and regurgitation of vomit into the lungs. It is important to take your dog to see a veterinary care professional as soon as possible if you suspect he is suffering from heartburn.
Dogs can get heartburn just like humans do and the causes of heartburn in dogs are similar to the causes in humans. In fact, the most common cause of heartburn in humans is acid reflux and it is the same for dogs. Acid reflux happens when digestive enzymes and acids overflow from the stomach into the esophagus, causing a burning feeling and possible vomiting. Some of the risk factors for acid reflux include obesity, a weakened esophageal sphincter, eating the wrong foods, overeating, and certain drugs such as steroids.
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Symptoms of Heartburn in Dogs
The symptoms of heartburn can vary greatly from dog to dog, depending on the cause and severity. Many of the symptoms are hard to notice because they are internal. However, the most commonly reported signs of heartburn in dogs include:
- Drooling more than usual
- Bad breath
- Vomiting or coughing after eating
- Whining during and after eating
- Burping or gurgling sound in throat after eating
- Trouble swallowing
- Licking lips
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss
- Primary heartburn is acid reflux on its own with no underlying condition.
- Secondary heartburn is caused by an underlying condition such as a hernia or esophageal cancer.
Causes of Heartburn in Dogs
- Hiatal hernia
- Weakened esophageal sphincter
- Improper diet
- Overproduction of acid in the stomach
- Food allergy
- Eating non-food items
- Cancer of the esophagus
- Certain medications such as steroids
Diagnosis of Heartburn in Dogs
Your veterinary care provider will need your dog’s complete medical history and immunization records. Also, let the veterinarian know what kind of food you feed your dog and if he is on any kind of medication. A physical examination will be done which includes a complete health assessment and vital signs. The veterinarian will also perform auscultation and palpation on your dog’s major organs and muscles. An endoscopy is the best diagnostic test for heartburn. This is done by inserting an endoscope (a long bendable tube) with a lighted camera down your dog’s throat to look for redness, lesions, ulceration, and inflammation.
The veterinarian may take tissue samples for biopsy if cancer is suspected. A swab of the throat may also be done to check for bacterial and fungal infections. Blood tests, urinalysis, and fecal examination are also important in the diagnosis. Some of the blood tests may include a complete blood count (CBC), culture, blood urea nitrogen (BUN), and chemical profile. In addition, your veterinarian will also perform digital imaging such as x-rays, CT scans, ultrasound, and MRI.
Treatment of Heartburn in Dogs
The diagnosis will determine what the treatment should be for your dog. Some of the choices include a special diet, medication, and surgery.
Special Bland Diet
The veterinarian will probably want you to feed your dog a bland diet that is easy on the digestive system. If your dog is overweight, a diet low in fat with fewer calories will be suggested. There are many prescription foods that your veterinarian can prescribe or suggest. Soft food, such as canned food, is usually recommended to reduce the chance of irritation to the esophagus. Several small meals per day are advised rather than one or two large meals.
There are several types of acid reducing medications that are available to dogs. Some of them include ranitidine, antacids, histamine antagonists, proton pump inhibitors, gastroprotectants, and prokinetic drugs.
Although it is rare, if your dog’s heartburn is severe or his esophagus is damaged, surgery may be needed to repair the damage. If there are ulcers, the veterinarian can usually repair the damage with an endoscopic procedure. However, if cancer is suspected, the veterinarian may need to do exploratory surgery to find and remove the tumor. Also, a hiatal hernia will need to be repaired if that is the case.
Recovery of Heartburn in Dogs
In most cases, your dog’s prognosis is good but dogs with heartburn usually need to be treated for life. Their diet should be carefully monitored, weight must be maintained, and you should always provide your dog with plenty of fresh water whether he is inside or outside. Another suggestion is to raise your dog’s bowl so he does not have to lean down when he eats.
Special raised food and water bowls for taller dogs are available that your dog can benefit from. This will stop the stomach acid from backing up into the esophagus while eating. Additionally, be sure to call your veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns.
Heartburn Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
Hi! My 5 month old puppy vomitted undigested food last night and in the morning. Then, he had a loose poop. After a few hours, he his poop was watery again but with undigested rice. Noe, he drinks water by his own but doesn't have the appetite. Is this a sign of indigestion?
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my dog 7 month old eating food but it vomit after some time.dog is active but while vomiting its like foam barking aggressiveness everything is normal can i think its indigestion
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