Sometimes, being a pet parent is no fun at all, especially when it comes to sickness or injuries. It would be nice if we could prevent every disease or affliction from hitting our pets, but sadly, science is not quite that developed yet. What we can do, as pet parents, is learn as much as we can about our favorite four-legged friends – and if your pooch has recently started regurgitating food, the learning topic of the day should be megaesophagus.
Let’s dive right in.

Stop Googling - Ask a Real Vet


  1. What is Megaesophagus in Dogs
  2. What Are the Symptoms of Megaesophagus in Dogs
  3. What Causes Megaesophagus in Dogs
  4. Treatment for Megaesophagus in Dogs
  5. FAQs
  6. Conclusion

What is Megaesophagus in Dogs

Let’s break down the name of this medical condition. Mega means big or large, and esophagus is the part of the body that helps food move from the mouth, when it is eaten, to the stomach, where it gets digested. Put those two words together and your dog has megaesophagus, they have, quite simply, a large or dilated esophagus.

With megaesophagus in dogs, the esophagus grows larger and larger (dilates) over time, essentially losing the muscle tightness it needs to move food and water/liquid through the first part of the digestive tract. As a result, the food and water material doesn’t travel to the stomach where it can be digested; instead, it gets stored up in the esophagus.

There are two types of megaesophagus:

  • Congenital – condition is present from birth, also known as primary;
  • Acquired – condition develops later in life.

What Are the Symptoms of Megaesophagus in Dogs

One of the obvious signs of megaesophagus in dogs is regurgitation of food. (Not vomiting.) Essentially, your dog will eat, then the food will sit in the esophagus rather than making its way to the stomach, and a mixture of gravity and fluids cause it to regurgitate back up. There will be no bile because the food hasn’t reached the stomach, and it can take a while (a few hours) after eating for regurgitation to occur. But, because of this, your dog might be hungrier or less hungry than usual.

Other common symptoms of megaesophagus in dogs to look for, in-person and via your pet camera, include:

  • Slow development (kittens);
  • Weight loss;
  • Excessive salivation;
  • Swallowing with additional sounds (gurgles);
  • Swelling or masses in the neck/throat area;
  • Avoiding food;
  • Halitosis (stinky breath);
  • Crackling or other sounds when breathing;
  • Breathing faster than usual;
  • High temperature (from aspirating food);
  • Excessive/increased burping;
  • Coughing sounds after eating.

What Causes Megaesophagus in Dogs

Both cats and dogs can get megaesophagus, but it is more common in dogs. It seems to affect certain breeds more than others, according to research, including:

  • Wire Haired Fox Terrier;
  • Miniature Schnauzer;
  • Newfoundland;
  • German Shepherd;
  • Shar-pei;
  • Irish Setter;
  • Greyhound;
  • Labrador Retriever;
  • Great Dane.

In one Japanese study, the Miniature Dachshund was the most affected breed.
Scientists and experts don’t know all that much about megaesophagus. They know what it does to the body, but they don’t have a complete understanding of why or how. Acquired megaesophagus can often be an unwanted side effect of other conditions, such as esophagus inflammation, spinal cord or brain trauma, or blockages in the esophagus. Research shows that diseases related to body hormones and exposure to toxic compounds can also cause the esophagus to dilate in this way. Following the GPS tracker and seeing where your pet has been, could answer a lot of your questions.

Washington State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital states that the following could also be a cause:

  • Abnormal blood vessel formation (puppies);
  • Neuromuscular disease, such as myasthenia gravis;
  • Thyroid disease, such as hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid);
  • Addison disease (hypoadrenocorticism);
  • Infectious diseases (bacteria-causing, etc.)

Treatment for Megaesophagus in Dogs

Before your pup can be treated for megaesophagus, they must first be diagnosed. The quickest and easiest way to diagnose the disease/symptom is with an X-ray-style test known as VFSS or videofluoroscopic swallow study, which monitors the entire swallowing process. You will, of course, need to take your pet to the vet first.

