Megaesophagus in Dogs: A Mega Problem?

The esophagus is a muscular, distensible organ that carries food from the mouth to the stomach. Megaesophagus is a common disorder in dogs that describes slow motility with resultant dilation of the esophagus. As a result of hypomotility, food will “pool” in the esophagus and stretch it. The stretching leads to damage to the nerves. This worsens hypomotility – a vicious cycle.

Megaesophagus can be either primary or secondary. In the primary case, an underlying cause is never discovered. It predominantly occurs in puppies, and rarely in an adult-onset form. Secondary occurs when some other predisposing condition such as myasthenia gravis, an autoimmune disease, develops, leading to the megaesophagus.

Primary Megaesophagus in Dogs

Congenital

Unfortunately, some puppies are just born with a flaccid, slow-moving esophagus. Breeds that are genetically predisposed include the wire-haired fox terrier and miniature Schnauzer, but any breed can be affected. Initial symptoms may not be seen until a puppy is transitioned from maternal milk to dog food. Then symptoms of regurgitation and secondary pneumonia are noted. Regurgitation is different from vomiting. It occurs almost directly after a meal. Often the food comes back up with no effort, almost like a burp, and no digestion has occurred.
A frequent, secondary consequence of regurgitation is aspiration pneumonia. As a puppy regurgitates while inhaling, food and stomach acid can be pulled into the lungs. In these cases, puppies must be treated for aspiration. This can include oxygen therapy, nebulization and coupage, and sometimes antibiotics. Hospitalization may be needed if the pneumonia is severe.

There is no surgical treatment for this type of megaesophagus; it can be managed with a variety of life-style changes. These include feeding and watering in an upright position (using a Bailey chair) with small, frequent, calorically dense meals. Some dogs do better with gruel while others prefer meatballs. It will depend on each dog’s ability to swallow.

A recent study (2017) showed some improvement in dogs with idiopathic/congenital megaesophagus when treated with sildenafil (Viagra). More studies need to be conducted to determine if this is a viable treatment option.

Megaesophagus is a lifetime condition, and any dog born with it must be closely watched for signs of aspiration pneumonia through their life.

Vascular Ring Anomalies

An important type of megaesophagus to mention that is both congenital and secondary is due to a vascular ring anomaly. In some breeds of dogs, particularly German shepherds, an abnormal blood vessel can persist instead of regressing during development. The most common type is a persistent right aortic arch (PRAA). When a dog is born, that extra blood vessel causes constriction as the esophagus passes through the chest. In front of the vessel, the esophagus is dilated. As a puppy starts to eat dog food, it becomes trapped in the area, dilating the esophagus.

This IS a fixable condition with surgery. However, after surgical repair, hypomotility may persist due to esophageal damage. Rapid diagnosis and treatment are essential to a good outcome. Any puppy that develops regurgitation at weaning should be immediately evaluated. X-rays with and without contrast can be done to diagnose this condition. If a persistent vascular ring anomaly is diagnosed, surgery can be done to snip the extra vessel. This is generally conducted by a board-certified surgeon, but there are general practitioners who have performed this surgery as well.

Facebook.com Bailey Chairs for Dogs
Facebook.com/baileychairs4dogs

Secondary Megaesophagus

The list of underlying causes for acquired megaesophagus is extremely long and includes muscle diseases like polymyositis, infectious disease such as tetanusAddison’s diseasecancer, myasthenia gravis, toxins including lead and thallium, and trauma.

As with primary, there is no surgical correction for this. The underlying disease must be identified and treated. In some cases, this will significantly improve the megaesophagus, but due to the stretching, it does not always return to normal size and motility. As a result, megaesophagus may persist, leading to episodes of aspiration pneumonia.

One of the most common causes in older dogs is myasthenia gravis. This is a systemic, autoimmune illness in which the body’s immune system destroys important receptors in nerve endings. It results in generalized weakness, particularly worse after exercise. There is a medication to treat MG, and it can improve the motility of the esophagus.

Ruling out other causes can take an exhaustive list of diagnostics, so be patient while your veterinarian examines possible underlying causes. By keeping close tabs on your dog’s health and providing your veterinarian with a thorough history, the etiology of megaesophagus in dogs can often be discovered.

****************************************************************************************************

 

 

 

 

WELCOME BACK!

 

 

 

 

 

 

COMMENTS FROM LOVINMYPUP:

Megaesophagus is a serious disease in pups.  Dogs and humans begin the GI process of digestion in the esophagus (the tube-like organ connecting the mouth throat and stomach.  The esophagus moves the chewed (but undigested) food via a process called peristalsis.  the esophagus is lined with small muscles that work in unison to move the food down the “tube” systematically.  The same process as in humans.    When the progress of food is too slow, the food tends to pool in the tube causing selling and nerve damage to the function of theses tiny muscles.  Whether the problem is initial from birth, or is a result of a secondary disease you should  know the signs of this physiological malfunction    This article does give suggestions for handling the symptoms, such as the Bailey Chair.  Hope that this article will help anyone who is dealing with this problematic physical anomaly in pups.

We are delighted to have an affiliate agreement with  Embark Vet (DNA testing for pups).    This testing not only provides a DNA profile but also provides genetic information on various propensities towards genetic illnesses that your pup might be prone to based on their breed.   It is well worth the fee for all of the information that you get from the finished report.    I ordered a kit and had my Bella tested.   I received a 16 page report answering all of the questions that I had about my service dog!   The great news was that Bella has no genetic tendencies for 4 of the 5 most common deadly diseases prone to Doberman Pincers or Weimeraners.   This company provides one of the most complete genetic testing profiles that I have ever seen.  If you have questions – check out this site for report examples.  They also continue testing as new information becomes available.. Further studies are completed on the DNA sample as they become available.  I just received an update from Embark/Doberman Diversity Project  under Columbia University (who is studying  the longevity status of the Doberman Breed).refined the testing for DCM.    While Bella’s study  was initially questioning her genetic tendency for DCM in the original results,  she does have the genetic propensity of developing DCM  (Dilated Cardiomiopathy).  Having this knowledge will help us and our Veterinarian monitor for beginning signs of this deadly disease and provide early treatment.

If you are in need to order pet supplies and you use Petco,. 1800 PetMeds,, or  Chewy.com,  you can order directly from this site.   Just click on the preferred  link and shop for traditional  pet products,  as well as unique gifts for the pet fanatics on your shopping lists!  ** Please note that Lovinmypup will receive a small percentage  from each purchase.through the links on this site.    This percentage helps us keep the site hosted so we can bring you the information and education that you need.

 We thank you in advance for your assistance in keeping this site operational.

Purchases through these links  help me keep this site up and running.

Make sure you share your love with your pet each and every day!

 

EACH PURCHASE MADE THROUGH THIS WEB SITE FROM  AMAZON OR ANY OTHER BANNER LINK WILL GENERATE A SMALL PERCENTAGE PAYMENT TO LOVINMYUP.COM.    THANK YOU FOR HELPING TO KEEP THIS SITE ON LINE.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Facebook