Abstract Proximal oesophageal acid reflux is increased in gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) patients with oesophageal and extra-oesophageal symptoms, the latter particularly in presence of oesophagitis. This study was aimed to assess the proximal extent of reflux, both acid and weakly acidic, in GORD patients with and without oesophagitis and to characterize, using an animal model of GORD, the relationship between acute oesophagitis and proximal extent of reflux. Proximal extent of reflux was evaluated during 24-h pH-impedance monitoring in 17 oesophagitis, 27 non-erosive reflux disease (NERD) patients and 10 asymptomatic controls. In five adult cats, reflux events were simulated by intra-oesophageal retrograde injection of a radiopaque solution. Proximal extent of simulated reflux was fluoroscopically assessed before and after inducing acute oesophagitis. The percentage of proximal reflux was 11% in controls, 22% in NERD and 38% in oesophagitis patients (P < 0.05 vs NERD). Weakly acidic reflux showed higher proximal extent in oesophagitis than in NERD patients but it was less proximally propagated than acid reflux. In cats, proximal reflux was significantly increased during acute oesophagitis. Oesophagitis patients show higher proximal extent of reflux, acid and weakly acidic, when compared with NERD patients and controls. In the experimental model, acute oesophagitis favours proximal migration of simulated reflux.