It’s cause for concern when your normally ravenous pup suddenly shuns his food bowl. Esophagitis -- inflammation of the esophagus -- could be the reason for his lack of appetite. This painful disorder can frustrate you and your buddy both. A trip to the vet is in order.
Esophagitis occurs when your dog’s esophagus and the mucus membranes within and surrounding the esophagus become inflamed. The inflammation narrows the esophageal passage and makes it difficult and painful for food or water to pass through. Your buddy may feel as though he’s suffocating or has a golf ball in his throat.
Signs and Symptoms
Gagging, painful swallowing, vomiting, excessive drooling, poor appetite, coughing, fever, a neck and throat painful to the touch, lip licking and exaggerated head and neck movements are common signs of canine esophagitis.
Foreign objects, trauma, chemical ingestion, infection, irritation and acid reflux are the most common causes of esophagitis. One common cause of irritation and trauma to the esophagus is going under anesthesia. When your vet anesthetizes your dog, he inserts a tracheostomy tube into his windpipe to help him breathe during surgery. This can put pressure on and irritate his esophagus, especially during insertion and removal. Another onset of esophagitis, acid reflux, burns and irritates the esophagus, causing painful swelling and potentially leading to esophagitis.
Brachycephalic breeds -- those adorable squishy-faced dogs such as pugs, Boston terriers, bulldogs and Chinese shar-peis -- are at higher risk for esophagitis due to their shortened tracheas, prevalence of breathing problems and knack for developing hiatal hernias and acid reflux. Female dogs are also at increased risk for developing the disorder, though the reason is unclear.
Your veterinarian will perform a full body examination as well as a direct examination of your dog’s neck and throat. He may take X-rays to make sure there are no foreign bodies, hernias or perforations in your dog’s esophagus. He may proceed with an endoscopy -- a procedure where he inserts a flexible tube with a small camera on the end down your dog’s esophagus to inspect and take photos or tissue samples if necessary.
In most mild cases of esophagitis treatment occurs on an outpatient basis. If the condition is particularly painful, your vet may prescribe a pain reliever, but for the most part treatment works to correct the cause of esophagitis; for example, antacid medication or dietary changes to reduce acid reflux may be prescribed if your veterinarian determines that to be the agent causing the disorder.
Christina Stephens is a writer from Portland, Ore. whose main areas of focus are pets and animals, travel and literature. A veterinary assistant, she taught English in South Korea and holds a BA in English with cum laude honors from Portland State University.