Acid Reflux In Canines

Hey Kelly!    I had a question for you… Levy has a couple little problems.. for one we’re 99% sure that he has a grain allergy so we feed him a grain free diet Acana Pacific Grain Free… But he also seems to have an acid reflux problem!  He seems to wake up all too frequently with loud tummy noises and is unable to eat his breakfast until the afternoon, and you can tell he’s not feeling well all day! (this has been going on for a couple of months).  Was wondering if you have any suggestions for us?    ♥ Kristi, Josh & Levy

Hey Kristi (Josh & Levi)…

Kristi & Levi

I love the adorable picture of you and Levi in your Facebook question.  He is a very handsome black Labrador Retriever.  Amazingly, in my experience Labs seem to be a breed that is commonly afflicted with various allergies including skin, digestive and environmental.  Perhaps that’s because the Labrador Retriever, for the 21st consecutive year, continues to be the most popular breed in the U.S., according to AKC registration statistics.   Wow!

With regard to Levi’s probable grain allergy, it sounds like you have done your homework and chosen to go with a high quality natural grain free fish based food, Acana Pacifica (Boneless salmon, salmon meal, herring meal, wild-caught whitefish meal, green peas, red lentils, whole potato, boneless herring, boneless flounder, herring oil, field beans, canola oil, sun-cured alfalfa, pea fibre, natural fish flavour, whole apples, whole pears, sweet potato, pumpkin, butternut squash, parsnips, carrots, spinach greens, cranberries, blueberries, kelp, chicory root, juniper berries, angelica root, marigold flowers, sweet fennel, peppermint leaf, lavender, rosemary + vitamins and minerals). 

I always caution people to be conservative with the amount of food they are feeding as many of the grain free foods are often higher in calories to go along with the somewhat higher protein (33%) and fat (17%) in the formulations.  This is particularly important to consider if you live in a colder climate and daily exercise will inevitably decrease along with the temperature!

On to your “loud tummy noises and acid reflux” issue…  Acid Reflux refers to a condition in which the acids from the stomach back up into the esophagus and cause inflammation.  There are actually several fairly easy things I would suggest for this issue as follows:

  1. Dry kibble is typically the most difficult food product for a dog to digest.   That said, I would be providing Levi with less kibble and more digestible foods that contain more moisture, like cooked lean meat (i.e. chicken, turkey, beef), canned food, or even home cooking…. see my previous post on how easy this can be:
  2. If you are planning on serving only dry kibble food, you should add water, or soak, the food to help “pre-digest” it.  Many dogs do fine on only dry food, however Levi obviously seems to have a little more difficulty.
  3. I would also highly recommend adding enzymes like PROZYME or ANIMAL ESSENTIALS ENZYME/PROBIOTICS to Levis food which will help to break down, assimilate and metabolize his food.  Basically, you are assisting the digestion process.  I have been using enzyme/probiotics daily for ALL of my pets (one dog and three cats) for over 10 years.  NOTE:  No matter which dietary approach you choose, I would add an enzyme supplement to Levi’s food moving forward.
  4. For acid reflux dogs another proven tactic is to provide three to four smaller meals throughout the day and especially about an hour before bed so Levi doesn’t have an empty stomach.  I have seen this work very well when combined with more moisture based foods like canned, cooked meat, etc.  Further, try giving Levi about 6 tablespoons of (unsweetened) canned pumpkin for his last meal of the evening… highly nutritious and great low calorie fiber.  And, if he likes ice cubes, you can freeze the pumpkin in ice cube trays and use the pumpkin cubes as special treats whenever you want to.
  5. Add two tablespoons of BRAGGS Organic Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar to Levi’s food or water.  Apple cider vinegar has many health benefits, including helping GERD and acid reflux.  Make sure to watch closely and if Levi refuses to drink or eat with the added vinegar just discontinue using it.  Some dogs (and humans!) just don’t like the taste of vinegar.
  6. I really like Animal Apawthecary Herbal PHYTOMUCIL Tincture Blend for many digestive issues.  Phytomucil contains Slippery Elm and Marshmallow Root which are both very beneficial in treating acid reflux and promoting a healthy gastrointestinal tract.
    Animals’ Apawthecary Herbal PYTOMUCIL
  7. Over the years, I can recall several people and dogs who’ve had noticeable improvements with their acid reflux using raw honey.  The honey coats the esophagus and protects it from gastric acid.  Try spreading 1/4 teaspoon of the honey on a small piece of bread and give it to your pet around 15 to 20 minutes before each meal. This remedy is believed to be relatively safe, in the long-term treatment of reflux.  You should always check with your vet If you dog suffers from any other diseases (i.e. diabetes) where honey would not be advisable in large quantities.
  8. If you have no improvements with the above approaches, although I’m confident you will be successful, ask your veterinarian about giving Levi an over the counter antacid like Pepcid AC to decrease the acid secretion in the stomach, thereby alleviating the associated stomach discomfort and nausea he may be experiencing.  TUMS may also be useful to lessen digestive upset.  However, you should always check with your veterinarian as TUMS (calcium carbonate) may not be adviseable for your dog.

To summarize… I would try some easy adjustments to Levi’s diet, including adding enzymes, and increase the number of meals he gets daily.  You may find that he improves quite a bit just by adding more cooked lean meat and/or canned food.  Give it a couple of weeks and then try adding one of the following into Levi’s protocol:  Braggs apple cider vinegar, Phytomucil or honey.  Again give it some time before drawing a conclusion.  I’m very hopeful that Levi will improve.   Good Luck and keep me posted!   :-)

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One Response to Acid Reflux In Canines

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