Dysphagia (Difficult Swallowing) in Dogs

Overview of Difficult Swallowing in Dogs

Dysphagia, a common problem in dogs, is the medical term used to describe difficulty in swallowing. Dysphagia has many different causes, some of which are treatable and some are not. Diagnosing and treating the problem early can help increase the chances of a positive outcome.

Dysphagia may be a mild problem in some animals, or it may cause extreme distress in some patients. With longstanding dysphagia the dog may loose a lot of weight due to its inability to eat and swallow (despite a normal appetite). Dysphagia may represent a transient local problem, or a severe, systemic illness. The recognition of dysphagia in your dog warrants an immediate examination by your veterinarian to determine the cause and institute appropriate therapy.

General Causes of Canine Dysphagia

What to Watch For

Diagnostic Tests for Dysphagia in Dogs

A thorough examination is very important, as some causes of dysphagia may be detectable on the examination. In addition your veterinarian may recommend the following additional tests for your dog:

Specialized diagnostic tests may be indicated in selected cases and may include the following:

Treatment of Dysphagia in Dogs

Treatment of dysphagia is quite variable depending upon the cause. Some dogs require supportive care while their primary disease is being treated or is resolving.

Supportive care may include the following:

Specific treatments may include the following:

Home Care

Administer any prescribed medications and dietary recommendations as directed by your veterinarian. If your dog is not improving, and/or if additional clinical signs develop, contact your veterinarian. Dogs with weakness or paralysis of the muscles or nerves to the head may take several weeks to return to normal, once appropriate therapy has been instituted. Consistent nursing care at home is very important to their recovery.