What is Acid Reflux?

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In the normal digestive process, everything goes in one direction. The process consists of food entering through the mouth, travelling down the esophagus, into the stomach and making its way through the intestines, to be excreted from body by the bladder or the colon in the end. When something causes this process to reverse, this can lead to problems such as vomiting, regurgitation or acid reflux.

Acid reflux occurs when the fluids of the stomach reverse back into the esophagus, usually as a result of weakening of the sphincter between the stomach and esophagus. When the sphincter doesn’t close properly, stomach acid and other digestive fluids are allowed to rise up into the esophagus. While the stomach has a special lining which protects it from the acidic fluids used for digesting food, the esophagus does not. The acid irritates and inflames the esophagus, which is painful and can lead to ulcerations.

Chronic vomiting can weaken the sphincter, and some association has been found with dogs that are born with a hiatal hernia, which is when a portion of the stomach has pushed through the diaphragm and into the chest. As in humans, diet can contribute to acid reflux, particularly when it comes to consuming foods that are high in fat. Feeding the dog one big meal a day may also contribute. Occasionally, acid reflux will occur after anesthesia as a result of having not fasted the dog properly beforehand, or improper positioning during the procedure.

The disease is fairly common in dogs of any breed or age, although younger dogs are more frequently affected, as their esophageal sphincter is still developing. If you notice any of these symptoms, have your pet checked out by a veterinarian.

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