When I had a puppy spitting up at most of her meals, my immediate thought was “Oh no, I’m dealing with Mega-esophagus!” Now mind you, in all my years of breeding and having puppies, I never heard of this before as I never dealt with it. If other breeders had it, I never knew about it as no one ever discussed it with me. After numerous tests and ruling out of heart problems, mega was suspected but never diagnosed as such. Instead I was told that my puppy had esophageal diverticula. Well that’s nice because I never heard of Mega before and never heard of esophageal diverticula either. So just what the heck is this anyway?
Esophageal diverticula are large pouch like sacs on the esophageal wall. Pulsion diverticula is a pushing outward of the wall. This will occur as a consequence of increased pressure from within the esophagus as seen with obstruction or failure of the esophageal muscles to move food through. Traction diverticula occurs secondary to inflammation, where fibrosis and contraction pull the wall of the esophagus or near the diaphragm with food being taken into the mouth and getting caught in a pouch as it travels down the esophagus towards the stomach. The organ that is affects includes the gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal, and respiratory. At this time, no genetic basis has been proven although it may be congenital (present at birth) or acquired.
These are the symptoms of this disease: regurgitation following eating, difficult swallowing, lack of appetite, coughing, weight loss, respiratory distress (aspiration pneumonia).
The causes associate with this disease are: Pulsion Diverticulum, embryonic developmental disorders of the esophageal wall, esophageal foreign body or failure of the muscles to move food through, traction diverticulum, inflammatory process associated with the trachea, lungs, lymph nodes or lining of the stomach; causes fibrous tissue formation around the esophagus.
In order for your veterinarian to diagnosis this disease he will conduct an esophagram or an esophagoscopy to examine the diverticula in order to determine whether there is a related mass. An x-ray of the chest area and a fluoroscope examination to evaluate the movement of food through the esophagus will give your doctor a better idea of where the diverticula are placed in the esophageal wall. An injection of a radio contrasting agent into the esophageal passage may be used to improve visibility on an x-ray so that an exact determination can be made, as the substance flows down the esophagus, filling the pouches as is does.
Sometimes the treatment of this disease is that your veterinarian might recommend a change in your dog’s diet if the diverticulum is small and is not causing significant clinical signs. Usually this will consist of a soft bland diet given to the dog frequently rather than in one big meal. If on the other hand the diverticulum is large, or is associated with significant clinical signs, surgical resection will probably be recommended. The potential for food being drawn into the lungs and leading to aspiration pneumonia makes the importance of dietary management key to avoiding fatal complications. Aggressive care will be called for if aspiration pneumonia is present. Fluid therapy, antibiotics, and nutrition via tube will be necessary. Your veterinarian will prescribe medications for your dog on the basis of the diagnosis.
Your doctor will want to monitor your dog for evidence and prevention of infection or aspiration pneumonia. You will need to maintain a positive nutritional balance throughout the disease process. Patients with diverticula and impaction (i.e., food material that is packed tightly) are predisposed to perforation, fistula, stricture, and postoperative rupturing of the incision. For this reason, your veterinarian will want to revisit your dog on a regular schedule. Prognosis is guarded in patients with large diverticula and overt clinical signs.
For some breeders at the first sign of a puppy throwing up, they will think that they are dealing with mega-esophagus and in some cases have the puppy put to sleep. I am one of those breeders that putting a puppy down is the very last thing that I do when nothing else can be done. As in that disease and in esophageal diverticula there all different degrees of these illnesses. Some of these animals can go on to live healthy full lives. Obviously if you choose to keep the puppy and raise it yourself, then you take the responsibility of raising a dog with a health issue. However, selling a puppy with a known health issue is a whole other thing entirely.
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My rating: Esophageal Diverticula: (1), Different degrees of this disease: (1 - 4)