Indigestion is one of the more inconvenient issues your dog can encounter. Because it is something that is usually unexpected and does not happen often, it can be extremely upsetting to the animal, even if it is something that can usually be avoided if you take steps to watch your dog. Indigestion is one of the simpler problems that you will deal with while owning a dog, and probably one of the simplest you will need to deal with. It is also one that can help you bond tighter than ever.
What is Indigestion in Dogs
Dogs tend to have robust digestive systems, especially considering their ancestry, but that does not mean that they do not suffer from various forms of gastrointestinal distress.
In most cases, the problem is some variation of eating too much food, not eating enough, or even eating the wrong foods.
Indigestion can manifest as nausea, acid reflux, or heartburn. The problem is that the dog has eaten too much to digest comfortably, or has eaten too little so the stomach has nothing to digest it turns on the body. Or perhaps it was given the wrong kinds of foods.
The first two are usually the result of some sort of nervous disorder that is causing the dog to eat too much or too little. The last is probably the easiest to diagnose and deal with as many owners feed their pets all sorts of foods that are not good for the dogs, such as dairy products, meatless snacks, or any of a long list of foods.
Indigestion can even be caused just by switching up the diet of the dog. The dog either just does not like the new diet and so is not eating as much as it should be. That, or the new diet has something that the dog is allergic to, such as wheat or soy (like edamame).
While it is impressive what a dog can eat, this does not make it immune to basic problems.
How Does Indigestion in Dogs Occur
Acid reflux in dogs is similar to acid reflux in humans. Generally, there is a sphincter at the base of the esophagus; for dogs suffering from acid reflux that sphincter is relaxed, allowing gastric or intestinal fluids to flow into the esophagus. As these fluids are extremely acidic, they can damage the esophageal lining, causing inflammation, irritation, and other damage to the lining. Normally, the dog would vomit its stomach contents once these fluids have reached the esophagus. This is especially common in dogs with a shorter esophagus, such as various brachycephalic breeds.
Also known as “gastroesophageal reflux”, it can be a sign of a greater problem. Besides causing pain and discomfort in your dog, severe acid reflux and recurring vomiting from other causes can damage the esophageal lining. As such, it can only help to check in with your veterinarian to find out what is going on. Eliminating the cause can prevent long-term damage to the esophagus.
The veterinarian should definitely be called if the dog suffers from:
- increasing discomfort
- recurring vomiting or diarrhea
- blood in the vomit or stool
- toys or other foreign objects in the vomit or stoo
- if the dog shows signs of weakness or collapses
Causes, Signs, and Symptoms Your Dog is Having Indigestion
There are plenty of signs to watch for to determine if your dog has some sort of indigestion.
Decreased appetite and weight loss are definitely problems, as is painful swallowing. Any unusual mouth movements, such as licking the air, grinding teeth, and jaw snapping, are also good signs. Again, vomiting and general weakness should be noted as well.
There are some basic causes to watch out for:
- Anesthetic drugs can relax the sphincter, making them a potential issue.
- Allergens are another issue, as they can create discomfort. If your dog is having an issue with food, that should be the first place to check.
- Chronic vomiting can be an obvious issue as it constantly exposes the esophagus to gastric acids.
- Some dogs may just produce too much stomach acid. Besides stomach and gastrointestinal problems, too many spicy or oily foods may be another problem.
- Underproduction of stomach acids may be an issue as well. This may be an overreaction to drugs meant to reduce acid.
- The dog may be suffering from Hiatal hernias. These are usually the result of physical trauma, and cause the stomach, intestines, or liver to enter the chest cavity. This positioning may cause acid reflux.
How to Treat Indigestion in Dogs
If you realize that the dog has eaten something it should not have, then it is advised that you seek veterinary care as quickly as possible. Before you try any sort of home remedy, check with your veterinarian to ensure that the remedy is not worse than the original problem.
There are plenty of ways for how to treat indigestion and acid reflux in dogs, but check with a veterinarian before trying any of them.
Obviously, the dog’s stomach is trying to get rid of something, so it can help to not put more things into the stomach. As such, a 12 to 24 hour fast may be the best solution.
However, this is something you may want to debate with smaller dogs or those with some prior conditions as they may not be able to deal with fasting like other animals. Also, ask if you should administer a bland diet after the fasting is completed.
A dog that is suffering from vomiting or diarrhea is likely also suffering from dehydration.
Ice chips may be a way to encourage drinking and can be increased as the dog shows signs of being able to accept the ice.
Canned pumpkin may sound like a strange solution, but it has a low glycemic index which makes it easy to absorb, and that helps with an upset stomach and digestion.
However, make sure that you get 100% canned pumpkin. Spices may actually cause the problem to get worse. Small dogs should be fed about half a teaspoon while larger dogs can be fed one tablespoon.
Products Online (via Amazon)
- One item to try is Caleb Treeze Organic Farm Stops Acid Reflux. It was found by the Amish and provides a balanced mixture of raw apple cider vinegar, ginger, and garlic to provide relief from acid reflux.
- Reflux Gourmet is another product to try. It works through an alginate therapy process and can actually stop the acid reflux from happening. It provides a protective coating for your esophagus and stomach, as well as creating a gel raft that helps prevent any juices from reaching the esophagus. This raft will dissolve after a few hours. It is best when taken after a meal and before sleeping.
- AloeCure Pure Aloe Vera Juice can also help. Certified organic, the inner leaf is processed in a proprietary low-temperature process to provide the best possible product. Aloe is proven to help buffer stomach acid, as well as aid in digestion and helping the immune system. It improves pH regulation enough to relieve discomfort but not enough to trigger the production of more acid. It also promotes the growth of good flora.
Preventive Measures to Avoid Indigestion in Dogs
The simplest method of preventing acid reflux in dogs is to simply make sure the dog is eating enough and that the dog is not eating things it should not be. Preventing indigestion can be reasonably simple if you keep an eye on what the dog eats.
Besides adhering to the general list of prohibited foods, also try to determine your dog’s allergies. Most dogs will suffer from occasional indigestion, just like humans, but a common problem could signal some sort of problem. So an allergy is a good place to start. For some dogs, just changing the protein source is sufficient.
Another option is to try a prebiotic or probiotic. In some cases, the problem can be as simple as the dog does not have the right amount of flora in its gut, and so working to increase that flora to an appropriate level is a good idea. Check with your veterinarian to see if they have a particular suggestion. Again, consult with your veterinarian to find the best course of action.
How to treat indigestion and acid reflux in dogs: A summary
Just like humans, indigestion can be a major problem for your dog.
Once the diagnosis has been made, it is one that usually just takes some time to deal with the discomfort. When it does not, it needs to be dealt with in the most efficient method possible and as quickly as possible. Because it is unexpected and can be painful, it can be a traumatic experience for the dog. By dealing with it as quickly as possible then you can not only save the dog some trauma but also possibly create a bonding moment between you and the dog.