As vet Dr. Hunter Finn says on TikTok: “If your dog or cat is losing weight and its not intentional, you should get it checked out. Early intervention is key, and many causes can be fixed/reversed.”

Your dog’s treatment for megaesophagus will heavily depend on the type they have (congenital/acquired,) and, if acquired, the likely cause. The underlying cause will also need to be managed or treated alongside the esophageal issue.
Let’s take a closer look into the treatments and modifications you can make to your dog’s life, to ease the complications and suffering from megaesophagus.

Bailey Chair

Dogs with megaesophagus benefit greatly from being fed whilst they are upright rather than bending down to eat from a bowl, as is usual. It is, quite literally, a high chair for dogs with this condition, and it is especially good for the larger dog breeds, which would otherwise be quite difficult to feed in an upright position.

When dogs are stood on their hind legs, back straight and vertical, gravity works to move food from the mouth, down the esophagus, and then into the stomach. Most vets recommend placing your pup in the chair, feeding them, then leaving them there for up to thirty minutes afterwards. This gives the food ample time to get to the stomach where it can then be digested.

Upright Feeding

If you have a smaller dog breed, you can hold them upright rather than using the Bailey chair. Alternatively, you can provide them with a stool to rest their front legs on, or a ladder, or another similar item. All that matters is that the esophagus is vertical, so gravity can move food to the stomach.

Slower Feeding

Feeding your dog by hand enables them to eat at a slower pace, which in turn prevents a buildup of food along the digestive tract. You can also place smaller amounts in the bowl, topping up once your pup has finished.

Dietary Modifications

Soft food is best for a dog with megaesophagus, such as kibble that has been mixed with water or wet dog food. The latter usually contains more calories, which works best for underweight dogs as a result of the condition. Hills Pet also recommends rolling the wet or canned food into small meatballs to encourage contractions within the esophagus.

Feeding Tube

In very serious cases, your dog might need a feeding tube to bypass the esophagus completely. This is usually offered when dogs are severely underweight, have high levels of dysfunction within the esophagus, or are otherwise very affected by megaesophagus.

If you’re concerned about your pet’s megaesophagus or other eating issues, why not have a chat with Petcube’s qualified, friendly, and fully-trained vets? They’re just one great part of being subscribed to the Emergency Fund, which also gives you access to up to $3,000 of emergency care per year, for up to six of your cherished companions.

And, as a way of saying thank you for stopping by and supporting Petcube, I’d like to offer you an exclusive 27% off with this link. Thank you!


Are vomiting and regurgitation in dogs the same thing?

No, vomiting and regurgitation are not the same thing. Regurgitation happens when food is still in the esophagus, and usually without any warning. There is usually no gagging or heaving beforehand. It happens spontaneously. Vomiting, on the other hand, often comes with heaving, gagging, drooling, and similar other symptoms and usually happens once the food has made its way to the stomach.

How long do dogs live with megaesophagus?

It is possible for dogs with megaesophagus to live a long, happy, and relatively healthy life. They will need more vet appointments and checkups than dogs without the condition, but your vet will not suggest euthanizing your pet following a diagnosis.

Is megaesophagus in dogs curable?

No, megaesophagus in dogs is not curable – but it can be managed with things like the Bailey chair, simple dietary changes, and a little bit of patience. Dogs with this condition are a lot more high-maintenance, especially when it comes to feeding time, and they also require extra monitoring.


Megaesophagus in dogs can be challenging for both pet and pet parent, but that’s not to say that they can’t both live happy and healthy lives together. Feeding time will be more effort, and constant monitoring is necessary to ensure that the dog doesn’t choke on its own regurgitation, suffer from aspiration pneumonia, or experience other health issues.

As always, if in doubt, have a chat with your vet. They’ll be able to talk you through every step of the condition and its treatments.

Was this article helpful?

Help us make our articles even better

Yes No

Thank you for your feedback