Megaesophagus is a condition in which the esophagus is enlarged or dilated. Megaesophagus interferes with effective peristalsis, thereby preventing food from passing down into the stomach. Symptoms may include:
- Loss of overall condition
- Frequently leads to aspiration pneumonia
- Frequent vomiting almost immediately after eating, exercising or anything more strenuous then getting off the couch.
In practical fact, it is an extremely unpleasant condition for even the most tolerant of pet owners to put up with. Megaesophagus can be congenital or acquired. Some of the causes of acquired megaesophagus are:
- Eesophageal foreign bodies
- Esophageal tumors
- Neurological disorders
- Autoimmune diseases
- Heavy metal poisoning
Treatment for acquired megaesophagus disorders depend upon the causative factors. In the case of congenital megaesophagus in puppies, the symptoms generally manifest shortly after the puppies begin to eat solid foods. Affected pups will frequently begin to eat eagerly, then suddenly back away from the food dish, regurgitate a small amount of food, which they will eat again. By repeatedly eating the food, the meal is liquefied, thereby making it possible to be passed into the stomach. Portions of the food can be aspirated into the lungs, making the puppy prone to aspiration pneumonia.
Treatment for congenital megaesophagus in puppies is primarily directed toward maintaining and improving the nutritional status of the pup. Food and water are usually given by raising the bowls up off of the floor (raising the bowls helps facilitate swallowing). Many owners have reported that feeding the pups a semi liquid or gruel mixture has shown good results. Other pups seem to respond best to being fed solids.
Treatment has to be based upon which method the individual pup will respond to best. The first few weeks are the most critical. Pups that survive this critical time appear to spontaneously improve.
Any dog with congenital megaesophagus should be spayed or neutered regardless of how well it “outgrows” its conditions.