Esophagitis In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatments

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Esophagitis in dogs is an inflammation or infectious disease of the esophagus, often caused by acid reflux, though there are other causes, as well. The esophagus links the throat to the stomach, which exposes it to regurgitated stomach contents, and this is the most common cause of esophagitis. When a dog suffers from esophagitis, both the inner and outer layers of the organ become inflamed. If this inflammation is mild, dogs may not present obvious symptoms, but if it is severe, dogs may have difficulty swallowing and eating, develop a fever or serious cough, feel pain in the neck or throat, lose weight, or develop pneumonia. If you see the signs of esophagitis in your dog, consult your veterinarian so they can form a proper diagnosis, determine the underlying cause, and prescribe treatment. Here is what you should know about the symptoms, causes, and treatments for esophagitis in dogs.

Symptoms Of Esophagitis In Dogs

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The symptoms of esophagitis in dogs depend on the severity of the inflammation in the esophagus. If the inflammation is mild, dogs may present no symptoms at all, or they may only present slight symptoms for several weeks or months. When esophagitis becomes severe, symptoms can be extreme. Esophagitis can be a secondary condition caused by another illness, so additional symptoms may also be present. These symptoms may also get worse if pneumonia develops. Here are a few signs that are often seen in dogs that suffer from esophagitis.

  • Pain in the neck or throat
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Increasing attempts to swallow
  • Signs of pain while swallowing food (yelping, whimpering, etc.)
  • Drooling
  • Vomiting or regurgitating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Abnormal posture or movements
  • Refusing to lie down
  • Fever

Causes Of Esophagitis In Dogs

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Because of the esophagus’s close proximity to the stomach, gastrointestinal issues are often the cause of esophagitis in dogs. Acidic stomach contents can easily cause inflammation in the esophagus. This is not, however, the only cause of the condition. Here are several possible factors that can lead to esophagitis in dogs.

  • Acid reflux
  • Ingestion of chemical irritants
  • Bacterial, viral, or parasitic infection
  • Aspiration pneumonia
  • Food allergies
  • Having a feeding tube or anesthesia during surgery
  • Chronic vomiting
  • Obstruction or foreign object lodged in the esophagus
  • Eating non-food items
  • Failing to fully swallow medication
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Congenital (present from birth) abnormalities of the esophagus
  • Megaesophagus
  • Tumors
  • Stomach ulcers

Treatments For Esophagitis In Dogs

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The treatments for esophagitis in dogs can vary depending on the underlying cause, but usually dietary changes are used to promote healing of the esophagus. Low fat, low protein, high carbohydrate foods that are low in allergens such as soy or gluten are often prescribed. These are usually given in small amounts, and food and water should be somewhat restricted so the esophagus can recover.

If the cause of the esophagitis in dogs is acid reflux or gastrointestinal problems, antacids may be prescribed, as can coating agents that soothe the esophageal mucous lining. Drugs may be prescribed to help with swallowing or help move food more easily through the digestive tract. Antibiotics can help fight bacteria that can cause ulcers.

For mild cases of esophagitis, dogs are usually given outpatient care, but for severe cases like those where pneumonia develops, dogs may need to be hospitalized. Intravenous fluid will be given for dehydration, and oxygen therapy can be used for dogs that have trouble breathing. Sometimes antibiotics are prescribed in these cases. Sometimes there can be strictures, or narrowing, of the esophagus. A balloon catheter can be installed and inflated to widen the stricture. Surgery may be necessary to remove objects or blockages, and tumors can be treated with chemotherapy or radiation.