Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Acid Reflux, GERD in Dogs, Cats - Natural Remedies, Causes, Symptoms

In this article…
  1. What is Acid Reflux - GERD
  2. Who is at Risk of Acquiring GERD
  3. Causes of Acid Reflux – GERD
  4. Other Conditions That May Mimic the Symptoms of GERD
  5. Symptoms of GERD
  6. Strategy for Natural Treatment and Remedy

1.0 What is Acid Reflux - GERD

Acid Reflux in dogs is called Gastroesophageal reflux – GERD for short. GERD occurs when the sphincter muscle of the lower esophagus is damaged or weakened. The malfunctioning valve of the esophagus allows an uncontrollable reverse flow of gastric or intestinal fluids - bile salts, stomach acid and other GI juices to pass into the muscular tube that connects and passes food from the throat (pharynx) to the stomach. The lining of the esophagus is not designed to tolerate the strong stomach acids. As a result the lining of the esophagus can become irritated and further damaged.

GERD can result in a mild or more severe condition:
  • Mild esophagitis is a mild inflammation of the esophageal lining;
  • Severe esophagitis causes damage to the deeper layers of the esophagus.

2.0 Who is at Risk of Acquiring GERD

  • Dogs and cats of all ages;
  • Dogs and cats with a genetic pre-disposition to acquiring GERDS – this includes Brachycephalic breeds (short nose, flat face breeds) that are most susceptible to GERD;
    • For example:
      • Bully breeds such as the –
      • American Bulldog;
      • American Pit Bull and Staffordshire Terrier;
      • Boston Terrier;
      • Boxer;
      • Cane Corso;
      • Presa Canario;
      • Pug;
      • etc.
  • Other dog breeds such as -
    • American Cocker Spaniel,
    • Lhasa Apso
    • Shis Tzu
  • Feline breeds such as –
    • Himalayan Cats;
    • Persian Cats;
    • etc.
  • Dogs and cats that may be subject to any of the conditions listed under ‘Causes’ of Acid Reflux - GERD’ as provided just below…
3.0 Causes of Acid Reflux - GERD

  • Daily diet that contains a lot of fillers - i.e. grains, legumes, etc.
  • Consumption of a meal (or a daily diet) that is very high in fat, or bad fats (poor quality fats.
  • Consumption of too much food when the stomach is already full;
  • Foreign matter in the esophagus;
  • Genetic predisposition – brachycephalic breeds as noted in section 2.0 above;
  • Hiatal hernia in the upper portion of the stomach – dogs with genetic pre-disposition for condition;
  • Megaesphagus – a condition caused by improper functioning of esophagus muscles;
  • Result of surgery:
  • Side effect or adverse reaction to a veterinarian prescribed antibiotic or other drug;
  • From improper fasting prior to surgery and/or;
  • Improper positioning of the dog or cat during surgery;
  • Placement of the breathing tube (used to provide anesthesia) and oxygen during surgery.

4.0 Other Conditions That May Mimic the
      Symptoms of GERD
  • Abscess;
  • Cancer of the throat or mouth;
  • Hiatal hernia;
  • Ingestion of toxins;
  • Tumor in the esophagus.
  • Megaesophagus – a condition where the muscles of the esophagus fail to push the food into the stomach.

5.0 Symptoms of GERD
  • Appetite loss;
  • Burping;
  • Chronic vomiting;
  • Excessive salivation or drooling (in the case of severe esopagitis);
  • Gagging after eating;
  • Inactive after eating;
  • Inflammation of the espophagus;
  • Fever (in the case of severe esophagitis);
  • Regurgitation of food;
  • Pacing;
  • Pain while swallowing – dog or cat may whine, cry, howl, etc.;
  • Weight loss.

6.0 Strategy for Natural Treatment and 

  1. Reduce factors that promote bacterial overgrowth and low stomach acid;
  2. Replace enzymes, nutrients and stomach acid that are essential for digestion and enable health;
  3. Restore beneficial bacteria and healthy mucosal lining in the gut.

Step One
  • With hold (fast) the dog for a day or two – this provides the esophagus with a chance to relax and heal a little;
  • After fasting change the feeding schedule...

Step Two
  • No more large meals, (i.e. 1 or 2 meals per day) instead do;
  • Frequent small meals throughout the day – i.e. 4 to 6 small meals/day, and;
  • Don’t add water to the food in the bowl as this can make acid reflux worse.

