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Esophagitis In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatments

Esophagitis In Dogs

Esophagitis is irritation or inflammation (swelling) or injury of the lining of the esophagus. The esophagus is a horizontal muscular tube connecting the mouth and stomach, contracts to push food and liquid into the stomach. Sometimes, inflammation of the esophagus hampers its motility, and its ability for food movement into the stomach is disturbed.

Generally, Inflammation esophagitis occurs when there is a condition involving the gastrointestinal tract. Anything that damages the esophagus can cause inflammation with collagen deposition within the submucosa, which ultimately can lead to a symptomatic narrowing of the esophagus. Long-standing gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is the most common cause of esophageal stricture and it accounts for at least 80% of cases.

While GERD is a common cause of esophagitis, it is possible to develop esophagitis without also developing GERD and vice versa. The dispute whether esophagitis should be considered a sub-type of GERD or a separate disorder of its own termed non-erosive reflux disease (NERD) is not yet over.

Esophagitis can also be a secondary complication resulting from a wide variety of gastrointestinal conditions such as an esophageal tumor, bacterial, viral, or parasitic infections, hiatal hernia, a foreign body in the esophagus, or toxicity (such as rodenticides)

Symptoms Of Esophagitis

  • Excessive reflux or regurgitation
  • Excessive drooling
  • Bad breath
  • Refusing to eat
  • Temporarily reduced appetite
  • Hacking sounds to try to clear the throat
  • Weight loss

Treatment Options For Esophagitis

Esophagitis is usually diagnosed based on:

  • Your pup’s medical history
  • A normal physical examination
  • Signs of chronic/regular vomiting
  • Absence of evidence of other causes

The vet may perform diagnostic tests to rule out other causes (eg abdominal x-rays, a fecal exam, urinalysis, or abdominal ultrasound).

Most esophageal ulcers can be healed successfully using acid-blocking and gastro-protectant medications.

Check with your vet for the minimal effective medication level. If vets suggest for medications be discontinued, they should be done immediately.

Prostaglandin E1 analog: These medications may be considered if NSAIDs are required long term. Misoprostol (Cytotec, Arthrotec) can decrease the harmful gastric effects of NSAIDs.

Supplements: Quercetine Chalcone, L-glutamine, and probiotics to achieve optimal gut health.

Home Remedies For Esophagitis

  • When dietary change gets a good response, that particular diet can be maintained for some time as long as it is balanced.
  • Change the food to a different texture or experiment with the food. Some animals do good with solid foods and some with liquid foods.
  • Canned food can be rolled into small meatballs. The meatballs must be swallowed by the dog and this stimulates enough esophageal motility to easily pass through the esophagus.
  • To ensure that the most nutrients are being absorbed, it is good to feed 3-4 small meals a day.

Prevention Of Esophagitis

  • Protect your dog from infections, ingestion of toxins, and hyperacidity
  • Use pain relievers regularly for dogs with caution
  • Use NSAIDsthat less likely to cause ulcer
  • Avoid extreme exertion (sled dogs or other working dogs) as it can increase stomach acid that can overwhelm the mucosal barrier
  • Change your dog's diet to control excess production of stomach acid

Affected Breeds Of Esophagitis

Puppies, Shar Pei, German Shepherd, Great Dane, Greyhound, Labrador Retriever, Miniature Schnauzer, Irish Setter, Newfoundland, Wire Fox Terrier

Additional Facts For Esophagitis

1. Causes:

  • GERD
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Esophageal diverticula (expansion of the esophageal wall)
  • Stomach ulcers (infected with H.Pylori)
  • Benign or malignant strictures
  • Megaesophagus (dilation of the esophagus)
  • Aspiration pneumonia
  • Bacterial infections: (e.coli, salmonella)
  • Viral infections (coronavirus, rotavirus, parvovirus)
  • Parasitic infections (ringworm, whipworms, tapeworm, protozoa, flukes)
  • Cricopharyngeal achalasia (swallowing disorder)
  • Various medications (nonsteroidal inflammatory agents, antibiotics)

2. Types:

Congenital Esophagitis:

Some breeds are predisposed to Esophagitis due to congenital anomalies in the esophagus.

Acquired esophageal dysmotility: This is generally caused due to GERD, IBD, neuromuscular diseases such as myasthenia gravis, esophageal tumor, viral, bacterial, and/or parasitic infections, a foreign body in the esophagus, or some form of toxicity.

3. Mortality:

Esophagitis in dogs due to cancer and toxins are fatal and the mortality rate is actually higher.

4. Diagnosis:

  • X-rays, contrast medium such as barium
  • Fluoroscopy or endoscopy
  • Electrical tests to assess the nerve-muscle connection
  • Nerve-muscle biopsy

5. Prognosis:

The prognosis is excellent for benign causes (provided that the underlying cause can be treated successfully).

The prognosis may be more guarded if there have been complications to any of the vital organs. When there are tumors or abnormal cell growth, the outcome will depend upon the obliteration of the masses and overall the health status of your pet.

When To See A Vet

Right away transport your pet to the closest vet clinic, if you suspect drug poisoning or when your dog is showing any signs of distress.

  • Trouble swallowing/ Exaggerated or frequent swallowing
  • Regurgitating food or water
  • Excessive drooling

Food Suggestions For Esophagitis

  • Low fat, low protein, rich in carbs, and no allergen diet.
  • Switch temporarily to a Bland Diet- Boiled, plain chicken and rice or with Plain, cooked sweet potato with small amounts of canned pumpkin.
  • Try sensitive stomach diets for dogs with plenty of fiber ingredients, low amounts of fat, and probiotics.
  • Provide easily digestible lean cuts of meat. - (boiled and drained of excess fat).
  • Semi-moist pet food with boiled chicken or Meat-flavored baby food.
  • Low fat, plain yogurt.
  • Avoid hard treats, kibble, and biscuits.
  • High-fiber foods: whole grain bread, rice, cereal, green beans, peas, Beet Pulp.


The treatment depends on the underlying disease or condition or any exposure to toxins. Drug therapy can be continued for a lifetime, while it may be possible to decrease the drug dosage eventually. Most dogs cope with a particular treatment for a long time while a few require alterations in therapy every few months.

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