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

acid reflux (GERD) in dogs and cats, natural remedies, cause and symptoms
6.5 min read
In this article:
  1. What is Acid Reflux, (also known as GERD)
  2. Dogs and Cats at Greatest Risk of Acquiring Acid Reflux
  3. Causes of Acid Reflux
  4. Other Conditions That May Mimic the Symptoms of Acid Reflux
  5. Symptoms of Acid Reflux
  6. Natural Treatment and Remedies

1.0 What is Acid Reflux (also known as GERD)

Acid Reflux in dogs is called Gastroesophageal reflux, or GERD. Acid reflux 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.

Acid reflux (GERD) can result in a mild or more severe condition:
  1. Mild esophagitis is a mild inflammation of the esophageal lining.
  2. Severe esophagitis causes damage to the deeper layers of the esophagus.
  3. If left untreated or improperly treated can eventually lead to cancer.

2.0 Dogs and Cats at Greatest Risk of Acquiring Acid Reflux (GERD)

Dogs and cats of all ages.
Dogs and cats with a genetic pre-disposition to acquiring acid reflux. 
This high-risk group includes:
Brachycephalic breeds (short nose, flat face breeds). 
Bully breeds:
American Bulldog
American Pit Bull and Staffordshire Terrier
Boston Terrier
Cane Corso
Presa Canario
Other dog breeds such as:
American Cocker Spaniel
Lhasa Apso
Shis Tzu
Feline breeds such as:
Individual dogs and cats that don't fall into the breed classifications noted above:
Can also be vulnerable to acid reflux. The underlying reasons are discussed in the section just below.

3.0 Causes of Acid Reflux (GERD)

There are many underlying issues that can acuse and contirbute to acid reflux, for example:

  1. Diets that contain starchy carbohydrates including:  
    1. Grains and starchy seeds.
    2. Beans.
    3. Starchy root vegetables.
  2. Dry, canned, wet pet food diets.
  3. Prescription pet food diets.
  4. Consumption of a meal (or a daily diet) that includes an unsuitable amount of fat, or contains inappropriate fats.
  5. Consumption of too much food when the stomach is already full.
  6. Food hypersensitivities (intolerance and allergies).
  7. Foreign matter in the esophagus.
  8. Genetic predisposition – brachycephalic breeds as noted in section 2.0 above.
  9. Hiatal hernia in the upper portion of the stomach – dogs with genetic pre-disposition for condition.
  10. Megaesophagus – a condition caused by improper functioning of esophagus muscles
  11. Result of surgery.
  12. Side effect or adverse reaction to a veterinarian prescribed antibiotic or other conventional medication.
  13. Improper fasting prior to surgery.
  14. Improper positioning of the dog or cat during surgery.
  15. Damage resulting from surgery.
  16. Placement of the breathing tube (used to provide anaesthesia) and oxygen during surgery.

4.0 Other Conditions That Mimic Symptoms of Acid Reflux (GERD)

  1. Abscess
  2. Cancer of the throat or mouth
  3. Hiatal hernia
  4. Ingestion of toxins
  5. Tumor in the esophagus
  6. Megaesophagus – a condition where the muscles of the esophagus fail to push the food into the stomach

5.0 Symptoms of Acid Reflux (Gerd)

  • Appetite loss
  • Burping
  • Chronic vomiting
  • Excessive licking and/or air licking
  • Excessive salivation or drooling (in the case of severe esophagitis)
  • Gagging after eating
  • Inactive after eating
  • Inflammation of the esophagus
  • 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 Natural Treatment and Remedy for Acid Reflux (GERD)

Below are examples of natural interventions that can help treat your dog or cat's acid reflux.
Overall, its important to:
  1. Reduce factors that promote bacterial overgrowth and low stomach acid.
  2. Replace enzymes, nutrients and stomach acid essential for digestion.
  3. Restore beneficial bacteria and healthy mucosal lining in the gut.
  4. Avoid using prescription and OTC medications such as Gas X, Pepcid AC and Pepto Bismol. These medications adversely effect long-term health and quality of life.

Step One
  1. Withhold (fast) your dog for 12 hours up to 24 hours (not for hypoglycemic dogs, not for very elderly or otherwise frail dogs). Fasting provides the esophagus with a chance to relax and reduce inflammation.
  2. Offer bone broth or short cooked broth during the fasting period.
  3. After fasting change the feeding schedule.    

Step Two
  1. Don't serve 1 or 2 meals per day.
  2. Do serve frequent small meals throughout the day – i.e. 4 to 6 small meals/day.
  3. 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...

Step Four

Add supplemental foods, herbs and nutraceuticals to support good digestive health. For example:

Probiotics to support health of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract
Kefir can be benefical for dogs and cats experiencing acid reflux.
To learn about:
  • The health benefits of kefir.
  • How to select a good product for your dog and cat.
  • Daily serving amounts.
Saurekraut, fresh, unpasturized
Fresh sauerkraut can be benefical for dogs and cats experiencing acid reflux. 
  1. You can make your own sauerkraut, or;
  2. You can purcchase fresh, unpasturized saurekraut from a local grocery store, natural health store or specialty food store.
To make your own sauerkraut:

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

Avoid using fermented foods (e.g. kefir, sauerkraut if your dog or cat has an active yeast infection.

Bone Broth, for Gut Healing Support
Add bone broth to your dog and cat's daily diet.
Bone broth contains glutamine – a metabolic fuel used by intestinal cells which helps support the lining of the gut.
You can offer the bone broth as a mini-meal once or twice a day, served away from food.
To make your own bone broth:

Natural Honey for protection and healing of the GI tract 
Natural honey (raw, unpasteurized) 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 honey 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
If your dog or cat is taking conventional medicines and/or has other health issues, prior to using herbs, check for drug interactions and health issue contradictions. 


  • Add two to three of the following bitter herbs (dry herb or tincture) 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.
Holistic Diet, Nutrition, Wellness Services Tailored to Your Individual Dog and Cat

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For information about my holistic behavioral services, visit my holistic behavioral services page.

For dogs of all ages, sizes and breeds.

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Article by Karen Rosenfeld.

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