We all get upset when our dogs get sick, especially when it is an illness that is not curable like megaesophagus.
However, that does not mean that we should give up. Instead, we should focus on learning how to manage their illness. In this case, we need to be aware of how we should feed dogs who have megaesophagus.
But, how can you feed dogs who have megaesophagus?
A dog who has megaesophagus must eat in a truly vertical position. They should also be sitting in a truly vertical position and stay in that upright position for a duration of twenty to thirty minutes (20-30 minutes) after they finish eating and drinking.
If you want to learn more about megaesophagus, its symptoms, how it is diagnosed, how to feed a dog who has it, and what to feed them, then continue reading this post.
How to feed dogs with megaesophagus?
Before we answer how you should feed dogs who have megaesophagus, let us first discuss what megaesophagus is.
What is megaesophagus in dogs?
If we split this illness name into two separate names, we are going to get the following names:
From that, we can conclude that the megaesophagus is an illness where the esophagus is enlarged.
Indeed, megaesophagus is an illness where the esophagus, which the muscular tube which connects your dog’s throat to their stomach, is enlarged. Not only that, but also the esophagus loses its motility almost entirely.
This absence of the esophagus’ motility function causes a lot of issues because its primary purpose is to move the liquids and the food that your dog consumes down to the stomach.
Here is a video a veterinarian explaining this illness is:
Megaesophagus occurs more in dogs than cats. Sadly, some dog breeds are born with megaesophagus, making this a congenital disorder as well. Two breeds that to tend to have this as a congenital disorder are the following:
- Miniature Schnauzers
- Wire-haired fox terriers
There are dog breeds who are predisposed to this illness. Six of these dog breeds who are predisposed to this disorder include the following:
- The Irish setter
- The Chinese shar-pei
- German Shepherds
- The Great Danes
- Labrador retriever
What causes megaesophagus in dogs?
Like we have just mentioned, megaesophagus could be a congenital disorder, as in the puppy is born with it, or it could develop later on in a dog’s life.
If a puppy is born with this disorder, as in it is congenital, then it causes is usually unknown, aka, idiopathic. Rarely, when this disorder is congenital, it might be due to myasthenia gravis. Myasthenia Gravis is a condition where some muscles are weak.
If megaesophagus develops later on in a dog’s life, that causes are also idiopathic ( the cause is typically unknown). However, it might be due to the following reasons.
- Due to parasitic infections
- Due to neuromuscular disease (like myasthenia gravis, myositis, and distemper)
- Due to the existence of foreign bodies in the esophagus
- Due to the presence of an Esophageal tumor
- Due to the inflammation of the esophagus
- Toxicity (like thallium and lead)
How to know if my dog has megaesophagus?
There are a few symptoms that, if you notice, this might be a sign that your dog has megaesophagus. The most common megaesophagus symptom is regurgitation, which is when the food that your dog has already swallowed returns back to their mouth. This is not the same thing as vomiting.
Other megaesophagus symptoms include the following:
- If your dog is vomiting a lot
- If your dog is coughing a lot
- If your dog has growth issues
- If you notice increased respiratory noises
- If your dog’s breath stinks; aka, halitosis
- If there is nasal discharge
- If your dog is drooling excessively; aka, ptyalism
- If your dog loses weight
- If your dog has lost their appetite
- If your dog is always hungry
If you notice a couple of these symptoms or even just notice the primary sign, which is regurgitation, then you should take your dog to the veterinarian.
How is the veterinarian going to diagnose my dog with megaesophagus?
While you are with the veterinarian, you will be asked about your beloved dog’s health history, so try to go prepared.
The veterinarian will then thoroughly examine your dog and try to differentiate whether your dog is vomiting or actually regurgitating based on your description, so please try to be as accurate as possible.
This differentiation process is crucial because it helps the veterinarian to rule out other potential underlying diseases that might be making your beloved pooch vomit so often.
