Hiatal Hernia and Regurgitation in Dogs: Cookie’s Story

A hernia is a condition in which an organ pushes through muscle or other tissue that contain it.

In the case of hiatal hernial, abdominal organs push through a diaphragm right where the esophagus enters the stomach. In dogs, hiatal hernia can develop as a result of a birth defect or trauma.

Symptoms of a hiatal hernia in dogs include:

  • hunched back
  • abdominal pain
  • vomiting
  • drooling
  • diarrhea
  • regurgitation
  • difficulty breathing

The signs become prominent when the abdominal organ gets permanently stuck in the chest cavity. Mild cases can respond to medical treatment but severe hernias require surgery.

Further information: Hiatal Hernias in Dogs

Thank you, Christine Crooks, for sharing Cookie’s story.

Hiatal Hernia and Regurgitation in Dogs: Cookie's Story

Cookie’s story

I adopted Cookie 1 April 2015. She was running the streets in Las Vegas, Nevada, and was pregnant. The Boxer rescue got her in and let her have her puppies, and I wanted momma. We assumed she was a Boxer; she looks like a little Boxer. As local people started to comment on her posts about her, we heard she is half Boxer half Boston Terrier.

When we picked her up, she was in rough shape—dry fur, still had milk, teats were hanging down a bit, very hot to the touch, and her eyes full of suspect and fear. But she let me bathe her and was super sweet.

Cookie throws up

I never had a dog that had puppies before, let alone still had milk; did that matter? We stayed in Las Vegas that weekend, and I fed her and wanted her to eat. Did she throw up then? I’m trying to recall, but I believe so. Being in a hotel room with new people is stressful. I thought that was the cause behind Cookie throwing up.

I always use pumpkin to help with tummy problems, so I bought some and tried to get her to eat some. However, she wanted nothing to do with it. The poor girl slept the entire drive from Las Vegas to Sacramento. Balled-up in the back seat, quiet as a mouse.

Cookie is an instant attraction for her housemates

I noticed my other dogs hung around Cookie all the time.her—they watched her every movement. They figured out Cookie came to the party with treats—she was “throwing up,” and they were getting treats. So gross, but they are dogs, and that’s what they do.

I kept adding pumpkin in Cookie’s food; I tried probiotics, slippery elm thinking her system was out of whack. She had puppies, didn’t have a great home life, on the street a lot. Nothing I tried worked, though.

Cookie keeps dumping her food

As time went on, I became concerned; something was amiss. Then, one morning, Cookie threw up eight times in a row. That’s it, I said, and I called the vet.

At the veterinarian

On the day of the appointment, I learned the difference between vomiting and regurgitation.

As it turned out, she was regurgitating—uncontrolled, projectile food mush coming up. This visit, I learned about a hiatal hernia. The vet said it is common with short-nosed dogs, or brachycephalic.

X-rays didn’t show much, so they added in barium mixed in dog food to perform fluoroscopic imaging (continuous X-ray). That can help discover a problem better.

The diagnosis

We discussed everything and the vet said she suspects a hiatal hernia

It can respond to management and medication, but it is not an easy feat. First off you need to give Sucralfate and wait about 30 minutes before you feed. Then you can feed her and give her Cisapride a medicine that has to be compounded and costs a lot. There was something else in there too, but I don’t recall now. Then after that, Cookie needs omeprazole at bedtime. WE do this routine for about a month or more. She is still regurgitating but less, and I keep thinking this can’t be permanent she needs help.

Visiting a university hospital

I finally got an appointment at the UC Davis veterinary hospital. They’ve gone through the same things my veterinarian did—and they came up with the same diagnosis – hiatal hernia. The came up with an identical treatment with the addition of a special diet. They did recommend surgery.

The medication and special food made little difference. Cookie kept regurgitating.

I decided to explore natural options. I am a common-sense type person—I researched, spoke to my friends at the pet food store. If the Cisapride is to help the food get through the stomach quickly, she needs a low fat, highly digestible food—ding, ding, ding lightbulb moment. I tried raw food and never looked back since. We were able to stop the meds and the special diet. I still add in pumpkin to her food and vegetables here and there.

In closing

Cookie rarely regurgitates now. If I miss it happening, I can tell by the attention my other dogs pay to Cookie when it happens. That tells me that Cookie had what I call a wet mouth and I give her an antacid.

When Cookie gets her chompers on a fatty treat, it upsets her tummy. It seems clear that fat is the trigger for her.

The hiatal hernia causes acid reflux and it’s a daily issue so she still gets omeprazole nightly. Is it a cure all, no. Does Cookie still have a hiatal hernia yes. But she is happy and happy.

Related articles:
Regurgitation in Dogs: Is It Different from Vomiting?

Further reading:
Hiatal Hernia in Dogs

Categories: ConditionsGastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)Hiatal herniaReal-life StoriesRegurgitationSymptoms

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

  1. FiveSibesMom

    Boy, Cookie was a lucky dog! I did not realize dogs could get a hiatal hernia. My mom suffered with that…not good. Great info to be aware of. Pinning to share!

  2. It sounds like Cookie is incredibly lucky that she found a family that was willing to take such good care of her. Conditions like this can definitely be managed, but far too often, people simply aren’t aware of their options. A loving family + a veterinarian that’s willing to work with you is the winning combination! I honestly knew nothing about this before, so thank you for sharing! It’s always better to know the signs just in case.

  3. It sounds like Cookie went through a lot before she came into your life. I’m glad you were able to figure out the cause of regurgitation and that she is doing well now!

  4. It is so good to have Cookie’s story as well as what you did about the hernia. I can relate to the effort and worry in solving her issues and I am just so glad her issues were resolved. Having a healthy, happy and loved dog is the world’s best thing. (only don’t tell the cats I said so!)

  5. So glad Cookie is doing better now! The info your shared on vomiting vs. regurgitation is great too! I find myself too often inspecting my dogs vomit to try and decide if it warrants a vet visit. Thank you for sharing!

  6. impurrfectlife

    Oh wow. This was quite informative. I’m glad you found a treatment that Cookie can continue to live a full and happy life.

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