Can my cat get acid reflux?
The answer is yes. Acid reflux, aka heart burn, is the reverse flow of stomach (gastric) or intestinal fluid into the esophagus. This is often associated with chronic vomiting and is relatively common in cats. Though for most conditions, older cats are the ones at risk, with acid reflux it is younger cats that are at a great risk.
Severe acid reflux can cause esphagitis, which can be very painful and can cause long term damage to their esophagus.
Symptoms of acid reflux in cats
- Regurgitating of food – this is when a cat spits up their food, it has not yet been digested. They will typically just lower their head and spit it up without any stomach muscle contractions or gagging.
- Painful swallowing – often you will notice mewling, howling, or crying when trying t swallow
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss
- Salivation (aka drool)
Acid reflux is caused when the opening between the stomach and esophagus relax. This can happen due to improper positioning during anesthesia, failure to fast your pet prior to anesthesia, congenital hiatal hernia, or long term vomiting.
This is one of the reasons why it is so important to follow the fasting recommendations of your vet prior to any surgery.
If your cat has long term vomiting, for any reason, they need to see the vet immediately. It can be a sign of a bigger health issue but can cause long term damage such as an acid reflux condition.
What is the Treatment?
Sometime you may be asked by your vet to do a day or two of fasting with your cat and then put them on a low-fat, low-protein diet in small frequent feedings. Depending on the severity of the acid reflux, your vet may prescribe a medication. No matter what DO NOT give your cat Pepto-Bismol, or any bismuth subsalicylate treatment. Though it helps humans with acid reflux it is unsafe for cats.
If you are concerned your cat may have acid reflux it is a good idea to bring them to the vet for an evaluation and switch them to a low fat food.