By Nan Talleno

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Canine Megaesophagus is an enlarged esophagus. It is a medical condition in which the muscles of the esophagus can no longer function due to the lack of muscle tone, and therefore are unable to propel food into the stomach. Consequently, the ingested food remains there and is unable to be directed into the stomach for digestion.

A major symptom is regurgitation which, unlike vomiting which includes retching, is distinctly without warning or control. Other symptoms include weight loss due to malnourishment, difficulty or frequency of swallowing, hacking sounds and possible behavioral changes. Aspiration pneumonia is usually a serious complication caused by the illness and can be fatal.

Canine Megaesophagus can be congenital or it can be acquired in adulthood. Management of the disease is the best alternative since there is no known cure. Smaller and more frequent feedings are best. A softer diet may be recommended.

Most importantly, the ailing dog needs to be elevated and fed in a vertical feeding position such as in a Bailey chair which is specially designed to induce digestion and avoid aspiration to the lungs by allowing the dog to sit in an upright position for approximately twenty to thirty minutes to ensure the proper passage of both food and water into the stomach.