Handling doggy acid reflux
February 10, 2015 9:42 AM   Subscribe

Help me help my dog live a cage free life!

My older dog (obligatory picture in my profile) has bouts of acid reflux. During a bout she will eat anything soft that's in her reach. She becomes desperate during these bouts and I need to sedate her with medication from the vet to calm her down. She will eat bedding, toys, my other dog's fur, leaves from plants that may have dropped on the floor, the clothes I'm wearing, and even my hair if I try to give her a hug to comfort her. She won't just chew these things up. She will eat them. She has had three close calls where she nearly needed surgery due to a GI obstruction. The vet was absolutely amazed at how much she ate and the variety of things she ate. Basically, if she has an episode while I'm not home, she could die. It's also really expensive to keep taking her to a vet after an episode and even more expensive if she were to end up eating my furniture.

These episodes are mostly under control through a mix of Prilosec and folate. The vet ran blood tests and detected a folate deficiency (which is strange because her kibble has a folate supplement in it). She seems to have one episode every 3 months or so.

My problem is that I have to crate her while I'm out of the house in case she has an episode. She used to love her crate, but I had to take out her bedding. I replaced it with a tough anti-fatigue mat, but it's no where near as soft as her orthopedic bed.

I have a web cam on her while I'm at work and while she used to sleep all day, she now spends a lot of time awake, just staring into space. She has started to run away when I ask her to go to bed. When she had her soft bed, she would run in her crate excitedly and wait for her treat.

Does anyone have any ideas on how to make this situation better for her? I'm open to almost anything. She doesn't like doggy day care. I'm told she just stands by the door all day, waiting to leave and it's not worth the expense/hassle to me if she's not going to be happy there. Basically, any suggestions except for doggy day care would be great. I live in Chicago if that helps. Should I take her to a GI specialist? Is there a different crate pad I can use? Can I muzzle her during the day? If so, what kind of muzzle? Any help would be much appreciated! I want her to live a happy life.
posted by parakeetdog to Pets & Animals (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
We occassionally muzzle our dogs during the day with a basket muzzle (for example, when they have stitches and we don't want them to lick/chew. Here's a basket muzzle that's typical for medium-snouted dogs. We use this style for our long-snouted pup.

It will take some getting used to, and more likely than not your dog will spend the first few days trying to rub her face on everything, but she will have freedom of movement and soft bedding hopefully without being able to grab anything to eat.

Is there anything she can eat during these periods to sooth her stomach? Something you could leave out for her otherwise? I've found that dogs and cats can learn positive self-soothing behaviors and substitute them for negative ones.
posted by muddgirl at 9:51 AM on February 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

When you say "acid reflux" are you talking about the yellow bile that dogs will spit up?
posted by FergieBelle at 10:09 AM on February 10, 2015

Muddgirl - She will eat crushed ice when she's having an episode. I haven't found anything else that's safe to give her during these times besides the crushed ice or dog food. She will always eat her dog food, so I can't just leave it out. It would be fantastic if there was a remote feeder that I could control over the internet to dispense food when I wanted it too.

FergieBelle - She doesn't spit up during these episodes. The vet described it being like when people have acid reflux...although, people don't eat fabric when they have acid reflux.
posted by parakeetdog at 10:23 AM on February 10, 2015

There are a few remote feeder options on the market now, although I have zero experience with them, and that could probably be the subject of a whole 'nother question

A few more dietary ideas - do you feed her one big meal right now or smaller meals throughout the day? Does meal timing affect her recurrences? This might be something to mess with in conjunction with a muzzle.
posted by muddgirl at 10:45 AM on February 10, 2015

Can you make her a safe place with baby gates or something? Also Costco is selling a security set up right now that consists of a camera you can view on your phone and a an outlet timer thing you can turn on remotely. Would that work for your remote food dispensing? It was $120 for both or something like that.

I hear you on the doggy daycare. I tried that with my dog and they ended up letting her hang out in the office all day because she hated it so much.
posted by fshgrl at 12:13 PM on February 10, 2015

For what it's worth--have you tried switching her feed? My vet had us switch our dogs to grain-free food, and it's made a ton of difference to their sensitive stomachs (and skin allergies) although no one has ever told me they have acid reflux. It was really remarkable how well it works. There are lots of main-stream grain-free food and treats available now, and they're not hard to find. We feed 2x/day, 6 AM and 4 PM, and we have not had an issue in months.

Have you ever tried any other medications to treat the reflux? Just like Prilosec doesn't work for me--I need Nexium or Prevacid--maybe a different PPI or acid reducer will work better to keep the reflux under control.

Finally, is she an anxious dog in general? Have you noticed any "personality" changes to her? Has your vet talked about a trial of Prozac or some other drug like that in case she is anxious and that is driving this behavior?
posted by FergieBelle at 12:19 PM on February 10, 2015

I'm a vet, and frankly, I've never heard of anything quite like this. Also, in my experience a folate deficiency is an indicator of severe GI disease that needs further investigation rather than something that can be fixed with supplementation only.

So, I'd go for referral to an internal medicine specialist vet and consider biopsies to try to diagnose the exact problem so it can be treated appropriately and further episodes prevented. This will be expensive but hopefully worth it.
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 8:46 PM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

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