Step Three

Avoid Exacerbating GERD with the Wrong Dietary Choices...
  • While treating GERD eliminate all of the following from food and treats -
    • All grains – refined cereal grain, whole grains and grain by-products;
    • Legumes;
    • Refined sugars;
    • Starchy vegetables;
    • High fat poor source meat and fats;
    • Commercial off the shelf and veterinarian prescribed  and dry dog and cat food and treats contain many ingredients (and hidden ingredients) that can exacerbate GERDS.
Consider Changing to a Diet with Ingredients You Control...
  • You can use this homemade grain-free recipe;
    • Include the following -
      • Lean ground meat from organic pasture fed animals;
      • Squash, pumpkin, turnip or rutabaga instead of sweet potatoes or legumes;
      • Low fat cottage cheese and low fat kefir from organic pasture fed animals;
      • The recipe includes many herbs that help in the treatment of GERD.
Step Four

Add some nutraceuticals and herbs that help stop GERD by supporting good digestive health –

Probiotics to support health of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract
  • Add kefir to the daily diet this article explains how to choose a good quality kefir product for your dog or cat;
  • If you don't want to use kefir you can use fresh sauerkraut (fresh sauerkraut can be found in the refrigerated section of a grocery store or speciality food store or you can make it yourself – don’t use wine sauerkraut or the unrefrigerated type of sauerkraut);
    • If you want to make your own sauerkraut you can use this recipe;
  • If you don't want to use a probiotic food then purchase a good probiotic supplement;
    • Most probiotic supplements are not worth buying - make sure you really know how to select a good product - read here.

Bone Broth for protection and healing of the GI tract
  • Make a bone broth soup;
    • Bone broth contains glutamine – a metabolic fuel used by intestinal cells which helps the lining of the gut;
  • You can offer the bone broth as a mini-meal once a day;
  • You can use this homemade bone broth recipe.

Natural Honey for protection and healing of the GI tract
    Natural honey (raw, unpasturized) is called the world's perfect food - for very good reason...
    Honey is a very healing food. Adding natural honey to your dog's and cat's daily diet can help in the reduction of the symptoms of GERD and the elimination of the condition.   
    Honey also contributes to overall health in multiple ways including supporting the immune system, provides antioxidants is a prebiotic, a probiotic and an anti-carcinogen.

    Make sure you read this article for a full list of health benefits, cautions, daily dosage and important information on selecting an appropriate honey product for your dog or cat. If your companion animal is a puppy or kitten make sure you read section 10.0 of the honey article.

Aid Digestion with Herbs

Prior to using any herbs make sure that you check each herb’s drug interactions if your dog is on any conventional medicines, and cautions if your dog has any additional medical conditions.

  • Add two to three of the following bitter herbs (use either dry herb or tincture form with no alcohol) to each meal;
  • Bitter herbs stimulate stomach acid production which helps with the proper digestion of food;
    •  Add two to three of the following bitter herbs (use either dry herb or tincture form with no alcohol) to each meal;
      • Use 1/8 to 1/4 tsp of each herb if using dry herb or powder
        (of the two or three herbs that you select from the list below);
      • Add 1 to 2 drops of each herbal tincture (of the two or three herbs that you select from the list below);

You can also add a papain or bromelain based digestive supplement to your dog or cat’s food or use fresh minced Papaya – you can read about that here.


Add fresh garlic to food once a day – make sure you read this article on garlic to understand best preparation methods, daily dosage, cautions, drug interactions.

Mix the following together and add to each meal…



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Note -

1.0 Use of Foods, Herbs, Nutraceuticals and Alternative Medicines:

When choosing to use any of the items or protocols in the article above, it is your responsibility to ensure safe use of the item/protocol. Food, herbs, nutraceuticals and alternative medicines all have drug interactions, most have health issue contradictions, some have side effects. Use of substances and protocols are your responsibility. Prior to use of any substance or protocol make sure you do your research - check for all cautions, contradictions,interactions, side effects. If in doubt do not use the substance or protocol. If the substance, or protocol is contradicted for your animal do not use. If your animal has an underlying condition you are not aware of substances may conflict with that condition.

2.0 The Real Meaning of Holistic…

Food, herbs, nutraceuticals and alternative medicines are NOT ‘holistic’ they are a substance and MAY, or may NOT be ‘NATURAL’. It is important to keep in mind that the supplement industry is just as unethical as BigPharma, the Food and Pet Food Industry, and unfortunately many veterinarians.

If you use a ‘natural’ substance (i.e. an herb) you are using a natural substance, this is not synonymous with holistic.

Holistic is a way of approaching life, and within that - overall health, and wellbeing.

Please do not expect a natural substance to miraculously remedy a health or behavioral situation. A natural substance may be used to treat symptoms. However, if the factors causing the underlying issue are not properly identified, analyzed and addressed you do not have a remedy.

Remedy requires a comprehensive approach that identifies root cause, seeks to remove items that trigger, cause or otherwise contribute to issues, and builds a complete, and detailed approach to immediate treatment, remedy, and maintenance of long-term health = holistic.

I offer extensive consultation services - Holistic Diet, Nutrition Wellness and Holistic Behavioral, for people that are serious about looking after their dogs and cats holistically. If you want to engage my services you can contact me via email or phone.

If you are looking for additional free advice, please refer back to the articles on my site, do not contact me via email or phone - personalized service is for my clients / patients only.

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Wishing your dog and cat the best of health!

the Ottawa Valley Dog Whisperer
Holistic Behaviorist - Dogs
Holistic Diet Nutrition Wellness Adviser – Dogs and Cats

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