Esophageal Disease in Dogs

Overview of Canine Esophageal Disease

The esophagus is the tubular, muscular organ that extends from the pharynx to the stomach and functions to transmit ingested material to the stomach. Esophageal disease is any disease that effects the esophagus.

Causes of Esophageal Disease in Dogs

Although in most esophageal diseases there are no sex, breed or age predilections, some esophageal diseases are seen more commonly in younger animals, and some are seen more commonly in certain breeds (foreign bodies more commonly in small or toy breeds).

What to Watch For

Diagnosis of Esophageal Disease in Dogs

Determining the cause of the esophageal disease can help determine proper treatment. A thorough knowledge of history and clinical signs is very important and is most helpful in making the diagnosis. Diagnostic tests are necessary to confirm a diagnosis of esophageal disease. They include:

Treatment of Esophageal Disease in Dogs

Treatment for esophageal disease should be directed at the specific disease. Appropriate therapy is dependent upon the precise disease. In addition, symptomatic or supportive therapy may be indicated for esophageal disease, regardless of the disease itself.

Home Care and Prevention for Esophageal Disease in Dogs

Administer prescribed medication and practice directed feeding recommendations. Be aware of secondary aspiration pneumonia. This can occur if food particles are inhaled into the airways.

Most esophageal diseases are not preventable. For the few that are, preventing ingestion of caustic substances and foreign bodies is recommended.

In-depth information on Canine Esophageal Disease

The magnitude of clinical signs depends on both the specific disease and the severity of that disease. The clinical signs may be subtle yet present for weeks or months, or may be extremely severe, and come about quickly. Because the history, physical exam findings and overall presentation of dogs with esophageal disease are variable, there are other illnesses or symptoms that might be considered initially when establishing a definitive diagnosis. It is most important to note that regurgitation (the effortless evacuation of fluid, mucus and undigested food from the esophagus) is one of the most common clinical signs associated with esophageal disease, and must be differentiated from vomiting. The differentiation is important, as it helps to distinguish esophageal disease from gastric (stomach) or intestinal disease.

The following is a list of esophageal diseases:

Diagnosis In-Depth of Esophageal Disease in Dogs

Certain diagnostic tests must be performed to make a definitive diagnosis of esophageal disease and exclude other disease processes that may cause similar symptoms. A complete history is especially important in these cases, as regurgitation – a common clinical sign seen with esophageal disease – is often referred to as vomiting by the pet owner. A thorough work-up begins with a broad general baseline of diagnostic tests and, in many cases, more specialized or advanced testing are indicated as well. It is important to note that an accurate diagnosis is necessary for an accurate treatment regime.

Treatment In-depth for Dogs with Esophageal Disease

The primary goals in treating esophageal disease are to identify and treat the primary disease, provide adequate nutrition and treat any associated complications. Although most animals with esophageal disease are treated as outpatients, certain individuals with extremely severe cases do warrant hospitalization for intensive therapy and support. Therapy for various esophageal diseases includes:

Follow-up Care for Dogs with Esophageal Disease

Optimal treatment for your dog requires a combination of home and professional veterinary care. There is no set regime when following animals with esophageal disease; rather, a plan that is formulated specifically for that individual may be implemented. It is important to administer all prescribed medications, and follow feeding recommendations closely.

In individuals with mild to moderate disease, follow up with periodic veterinary exams is often all that is necessary. In cases of severe esophageal disease, like severe esophagitis or stricture formation, follow-up endoscopy is recommended two to four weeks after the initial diagnosis.

It is important to be aware of signs that would suggest a secondary pneumonia. These include coughing, difficult or pronounced breathing, general malaise or any unusual behavior. A chest X-ray would be indicated in these cases.

In severe or prolonged cases of esophagitis, strictures are not uncommonly seen. Alert your veterinarian if there is an increase in regurgitation, or extreme discomfort upon ingesting food. The prognosis for these animals depends on the particular disease and its severity. Generally, mild to moderate cases respond nicely to treatment. Although severe cases often respond well, they may be associated with complications or lengthy healing periods. In extreme cases, despite appropriate therapy, complete resolution or even control may be unattainable.