Acid Reflux in Cats

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The reverse flow of gastric juices from the stomach to the esophagus, the small tube which connects the throat and stomach, is referred to as acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux. This condition is commonly referred to as heartburn, which is common in most humans as well as animals.

Even cats have been found to suffer from this uncomfortable condition. The muscular opening at the base of the esophagus is referred to as the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). This muscular opening acts as a door in opening when the food needs to go to the stomach and closes when the food has reached the stomach. This prevents any stomach juice or gastric juices from flowing back to the esophagus.

catThe stomach lining of the cat is protected to withstand the potent qualities of gastric juices, but the esophagus lining has no protection at all to withstand gastric juices.

Hence gastric juices can damage the wall of the esophagus. This is the reason for the burning sensation that is quite common during acid reflux in cats. The flow of the gastric juices from the stomach to the esophagus could happen during brief relaxations of the LES.

Acid reflux is fairly common among cats and could occur at any age, especially during younger ages. Acid reflux can cause varying degrees of damages to the esophagus lining. Mild esophagitis is caused when the esophagus lining is inflamed to a mild degree.

A more severe esophagitis would cause damages to the deep layers of the esophagus. The main symptoms of this condition include spitting up of food (regurgitation), lack of appetite, weight loss and evidence of pain while swallowing. The cat will howl or mewl during such instances. Severe acid reflux cases will promote extreme salivation and fever in cats.

The Main Causes Of Acid Reflux In Cats Are:

– Acid reflux could commonly occur in cats when an anesthetic is administered to the cat. This will allow the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) to relax during such periods.
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– Failing to fast the cat properly during anesthesia and improper positioning of the animal during anesthesia can also result in the relaxation of LES. This will cause acid reflux in these animals.

Congenital hiatal hernia is another cause for acid reflux in cats. Hiatal hernia is a condition where a part of the stomach resides in the chest area. This can result in the relaxation of the LES and acid reflux in turn. Long tern vomiting is also considered a high risk factor for acid reflux in cats.

An acid reflux condition could be diagnosed through an esophagoscopy. An internal camera is used to view the esophagus lining during this examination. This is one of the most effective ways to diagnose acid refluxes in cats. The changes of mucus in the esophagus would indicate whether the cat is suffering from acid reflux or not.

The examination can also reveal active bleeding areas in the esophagus lining during severe acid reflux conditions in cats. Ingestion of a caustic agent is another effective way of diagnosing acid reflux in cats.

cat foodTreatment methods for acid reflux in cats can vary. Your veterinarian may instruct you to withhold certain food items given to your cat for 2-3 days.

Sometimes, you will need to stop feeding the cat completely at least for 2 days depending on the severity of the acid reflux condition.

Fluids would be given during this stage. A dietary regime of low fat and low protein meals should be given in small quantities during frequent hours. Dietary fat would decrease the strength of the LES. Protein can stimulate the production of gastric juices.

Medications are another option for acid reflux in cats. Drugs which are referred to as gastrointestinal pro-kinetic agents are prescribed to improve the movements of stomach content through the intestines of the cat. It also helps to strengthen the LES. Even though medications would be administered to your cat, a change of diet is mandatory to relieve the cat of this condition.

The change of diet and medications would be administered for a certain period of time, and the signs of discomfort would be closely watched. If the cat is still in pain, it would be better to consult your veterinarian immediately.

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