Megaesophagus In Dogs

About the Condition

It is the physical enlargement of the esophagus- a muscular tube that connects the mouth to the stomach. Esophageal motility is for the smooth movement of food and liquid down to the stomach.

Megaesophagus is more common in some dogs. Reports say that some breeds are born with the condition. Take the example of wire-haired fox terriers and miniature Schnauzers. Some other races are dachshunds, German Shepherds, great Danes, Irish setters, Labrador retrievers, Chinese star-pies, and Pugs.

Signs and Symptoms

Regurgitation is the sure sign of megaesophagus. The condition can also generate aspiration pneumonia due to the gate of food and liquid into the lungs. Some other signs and symptoms are:

  • Frequent vomiting
  • Occassional coughing
  • Frequent discharges from the nose
  • An escalation in the respiratory noises
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Excessive hunger
  • Reduction in appetite
  • An excess of drooling
  • Poor physical growth


The actuality is that the condition can also be congenital in nature. Or it can also happen that the disease can also be acquired later on in life. The congenital variant of the condition is idiopathic in nature. Rarely it is due to myasthenia gravis. The later variant, we mean that happens slowly with time, can or cannot be idiopathic in nature.

Some of the causes are:

  1. Neuromuscular conditions like the distemper, myositis, or myasthenia gravis.
  2. Tumor of the esophagus.
  3. Accumulation of foreign particles in the esophagus.
  4. Swelling of the esophagus.
  5. Toxicity which can cause thallium or lead.
  6. Infection of the parasites.


The vet will first ask for a thorough health history of the patient, and then he will conduct the full physical examination. A comprehensive physical examination is needed to differentiate, according to the description of the owner, whether the patient is vomiting or regurgitating, which is imperative to rule out the underlying diseases, leading to vomiting.

The shape and structure of the expelled material, the occurrence of undigested food, and length of time from ingestion to vomiting will also help differentiate between these two issues.

Regular laboratory examinations, which includes whole blood count, the profile of the biochemistry, an analysis of the urine, are in most of the cases standard in dogs with this condition. However, the unnatural state can be there when it comes to underlying causes or complications, like aspiration pneumonia, may be seen.

Radiographs will show the enlarged esophagus with full of fluid content, air, or food, and will help to identify an unnatural state to aspiration pneumonia.

There are some advancements in the modern medical Science, like esophagoscopy, can sometimes help in the diagnosis process. Esophagoscopy examines the interiors of the esophagus, with an esophagoscope, which is a thin tube-like instrument with light and lens to have a look at the inner atmosphere of the esophagus.


The overall treatment will focus on removing the underlying causes. Dogs with a lack of appetite should get proper foods. General food items, the vet generally will comprise liquid gruel, compact meatballs, slurries after being blundered, and other palatable, foods with high energy content.

In some cases, surgery will be an option. Take for example, in cases of foreign materials; the vet will immediately remove the substance to relieve the patient of pain and to stop further complications. Aspiration pneumonia is another life-threatening issue that needs immediate hospitalization, where the staffs will provide with oxygen therapy, administration of antibiotics, and some other medications are used to treat the condition.


The vet will provide some recommendations as well as some care and nutritional requirements. Recumbent canines may need some additional attention, soft bedding, and turning the dog every few hours. Some dogs can become unable to take the feed; the vet will insert a feeding tube directly inside the stomach of the dog for feeding purposes.

For patients who can take the feed, special arrangements should be made to correct the feeding to prevent aspiration pneumonia. These patients are made to stay in an upright position for ten to fifteen minutes after drinking or eating. Both the food and water bowls need an elevation of forty to ninety degrees from the floor.

The owner has to visit the vet for frequent follow-ups to evaluate the overall health and well being of the affected dog. Thoracic radiographs should frequently occur if it results in aspiration pneumonia. Repeated lab testings are there in case of confirmed aspiration pneumonia.

A significant portion of the dogs with Megaesophagus needs lifelong therapy sessions. Also, the commitment and care of the owner will add to the proper recovery of the patient.

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