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Megaesophagus in a puppy.

Species: Dog
Breed: Lab/Pit Bull Mix
Age: Less than 3 mon
I have a 7 week old lab/pit mix puppy who has been throwing up her food since we got her last week. When we brought her home she ate very normal and later that evening she threw it all up and it had a lot of flem/foaming bile in it. Sometimes she will throw up immediately after eating and other times an hour or so afterwards. We did take her to the vet and he took x-rays. He said he thought she may have a vein that was blocking her esophagus. This was stopping the food from going down. He recommended we take her home and feed her puppy formula and take her to a specialist. His advice on the formula was because she was able to take in the Barium from the x-rays that she was able to intake fluid. Over the past week we have been feeding her puppy formula but she still throws that or even water up. She has also lost weight over the past week and not had a regular bowel movement. She is still active and happy though. Two days ago I started giving her puppy wet food mixed with the formula to give her something more so hopefully she would take it in and gain some weight. She was able to keep the food down but shortly after she throws up a lot of flem or foaming type of looking stuff. The food however stayed in her belly and shortly her bowel movements returned. I feel that this is something more than something blocking her esophagus. There seems to be nothing in her throat when she eats. Unfortunately the initial vet visit was very costly that we have not been able to take her and get her a second opinion yet. A little background on her – we adopted her at six weeks from a person who’s dog had puppies. She came from a litter of 13 and the mom stopped nursing them at 4 weeks. This person said she was feeding them puppy dry food mixed with milk and giving them deworming meds and parvo meds and they were living outside. We are not 100% sure of the care she was getting. Any advice or suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated.

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Aw, I'm sorry to hear that your new little dog is having these problems.

It sounds like the problem the vet was concerned about is something called megaesophagus. There are a few possible reasons for this but some dogs can be born with a problem where one of the veins that is in the heart of the dog as a fetus does not grow properly. The vein can end up wrapping around the esophagus (the feeding tube from the mouth to the stomach). When this happens we see that food has a hard time getting to, and staying in the stomach, and most food comes up again.

If it is megaesophagus, some dogs can be cured with surgery, but this would be an expensive surgery as it would involve going into her chest.

Have they advised you to try feeding her from a raised platform? If I'm suspecting megaesophagus I recommend that my clients feed their dog from a chair so that the dog has to stand upright in order to eat. Often gravity can help the food get into the stomach. Additionally, watering down the food can help as well.

The blockage is likely further down than her throat (i.e. closer to her stomach) so it may appear like the food has gone down, but then it comes up again.

There are a number of other things that can cause puppies to vomit, but the symptoms really do fit with megaesophagus. If Macey had a foreign object in her stomach (i.e. something she ate) then this could cause her to vomit. But, this really should have shown up on the barium xrays.

A virus such as parvo virus could make her vomit but she would also have explosive watery diarrhea and be very sick. It doesn't sound like this is the case.

Some parasites can cause vomiting, but again, we should expect some diarrhea. And to be honest, I've never seen a parasite cause this kind of vomiting pattern.

I wish I had more answers for you. If the vet suspects megaesophagus this is really likely to be the cause. (Usually on the xrays you can see that the esophagus is much bigger than on a normal dog.) I have had some dogs with megaesophagus that do extremely well by eating from a raised platform and eating watered down food as mentioned above. The other concern though is that dogs with megaesophagus can be more prone to getting lung infections because they can aspirate on food that is either sitting in the esophagus or being regurgitated up.

Let me know if you have more questions. I hope your little one improves soon!

Dr. Marie.

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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.