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Megaesophagus in Dogs

By: Dr. Bari Spielman

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Because the history, physical examination findings and overall presentation of animals with megaesophagus are variable, there are other illnesses that must be ruled out when establishing a definitive diagnosis. It is important to note that regurgitation, which is the effortless evacuation of fluid, mucus, and undigested food from the esophagus, is the most common clinical sign associated with megaesophagus. Regurgitation must be differentiated from vomiting, which is the forceful evacuation of digested food from the stomach.

The following are often associated with regurgitation:

  • Esophagitis – an inflammation of the esophagus
  • Foreign bodies that obstruct or block the esophagus
  • Esophageal neoplasia (cancer)
  • Hiatal hernia – an abnormality of the diaphragm that allows part of the stomach to be displaced into the thoracic (chest) cavity
  • Esophageal diverticula – a pouch-like dilatation or ballooning of the esophageal wall that can be present from birth or acquired secondary to esophageal weakness

    Megaesophagus may occur as a component of several systemic diseases, such as:

  • Myasthenia gravis – an immune disorder that causes fatigue of the muscular system and weakness
  • Polymyositis – an inflammation of many different muscles in the body
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus – an immune disorder that affects multiple body systems
  • Botulism – a type of food poisoning
  • Tetanus – a bacterial infection causing severe muscle spasms
  • Dysautonomia – an inflammation and degeneration of certain components of the autonomic nervous system
  • Endocrine diseases, including hypothyroidism and hypoadrenocorticism
  • Toxicity caused by exposure to lead, thallium, and organophosphate insecticides
  • Thymoma – a tumor arising from the thymus organ in the chest

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