Megaesophagus in Pets
Megaesophagus is a fairly common developmental, as well as acquired, abnormality of the esophagus, where the striated muscle of the esophagus fails to contract and function adequately leading to varying symptoms of regurgitation and reflux. Most commonly, this regurgitation occurs within a short period of eating and/or drinking. It is important to differentiate active retching and vomiting from the more passive process of regurgitation due to esophageal disease.
There are many possible causes of this disease from genetic in young puppies, to acquired cases in adult pets. Some conditions such as hypothyroidism, Myasthenia gravis, and Addison’s disease may cause megaesophagus secondarily. In other cases, trauma or viral infections may be involved. In the vast majority of acquired cases of megaesophagus, however, we do not determine any underlying causes.
Diagnosis of megaesophagus is usually made by x-rays, with sometimes barium studies being helpful in confirming the diagnosis. Treatment may consist of feeding pets from elevated surfaces, as well as symptomatic medications to help promote the forward flow of food including drugs like Metoclopromide, Famotidine, and Prilosec. Prognosis for this disease will be determined by whether an underlying disease process can be identified and treated. However, given that most cases have no underlying causes found, prognosis for a healthy life is often guarded. Many pets will suffer from serious complications such as aspiration pneumonia, which is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in seriously affected pets.