Esophagitis (Inflammation of the Esophagus) in Cats

Overview of Feline Esophagitis

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


What to Watch For

Diagnosis of Esophagitis in Cats

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:

Treatment of Esophagitis in Cats

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:

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.

In-depth Information on Esophagitis in Cats

The magnitude of clinical signs depends on the severity and depth of esophageal inflammation. The signs may be subtle and may be present for weeks or months, or they may be extremely severe and come about quickly.

Because the history, physical examination findings and overall presentation of cats with esophagitis are variable, there are other illnesses or symptoms that might initially be considered when establishing a definitive diagnosis. These include:

Diagnosis in-depth

Certain tests must be performed to make a definitive diagnosis of esophagitis and to exclude other disease processes that may cause similar symptoms. A thorough work-up begins with a broad, general baseline of diagnostics, to ensure that one does not overlook other illnesses or factors. In many cases, specific, more advanced tests are performed as well. A complete evaluation should be performed in these animals since an accurate diagnosis is important for treatment and prognosis. Tests may include:

Treatment in-depth

The primary goals in treating esophagitis are to identify and treat the primary cause, decrease or prevent further exposure of the esophagus to gastric acid, provide adequate nutrition, and treat any complications. Although most animals with esophagitis are treated as outpatients, certain individuals with extremely severe cases do warrant hospitalization for intensive therapy and support. Therapy for esophagitis includes:

Follow-up Care for Cats with Esophagitis

Optimal treatment for your cat requires a combination of home and professional veterinary care. Follow-up can be critical, especially if your cat does not rapidly improve. Administer all prescribed medications as directed. Alert your veterinarian if you are experiencing problems in treating your cat.

In individuals with mild to moderate cases of esophagitis, following their condition clinically may be all that is necessary. Continuing all recommended therapy and reporting progress to your veterinarian is often all that is necessary, and reporting even the smallest setback is of paramount importance.

In cases of severe esophagitis, follow-up endoscopy is generally recommended 2 to 4 weeks after the initial diagnosis. It is important to assess the healing of these patients, and to assess the esophagus for any changes consistent with the presence of an early stricture. In addition, it helps to determine if the patients who are being fed by gastrotomy tube can be switched to oral feedings.

It is important to be aware of signs that would suggest a secondary pneumonia has occurred. These include coughing, difficult or pronounced breathing, general malaise (lethargy), or simply not acting normal. Thoracic (chest) radiograph would be indicated in these cases.

In severe cases, esophageal stricture is not uncommonly seen. Things to be especially aware of include frequent or persistent regurgitation, or extreme discomfort upon ingesting food.

The prognosis for these animals depends on the underlying cause and the degree of severity and inflammation. Generally, mild to moderate cases respond nicely to treatment. Severe cases may respond well, but may be associated with complications or lengthy healing periods. In extreme cases, despite appropriate therapy and recommendations, complete resolution and even control may be unattainable.