How can I prevent my dog from getting acid reflux?

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Any dog can potentially develop acid reflux. It occurs more frequently in puppies, as their esophageal sphincter, which separates the stomach and esophagus, is still developing. Feeding puppies three or four small meals a day of a high quality puppy food and avoiding fatty snacks can help reduce the weakening of the sphincter muscles and prevent excessive acid production.

Diet is also important for adult dogs prone to acid reflux. Your veterinarian may recommend feeding a diet of senior dog food that is lower in fat and protein to help prevent reflux. Avoid giving your dog fatty table scraps to prevent reflux as well. If you feed your dog only once a day, try instead to feed it at least two, even three or four smaller meals daily.

Another option may be to try to elevate your dog’s food and water bowls. This can be especially important for tall dogs. As they lower their heads down to the floor to eat, gravity works against them, encouraging food and stomach acid to reverse into the esophagus. You can get special feeding stands made for big dogs like Great Danes and other breeds, or if you’re handy, you can make your own.

The raised stand should allow your dog to eat with his or her head at shoulder height or slightly above. You can test heights by using chairs or blocks to raise and lower until you find a height that is comfortable for them. For some dogs, even putting their dish on the second or third step up on a set of stairs works, while little dogs may only need a block or a step stool to make it high enough.

Depending on the severity of the acid reflux, your vet may ask you to fast your dog periodically, to allow the esophagus to rest. He or she may prescribe medications that protect the esophagus or help reduce the acid production. While your dog’s acid reflux may never fully resolve, it can be made manageable and help to prevent further damage to the esophagus with a little bit of patience and care.

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