Whippet Health

a resource for whippet owners & breeders

Megaesophagus

 

 

This is a condition affecting the oesophagus (the tube which transports food from the mouth to the stomach) In normal dogs the oesophagus constricts and relaxes to force food into the stomach, this is known as peristalsis.

 

 In affected dogs the qesophagus loses its ability to contract and remains flaccid. As it is  unable to push the food into the stomach the ingested food or liquid will simply sit there until it's eventually regurgitated. The reflex that prevents breathing at the same time food is swallowed is also lost and affected dogs may inhale food  which can cause aspiration pneumonia.  This is something owners of dogs affected by megaesophagus  must be aware of. Signs of aspiration pneumonia  include coughing and general lethargy

To try and avoid the inhalation of food it is important to monitor the dogs intake and  every time the dog eats or drinks anything  the dog should sit for at least 10 minutes afterwards or be held in a sitting up or begging position. Food can be specifically administered to the dog at regular intervals (sometimes as often as 2-3 hours) in smaller quantities.

It is important to ensure the dog has a sufficient caloric and water intake.

 

Whippet owners  have reported that dogs with this conditiion do better on a raw diet.

You can get a feeding "chair" to keep your whippet upright and aid the passage of food to the stomach.

 

There is a difference between regurgitation  as a result of megaesophagus and vomiting.

 

Often when regurgitating, the dog will tip its head down and the liquid and/or food will almost appear to "spill out" of its throat, there is not the heaving and retching associated with vomiting,.

 

There are two forms of the disease

 

1) CONGENITAL  is present at birth or soon afterward s  These puppies have poor nerve development which may improve as the puppy matures

There can also be present a band of tissue, normally dissolved before birth, that constricts the oesophagus  causing regurgitation, this can be surgically removed and there is a reasonable chance of success with this surgery.

 

2) AQUIRED This appears in adult dogs and can have numerous causes requiring veterinary diagnosis and treatments. The prognosis is not as favourable

The condition cannot be cured but can be managed, treatment will involve experimentation with food consistency and feeding .   Vigilance and dedication on the part of the owner is essential if the dog is to have a good quality of life. Some drugs can assist with gastric movement.

 

SYMPTOMS

Weight loss

Regurgitation of food and water

High temperature

Cough

Discharge from nose

Salivation

Smelly breath

Difficulty breathing

 

CAUSES OF AQUIRED MEGAESOPHAGUS

-Myasthenia Gravis.....an auto-immune condition where the nerves /muscle junctions are destroyed therefore affecting the peristalsis.

 

-Narrowing due to obstruction or trauma

 

-Addisons Disease....Rarely a deficiency of cortisone affects the oesophagus

 

-Hypothyroidism......can be present with megaesophagus although it may not be the cause, however thyroid testing should be carried out on megaesophagus affected dogs

 

-Laryngeal paralysis....Both the Larynx and the esophagus are affected  by the tragus nerve and can be present together

 

-Poisoning

 

-Lupus....  a systemic auto-immune disease

 

-Tetanus

 

-Dysautonomia.....a syndrome affecting the whole nervous system

 

-Tumours

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