Esophagus Pain in Dogs

The esophagus is a small, muscular tube that connects a dog’s neck to their stomach, allowing water and food to flow through. Although esophageal problems are less prevalent than stomach illnesses, they are not unheard of. However, because the principal symptom of esophageal problems and pain in dogs, such as esophageal illness and regurgitation, is easily mistaken with vomiting, they are commonly overlooked.

Common Symptoms:

  • Regurgitation of food and liquids
  • Vomiting
  • Licking lips
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Abnormal posture
  • Heavy breathing
  • Chronic coughing
  • Excessive drooling

Causes of Esophagus Pain

Esophageal strictures are the result of the narrowing of the esophagus in dogs. It is often caused by either trauma like ingestion of a foreign body or toxic chemical, anesthesia, certain medicines, esophageal inflammation, gastroesophageal reflux, or tumor invasion. Signs of Esophageal strictures in dogs include regurgitation, excessive drooling, trouble swallowing, and pain. Diagnosis is usually done by fluoroscopy of the esophagus or an endoscopy. Your veterinarian will be able to see the number, location, and type of strictures with these tests.

Treatment:

Esophagitis in dogs is essentially inflammation of the esophagus within the inner and outer layers. Acid reflux, foreign item blockage, or esophageal neoplasia can all cause inflammation of the esophagus. Symptoms of esophagitis in dogs usually consist of struggling to eat and drink. Other symptoms include weight loss, regurgitation of food, pain, drooling, weight loss, and poor posture. The esophagus can become inflamed as a subsequent consequence of a number of gastrointestinal problems. When there is an ailment involving the gastrointestinal tract, such as esophagitis, inflammation ensues. 

Diagnosis may depend on the suspected cause of esophagus inflammation. For example, for swallowing a foreign object, the vet might do a neck and thoracic x-ray. An endoscope, which has a camera connected to it and may capture images and tissue samples for examination, may be recommended. Esophagoscope is another technology that goes a step further by using an endoscope to check the condition of the esophageal mucosa. To check for strictures, reflux, and neoplastic development, contrast radiography, biopsy, and esophagoscope can be used. A complete blood count and biochemical profile are common tests that look at the particular number of red and white blood cells, as well as platelets, to see whether they're cancerous cells. Treatment is often dependent on the cause.

Treatment:

  • Dietary management.
  • Food and water restriction. 
  • Medications such as gastric acid inhibitors, gastrointestinal motility drugs, esophageal or gastric coating agents, antibiotics, and NSAIDs. 
  • Balloon catheter therapy.
  • Rigid endoscopy removal. 
  • Transthoracic esophagostomy.
  • Chemotherapy drugs or radiation for tumors.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a long-term disorder in dogs in which stomach acid backs up into the esophagus. This backward flow of stomach acid is normally prevented by a valve called the lower esophageal sphincter. Stomach acid, on the other hand, slips past this sphincter and enters the esophagus in dogs with GERD. Stomach acid is quite unpleasant and often painful once it reaches the esophagus and results in esophagitis. GERD in humans usually feels like heartburn but there are physical signs to look out for in dogs. Symptoms of GERD in dogs include loss of appetite, trouble swallowing, excessive lip licking, regurgitation after eating, chronic cough, looking like they're in pain or discomfort, being restless, and weight loss (as a result of loss of appetite). 

To diagnose GERD, vets will do a physical exam and, usually, lab tests. A physical exam can reveal any localized pain, abdominal masses, obstructions, or other abnormalities. Lab tests often include checking for your dog’s red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets as well as a urinalysis and a serum biochemistry profile. Imagining may be recommended such as x-rays or ultrasounds in order to examine the chest and abdomen for any signs of tumors, illness, intestinal blockage, and other abnormalities in your pet's chest and belly. The vet will want to rule out the other possible causes of your dog’s GERD and try to treat those. Depending on what’s found, you may be referred to a specialist for more invasive gastrointestinal testing such as endoscopy.

Treatment:

  • Treatment of underlying cause.
  • Antacid medications.
  • Medication to strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter.
  • Change in diet.
  • Sucralfate medication.

Megaesophagus in dogs is the Abnormal dilation or stretching of the esophagus. It can be caused by a congenital defect or occur later in life alone or along with other diseases/conditions. Myasthenia gravis, systemic lupus erythematosus, polymyositis, hypoadrenocorticism, poisoning, dysautonomia, glycogen storage disease, nervous system illnesses including malignancy, and potentially hypothyroidism are some of the causes of megaesophagus. Megaesophagus can also be caused by esophageal damage, malignancy, the presence of a foreign item in the esophagus, or esophageal compression. The common sign of megaesophagus is regurgitation of undigested food soon after eating, resulting in weight loss. Dogs may also present with signs of respiratory distress. 

 

A diagnosis will usually involve taking a chest x-ray to see if there is air, fluid, or food in the distended esophagus. Other tests may also be done to view the esophagus and figure out the cause and extent of the damage. Unless there is an underlying disease or cause, that may be treated but megaesophagus itself can only be managed. Dogs with this condition have a dismal prognosis. Some dogs may grow out of it after 6 months of age but most dogs with megaesophagus may develop aspiration pneumonia or pulmonary fibrosis as a result of recurrent pneumonia, which can shorten their lifespan.

Treatment:

  • Treatment of the underlying disease (if any).
  • Feeding dog upright at a 45-degree angle.
  • Changing the texture of the dog’s diet.