What is Megaesophagus?

The esophagus is a long muscular tube that connects the mouth to the stomach. The purpose of the esophagus is to transport swallowed food and water to the stomach. To do this, the esophagus normally uses a squeezing movement behind the food to propel the material into the stomach within seconds after it is swallowed. After swallowing, a normal esophagus is empty and resembles a collapsed hose.

Megaesophagus refers to a syndrome in which the esophagus becomes weak and flaccid, subsequently becoming much larger than normal (hence the term megaesophagus). This occurs because the muscles of the esophagus lose tone. Once this occurs, the esophagus cannot propel ingested food, air, and water into the stomach; therefore, these items remain in the esophagus for prolonged periods of time.

This syndrome is much more common in dogs than cats, and can occur in dogs of any age. While there are many causes of megaesophagus, the consequences tend to be similar regardless of cause. Affected pets usually regurgitate fluid or food. Regurgitation is much like vomiting, except vomiting involves the forceful ejection of material from the stomach and intestine, whereas regurgitation involves the more passive emptying of material from the esophagus or back of the mouth. Regurgitation related to megaesophagus may occur soon after eating or hours later. Pets with this condition may or may not lose weight depending on how much food ultimately reaches the stomach.

Whenever your pet is showing signs of a health issue, your first step is to contact your primary care veterinarian. If it is indicated that your pet may suffer from megaesophagus or other serious condition, a veterinary specialist is available at an ExpertVet certified or affiliated hospital.