Skip to content

Healthy Dogs

Font Size
A
A
A

Enlarged Esophagus (Megaesophagus) in Dogs

Megaesophagus means enlarged esophagus. When the esophagus is partially obstructed over a period of time, it gradually enlarges like a balloon and becomes a storage organ. This process, called megaesophagus, is accompanied by regurgitation, loss of weight, and recurrent episodes of aspiration pneumonia.

There are two causes of megaesophagus. The first is a failure of the esophagus to contract and propel food into the stomach. This impaired motility occurs as a hereditary disorder in puppies and as an acquired disease in adults. The second cause of megaesophagus is a physical blockage, such as a foreign body or a developmental problem with abnormal blood vessels that encircle the esophagus.

Recommended Related to Dogs

Heart Rate and Irregular Heartbeat in Dogs

Veterinarians use a stethoscope to listen to the heart. You can listen to your dog’s heart by placing your ear against his chest. The normal heartbeat is divided into two sounds. The first is a lub,followed by a slight pause and then a dub. Put together, the sound is lub-dub, lub-dub . . . in a steady, evenly spaced rhythm. The heartbeat should be strong, steady, and regular. A slight alteration in rhythm as the dog breathes in and out is normal. An exceedingly fast pulse can indicate anxiety, fever,...

Read the Heart Rate and Irregular Heartbeat in Dogs article > >

Congenital megaesophagus is a hereditary form of the disease that occurs in puppies. It is caused by a developmental disorder involving the nerve plexus in the lower esophagus. Peristaltic activity stops at the level where the esophagus is paralyzed, and food can go no further. In time, the esophagus above the inert segment enlarges and balloons out. This can be seen by lifting the puppy by his back legs and looking for a bulging out of the esophagus at the side of the neck.

Congenital megaesophagus has been described in German Shepherd Dogs, Golden Retrievers, Great Danes, Irish Setters, Greyhounds, Labrador Retrievers, Newfoundlands, Miniature Schnauzers, Chinese Shar-Pei, and Wire Fox Terriers. Hereditary myopathies are other causes of congenital megaesophagus.

Puppies with congenital megaesophagus show signs at weaning, when they begin to eat solid foods. Characteristically, they approach the food dish with enthusiasm but back away after a few bites. They often regurgitate small amounts of food, which they eat again. After repeatedly eating the food, it becomes quite liquid and passes into the stomach. Repeated inhalation of food causes bouts of aspiration pneumonia.

Another type of congenital megaesophagus is caused by retained fetal arteries in the chest. The arteries produce a constriction around the esophagus (known as vascular ring anomaly) that prevents swallowing. The most common anomaly is a persistent right aortic arch. Regurgitation and difficulty swallowing appear at 4 to 10 months of age. These puppies are stunted and malnourished.

Today on WebMD

bulldog in party hat
Breeds with longevity
Doberman Pinscher Clipped Ears
The facts about ear cropping and tail docking.
 
dog with duck in mouth
Which are considered smartest?
boxer dog
What are their health issues?
 
Pit bull looking up
Article
Pets: Is My Dog Normal
Slideshow
 
Dog scratching behind ear
Slideshow
dog catching frisbee
Slideshow
 
Dog Breed RMQ
Quiz
Lady owner feeding dog
Slideshow
 
pooldle
Slideshow
bulldog in party hat
Slideshow
 

Special Sections