Welcome to PetForums

Join thousands of other pet owners and pet lovers on the UK's most popular and friendly pet community and discussion forum.

Sign Up

Megaesophagus in Dogs

Discussion in 'Dog Health and Nutrition' started by FEWill, Aug 27, 2010.

  1. FEWill

    FEWill PetForums Senior

    Sep 2, 2009
    Likes Received:
    Megaesophagus in dogs has no known cure, can be life threatening if it is severe, and will require a lifetime commitment on your part. Your dog will spend the rest of their lives living with this condition and adapting their lifestyle around it. If it is treated properly, although several adjustments will have to be made, the chances are very good that your dog can live a near normal life. However, it will not be easy.

    In extreme cases, you may have to make a very difficult decision if your dog is not able to eat at all and will have to be fed by a tube.

    What is it?

    Megaesophagus in dogs is situation where the esophagus has basically lost it muscle tone, and it can affect any breed of dog. However, there are breeds that are at a much higher risk of developing this condition. When the esophagus in your dog is operating properly, it acts as an extremely muscular hose that allows for food to flow freely through it. When megaesophagus develops, this muscular tube is reduced and dilates into a much thinner structure that is almost bag like in both appearance and operating functions. Because of this, there is a decreased mobility of the muscular contractions of the esophagus.

    If it becomes severe enough, there may be almost no motility as it has very little muscle tone left.

    The esophagus in your dog is a small hose like tubular structure that connects their mouth to their stomach. When it leaves the mouth, it begins an almost straight line through the neck and chest area, where it than passes through the diaphragm muscle. From there, it goes directly into the stomach. It has walls that are made up of muscles that act in unison in wave like contractions that push food that is eaten into your dogs stomach. Under normal condition, this process takes about five seconds for the food to travel from the mouth to the stomach.

    When Megaesophagus develops, this process breaks down, and your dog will do the only thing they can do because of this defect; they regurgitate. Because of the reduced motility, the esophagus dilates and the regurgitation begins as well as several other possible symptoms.


    Megaesophagus in dogs will show you several possible symptoms, but by far and away the most recognized is regurgitation. However, there are several others that you can watch and the next symptom is always the sign that something is not right in your dog; coughing. All dogs will cough on occasion, usually when they have eaten or drank too fast. But in most cases, it does not last nor does it become chronic. With megaesophagus, the coughing combined with the regurgitation are the two signs that no owner ever wants to see in their dog.

    Nasal discharge and salivation, especially in dogs that do not salivate a lot, are also warning signs. However, there is one other telling sign that your dog has developed or is developing this condition; a foul odor to their breath. No one knows and understands your dog more than you do, and it they suddenly develop a foul breath; it is another real warning sign.

    What Breeds are affected?

    Megaesophagus in dogs has had some misconception over the years as it was originally thought to be a congenital disease. Although it can be present at birth or develop shortly after the weaning process is done, it can also be acquired later in life. If this is the case, in can develop in your dog at any age. Because of this, it can affect all breeds, but there are some breeds that seem to be a much higher risk of developing megaesophagus.

    It is still widely held that it is a congenital condition in Wirehaired Fox Terriers as well as Miniature schnauzers, but there are other breeds that are also prone to this condition. They include German shepherds, Newfoundlands, Great Danes, Irish setters, Chinese shar-peis, Pugs, and Greyhounds. The actual cause is still not fully understood, but it is believed to be the result of some type of disruption in the nerve supply to your dogs esophagus.


    The actual cause of Megaesophagus in dogs is still not fully understood, but it is widely held to be the result of some type of disruption in the nerve supply to your dogs esophagus. It is also believed that it can be caused by an obstruction of a foreign object in the esophagus, cancer that causes stricture or narrowing of the esophagus or a compression form some type of mass in your dogs chest. It may also be the result of a compression from a vascular ring abnormality. If this is the case, it is a congenital condition due to a defect of the blood vessels in the front of your dogs heart.

    However, it is also very important to understand that there are also a variety of diseases that cause some forms of neuromuscular dysfunctions in dogs, and when this occurs, megaesophagus can be a secondary development.

    These diseases include Polymyositis, which is an inflammation of several muscles in your dogs body including the esophagus, or from a condition known as Systemic lupus erythematosus. This is a condition that is an immune disorder that affects multiple body systems and the esophagus
    is almost always affected. It may also be the result of Botulism, which is a type of food poisoning, as well as from Tetanus, which is a bacterial infection that results in severe muscle spasms. It can also be cause by some type of toxicity, especially to an insecticide.


