A dog’s stomach only produces gastric acid when food is given or when food is expected. Over- or incorrect production then results in gastric hyperacidity for the dog, in which gastric acid rises up the esophagus and triggers heartburn.
This article explains what leads to gastric hyperacidity and what you can do now.
In a nutshell: What are the symptoms of gastric hyperacidity?
A dog with hyperacidity in the stomach suffers from an overproduction of stomach acid. The dog tries to vomit it up as it climbs up the esophagus.
Typical symptoms of gastric hyperacidity are therefore gagging and coughing up to vomiting and abdominal pain.
4 causes of gastric hyperacidity in dogs
Gastric hyperacidity is always caused by an overproduction of gastric acid. However, how this is triggered varies widely and requires different treatments.
Humans produce gastric acid continuously and thus maintain a certain milieu in the stomach. Dogs, on the other hand, only produce stomach acid when they ingest food – or expect to do so.
Meticulously observed feeding times will therefore eventually cause a Pavlovian reflex and the dog’s body will produce stomach acid at fixed times, independent of actual feeding.
Any disruption to this routine, whether feeding later or changing the amount of food, potentially leads to gastric hyperacidity in the dog. Because here the ratio of required stomach acid and actually produced acid is no longer correct.
Feedings that are linked to rituals, such as feeding after a walk, are also subject to this problem.
In addition, the dog produces stomach acid with every treat. So if he gets some over and over again throughout the day, his body remains in an expectation state and becomes overly acidic.
When stressed, the “fight or flight reflex” kicks in in both dogs and humans. This ensures better blood flow to the muscles and weaker blood flow to the digestive tract.
At the same time, stomach acid production is boosted to speed up digestion that is not needed for fight or flight.
Very sensitive dogs or dogs under constant stress are then threatened with gastric hyperacidity.
As a side effect of medication
Some medications, especially painkillers, disrupt the natural processes that regulate the production of stomach acid. This can quickly lead to gastric hyperacidity in the dog.
However, when the medication is stopped, production returns to normal. Dogs that have to take such medication for a long time are therefore usually given gastric protection against hyperacidity.
Theory: BARF as a trigger?
The theory that BARF leads to a higher production of gastric acid persists. The reason for this is that raw feeding can contain more bacteria than cooked food and therefore the dog’s organism needs more stomach acid.
There are no studies on this and it is therefore ambiguous. However, since a diet such as BARF should be checked by a vet anyway in order to be healthy, a temporary change in diet for clarification is conceivable in the event of gastric hyperacidity in the dog.
When to the vet?
Gastric hyperacidity is uncomfortable for the dog and can cause pain and, in the case of reflux, serious injury to the esophagus.
Therefore, you should definitely make an appointment with the vet if your dog is vomiting, is in pain, or if the symptoms do not improve.
Home remedies for stomach acid
Gastric hyperacidity rarely comes alone, but is also a recurring problem, depending on the cause and the dog. It is therefore advisable that you have a few ideas and tricks ready to help your dog in the short term.
Keep moving the fixed feeding times forward or backward by at least an hour or two. Also, make sure to decouple rituals and limit treats.
Elm bark protects and soothes the gastric mucosa by binding gastric acid. It works both preventively for dogs with very sensitive stomachs and as a remedy in acute cases.
You administer elm bark an hour before or after eating.
What do I feed my dog with an acidic stomach?
Always clarify any dietary changes with your vet beforehand. Make sure food is served at room temperature and is not too cold or too hot. It should be unseasoned and of high quality.
If your dog suffers from stomach acidity, do not feed it any hard-to-digest food or bones for the time being.
Also, consider switching from raw feeding to cooked food temporarily to relieve your dog’s stomach.
Herbs and herbal tea
Stomach-soothing tea is not only good for people, but also for dogs. You can boil fennel, aniseed and caraway seeds well and put them in the drinking bowl or over the dry food when they have cooled down.
Ginger, lovage and chamomile are also well tolerated by dogs and have a calming effect on the stomach.
Accept eating grass
Dogs eat grass and dirt to regulate their digestion. This also helps dogs with stomach acidity, as long as it is done in moderation and does not pose any other health risks.
You can offer your dog safe grass in the form of cat grass.
In the short term you can switch to stomach-friendly food or diet and feed cottage cheese, rusks or boiled potatoes. In order to digest these, your dog does not need a lot of stomach acid and does not become overly acidic.
Your dog suffers a lot from stomach acidity. However, you can do a lot with just small changes in your everyday life to prevent overproduction of stomach acid and eliminate the cause quickly and easily.