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Esophagitis in Cats

By: Dr. Bari Spielman

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Esophagitis is an inflammation of the esophagus. There are a variety of causes and there is no reported age, breed or sex predilection.

Causes

  • Frequent vomiting
  • Ingestion of chemical or caustic irritants
  • Hiatal hernia
  • Neoplasia (cancer) of the esophagus
  • Esophageal foreign body
  • Reflux or backward flow of gastric or intestinal juice secondary to many causes, including general anesthesia

    What to Watch For

  • Salivation
  • Anorexia (poor or decreased appetite)
  • Excessive or persistent gulping
  • Discomfort while swallowing
  • Coughing
  • Regurgitation, the effortless evacuation of fluid, mucus and undigested food from the esophagus

    Diagnosis

    A thorough knowledge of history and clinical signs is very important and is often helpful in the diagnosis. Diagnostic tests are necessary to confirm a diagnosis of esophagitis. They include:

  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Biochemical profile
  • Urinalysis
  • Chest X-rays
  • Esophagram (barium swallow)
  • Fluoroscopy (an evaluation that can assess the esophagus in motion)
  • Esophagoscopy (visual inspection of the esophagus)

    Treatment

    Treatment for esophagitis should be directed at the underlying disease or associated conditions. In the event no underlying cause is identified, symptomatic and sometimes supportive measures are recommended. They include:

  • Gastric acid inhibitors or blocking agents
  • Esophageal and gastric coating agents
  • Gastrointestinal motility modifiers
  • Dietary modification
  • Antibiotic therapy, in cases of secondary pneumonia
  • Endoscopic removal of a foreign body
  • Surgical intervention
  • Hospitalization and supportive care in severe cases
  • Nutritional support by placing and feeding through a stomach tube or intravenous nutrition, in severe cases

    Home Care and Prevention

    Home care for esophagitis includes administering all prescribed medications and feeding only approved diets.

    Since many esophageal diseases can result in difficulty swallowing or regurgitation, inhaling food particles or saliva is possible. This can result in secondary aspiration pneumonia. Careful observation of your cat is necessary. Contact your veterinarian at once if you notice any breathing difficulty, lethargy or coughing.

    Several causes of esophagitis are not preventable. Prompt examination and treatment will help speed recovery. Prevent animals from ingesting caustic substances and foreign bodies and avoid late night feedings. Late feedings tend to diminish gastroesophageal sphincter pressure during the cat's sleep, contributing to reflux.

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