Skip to content

Healthy Dogs

Font Size

Enlarged Esophagus (Megaesophagus) in Dogs


Adult-onset megaesophagus is an acquired condition that occurs with several rare neuromuscular diseases, including myasthenia gravis. Other known causes are hypothyroidism, hypoadrenocorticism, esophagitis, autoimmune diseases, and heavy metal poisoning. In most cases the cause is unknown.

A chest X-ray may show an enlarged esophagus, opaque material in the esophagus, or aspiration pneumonia. The diagnosis can be confirmed by administering a barium meal and then taking an X-ray of the chest. Ultrasound will also detect megaesophagus.

Treatment: The primary goals are maintaining nutrition and preventing complications. Divide a puppy’s daily ration into four or more small meals. It is important to provide food and water from raised bowls to maximize the effects of gravity. A semiliquid or gruel mixture is easier for some dogs to swallow. Others do better with solids. This should be determined by trial and error. If possible, the dog should remain standing up-that is, front feet on a stepstool or ladder-for 15 to 30 minutes after eating so gravity will help move the food into the stomach.

Even with dedicated care, many dogs with megaesophagus will remain somewhat stunted and have bouts of aspiration pneumonia. Episodes of aspiration pneumonia require antibiotics, selected after culture and sensitivity tests. Signs of pneumonia are coughing, fever, and rapid, labored breathing.

Puppies with congenital megaesophagus may eventually outgrow the condition. Surgical correction of some vascular ring anomalies is possible. Dogs with congenital megaesophagus should not be used for breeding.

Adult-onset megaesophagus is irreversible, but some dogs do well for many years with careful attention to feeding and prompt treatment of respiratory infections.

WebMD Veterinary Reference from "Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook"

1 | 2

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
Pets: Is My Dog Normal
Dog scratching behind ear
dog catching frisbee
Dog Breed RMQ
Lady owner feeding dog
bulldog in party hat

Special Sections