Megaesophagus in Dogs

Megaesophagus is a condition that occurs when the pet's esophagus fails to contract and expand normally. The esophagus is the tube that connects the dog's throat to the stomach and transports food down the throat for proper digestion. Pets suffering from megaesophagus often regurgitate their food and suffer from aspiration pneumonia. Since the passage of food from the throat to the stomach is guided by a neurologic reflex, dogs often develop megaesophagus if they're suffering from an underlying nerve disorder.

Causes of Megaesophagus in Dogs

Pets suffering from neuromuscular disorders at birth are likely to develop megaesophagus. Apart from this, Addison's disease, cancer and blockage of the esophagus due to the presence of a foreign object may contribute to megaesophagus. Since it's hereditary in nature, certain breeds are at greater risk of developing this condition. These breeds include Great Danes, German shepherds, greyhounds and Irish setters.

Symptoms of Megaesophagus in Dogs Include:

  • Halitosis
  • Regurgitation of food
  • Drooling or salivation
  • Persistent cough
  • Fever
  • Pet finds it difficult to swallow 
  • Aspiration pneumonia

Diagnosis of Megaesophagus in Dogs

In order to help the vet establish a correct diagnosis you need to carefully monitor the dog and inform the vet about all the symptoms exhibited. The vet will perform a thorough physical exam and conduct different tests to rule out other conditions. An X-ray is very helpful to identify any changes to the thoracic region. Blood tests and antibody titer tests will also determine the presence of any abnormalities in the body. The vet will also perform thyroid tests to look for any signs of an underactive or overactive thyroid gland. Although megaesophagus is mostly associated with underlying health conditions, the disease may be idiopathic in nature in some pets.

Treatment of Megaesophagus

The vet will prescribe medications based on the severity of the condition and the type of underlying disease present. Dogs suffering from aspiration pneumonia require an aggressive treatment protocol. In most cases, antibiotics are prescribed and the pet will be fed in an elevated posture. This allows for easy passage of food down the esophagus and into the stomach.

Although the vet may prescribe medicines to help the food move through the gastrointestinal tract, these medicines are only partially helpful. Since there isn't any surgical procedure that can be performed to cure this condition, the dog will have to be treated with medication and supportive care.

Tips for Pet Owners

Since pets find it difficult to swallow you will have to follow vet instructions to feed the dog in the right manner. All prescribed medicines should be administered on time and the vet should be informed if the dog develops any side effects after taking them.

You should monitor the dog carefully and make sure that he doesn't accidentally ingest any foreign objects that are lying around in the house.

Pets suffering from aspiration pneumonia will have difficulty breathing. Such pets may need hospitalization if they're excessively debilitated.