Eosinophilic Esophagitis in Dogs

Dogs with eosinophilic esophagitis may struggle to eat.
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While esophagitis has been long recognized in veterinary medicine, eosinophilic esophagitis is a disease that was only recently discovered in dogs. While recognition of this allergy-based disease is relatively new, there are several treatments which may help your dog find relief and begin the recovery process.

Esophagitis Symptoms

Esophagitis is an inflammation of the esophagus, which can be due to a number of factors. The symptoms include vomiting, gagging, pain while swallowing, loss of appetite, weight loss, coughing and head and neck movements while swallowing. It is frequently under-diagnosed, since many people don't find the symptoms serious enough to seek veterinary help. Your dog may also seem lethargic and hesitant to eat or drink due to pain in the throat.

Eosinophilic Esophagitis

Eosinophilic esophagitis in dogs was discovered in 2009 and shows similar symptoms to the disease in humans. It is caused by an excess of eosinophils, a type of white blood cell, in the mucus lining of the throat, generally caused by a food allergy. The symptoms are the same as esophagitis from other sources, and it is seldom diagnosed, although conventional esophagitis treatments do not always help. Your veterinarian may perform a biopsy on the throat lining to determine if this immune disease is causing your dog's esophagitis.

Other Causes of Esophagitis

There are a number of different potential causes for swelling of the esophagus lining. A swallowed foreign body, frequent vomiting, eating caustic household chemicals, endoscopy procedures and certain infections can all cause this painful irritation. Certain dog breeds, such as shar-peis and breeds with shortened muzzles, are more prone to suffer from this condition. Female dogs are also more likely to suffer from esophagitis, although veterinarians are not sure what causes this difference.

Treatment Options

Since the irritation is caused primarily by an allergy, the first step in treatment is often an elimination diet. Your dog will start on a bland diet of unfamiliar food and slowly add in different foods until a reaction is found, in order to eliminate the allergen from his diet. Your veterinarian may also recommend a glucocorticoid, a steroid that reduces inflammation, or a esophageal bougienage procedure, a treatment that dilates the esophagus, for more immediate relief.