Things that you should be aware of as well as the shape of what your dog vomited or regurgitated, whether there was any undigested food being expelled from your dog’s body, and the time duration between your dog eating the food and expelling it out of their body.
All of that information is also going to help the veterinarian differentiate and decide whether your dog has been vomiting or regurgitating.
The results of routine laboratory tests like urinalysis, biochemistry profile, and complete blood count (CBC) are typically normal in dogs who have this disorder.
However, they are done because abnormalities that are due to complications or underlying diseases like aspiration pneumonia may be seen.
Esophagoscopy, which is a more advanced diagnostic procedure, might be used as well. This allows the veterinarian to examine the esophagus’ interior via the esophagoscope.
The esophagoscope is a tube-like instrument that thin and that has lens and light that helps the veterinarian see the inner areas of your dog’s esophagus.
This is also used to aid in the removal of foreign bodies, help evaluate any obstruction taking place, and even to note any neoplasia, which is existence or the formation of abnormal tissue growth.
What are the best ways to feed a dog with megaesophagus?
- Make sure that you are feeding your dog high-quality food that are, calorically dense.
Because by doing that, you are limiting the volume of food your dog consumes while still making them reach their dog’s nutritional needs.
- Your dog is better off eating small meals multiple times throughout the day.
- Your dog should not have access or be allowed to drink water or even eat outside of their feeding times. This means that you should remove any water or food bowls.
- Your dog should only be fed when they are sitting in an elevated position.
- If your dog has mild megaesophagus, then they might be able to eat their food from an elevated bowl while they are seated or with their front feet resting on somethings elevated. This is done to increase the angle of the dog’s esophagus.
- Usually, though, a dog who has megaesophagus must eat in a truly vertical position. They should also be sitting in a truly vertical position and stay in that upright position for a duration of twenty to thirty minutes (20-30 minutes) after they finish eating and drinking. This can be accomplished if you train your dog to use a Bailey chair.
- If that does not work out, your dog might have a permanent feeding tube inserted into their stomach.
How to train your dog to eat while they are in a vertical position
Feeding a dog with megaesophagus could be a bit complicated at first, but it is not impossible. Your dog should always be fed while they are sitting in a vertical position. The best way to accomplish this is by training your dog to use the bailey chair.
In order to do that, you are going to need the following:
First things first, you will have to purchase a Baily chair that is perfect for your dog in terms of size. In order to do that, you should accurately measure your dog and get professional help.
How to measure a dog for a bailey chair:
How to train a dog to use a bailey chair:
What to feed dogs with megaesophagus
What you should feed a dog with megaesophagus is a matter of trial and error. Every dog with megaesophagus is different from the other because each one has an ideal or a preferred food consistency.
A few options dogs with megaesophagus could try include the following:
- Well soaked kibble
- Meatballs of homemade dog food
- Meatballs of canned food
- A diluted slurry of water and food ( gruel)
- A thicker slurry of water and food
- Supplements like gelatin squares or subcutaneous fluids are given to dogs who are unable to keep down the liquid they need to fulfill their needs.
Other questions related to how to feed dogs with megaesophagus?
Can dogs with megaesophagus drink water?
Dogs who have megaesophagus can not drink water normally like all the other dogs. This means that you will have to remove their water bowls from around the house. Some dogs with megaesophagus might need to have thickeners added to their water.
Supplements like gelatin squares or subcutaneous fluids are given to dogs who are unable to keep down the liquid they need to fulfill their needs.
That’s it for today’s post. You should now know how to feed a dog who has megaesophagus, which is making sure that they eat in a truly vertical position.
They should also be sitting in a truly vertical position and stay in that upright position for a duration of twenty to thirty minutes (20-30 minutes) after they finishing eating and drinking. This can be accomplished if you train your dog to use a Bailey chair.
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- How to Train Your Older Dog to Use a Bailey Chair
- The Best Foods for Dogs With Megaesophagus
- Small Animal Internal Medicine: Megaesophagus FAQs