    Megaesophagus in dogs has no known cure, and once your dog has developed it, they, as well as you, will have to learn to live with it. Surgery can be done in extreme conditions, but it is not always affective and is almost used a last resort. Surgery is extremely difficult, simply because of the location of the esophagus as well as the fact that it is extremely slow in healing. In the vast majority of cases, surgery could actually do more harm than good.

    There is one fact that is universal with Megaesophagus and its treatment; liquid diets must be given for the rest of your pets lifespan. It will also require an extreme commitment on your part as well as a lifetime of patience. Your dog will no longer be able to eat in any normal fashion, and will have to learn to eat while standing on their hind limbs from an elevated dish. This allows for the liquid food to travel to their stomach via the flow of gravity.

    There are drugs that help increase gastrointestinal motility, but they are not very effective.
    If your dog is not able to eat and then swallow using this method, there is only one other option; you will have to have to fed by a feeding tube.


    Megaesophagus in dogs may be the result of an infection, but this is extremely rare. If they do develop this condition and can effectively learn to eat in the standing mode, their chances of surviving and leading a normal life are excellent. If they do not and have to be fed by a tube, you may have a very difficult decision to make. You will also have to watch your dog very closely, as pneumonia can set in very rapidly if any of the liquid diet enters their lungs. However, with the proper commitment on your part and a lot of tender loving care, your dog can lead as close to a normal life as is possible, given the circumstances.

    Liquid Vitamins for Humans Cats and Dogs
  2. paddyjulie

    paddyjulie PetForums VIP

    May 9, 2009
    Likes Received:
    I remember a bullterrier on another forum had this...they made him a type of chair to sit up on when eating..as far as i know he is still doing ok

  3. This is the one condition whereby dogs are best fed from raised feeding bowls, also feeding a wet diet is normally advised!
  4. wooliewoo

    wooliewoo PetForums VIP

    May 27, 2008
    Likes Received:
    Good Info:thumbup:
    My mum had a toy poodle a few years back with this. When we fed her we made sure her neck was stretched up (usually we would hand feed as she was so little) Didnt seem to bother her once we got into feeding routines and knew what was/wasnt good for her
  5. Freyja

    Freyja PetForums VIP

    Jun 28, 2008
    Likes Received:
    We had a whippet puppy born with megaeosophagus. She was diagnosed at 6 weeks old. Our vet told us the biggest danger with this defect was that the food could be regurgated and go into her lunges. He offered us the chance to have her PTS but she was a fighter and we gave her the chance tolive. We knew it would alter our lives considerably. No going away as we wouldn't have been able to go into kennels as she was a special needs dog.

    She was tiny the vet advised us to teach her to eat with her front feet on the bottom of the stairs and to stand like that for 10 minutes after eating. She was too small to do this but she would sit over my shoulder like a baby having its wind brought up.

    Sadly Dinky although she had the spirit and fight to survive her tiny body couldn't cope she passed away at 8 weeks and is buried in our front garden. We had a lot of help from the racing greyhound people someone even sent us some feeding syringes to help to feed her. It is common in racing greyhounds I know someone who has a greyhound with it and he lives a perfectly normal live and eats normal dog food. Dinky's favourite food was baby food particulary banana and custard:arf:

    Her is Dinky with her sister Angel no one believed they were sisters they thought Dinky was an italian greyhound until I pointed out they don't come in brindle.

    1 person likes this.
  6. A lovely but sad story Freya - thank you for sharing!

    May you be enjoying your bananas and custard at Rainbow bridge Dinky.

  7. FEWill

    FEWill PetForums Senior

    Sep 2, 2009
    Likes Received:
    Hi Freyja,

    Thanks for the story, it is heartbreaking and brought tears to my eyes. And thank you for the pictures as well. She may have not lived long, but she was in very, very good hands.

    Thanks again,
  8. Simon Hollowood

    Simon Hollowood PetForums Newbie

    Aug 13, 2018
    Likes Received:
    Hey, i am new to this board as only today i was told my dog has megaesophagus, its all new to me so if i can ask a couple of questions any help would be gratefully received. Firstly when i got Roxy (shes a staffy/lurcher 5 year old cross) back from the vets i have been giving her little drops of water and little bits of food, i havent a Bailey chair so i am feeding her over the sofa, she is still coughing now and again when eating and drinking the little i have given her, is this common? (she still maybe a bit groggy from the general anesthetic she had earlier?), and secondly how do i get her to stay in an upright postion for as long as i can after shes finished drinking/eating? thank you.
  9. tabelmabel

    tabelmabel Banned

    Oct 18, 2013
    Likes Received:
    @Simon Hollowood - the thread you posted on is really old and people might not scroll right down to see your message. If you start your own thread, more people will see it.
    kittih likes this.
  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice