Canine Megaesophagus

 We are so glad you've found us!  You're probably worried, scared, and feeling slightly hopeless after your dog's diagnosis -- Don't Be Discouraged!  It CAN get better! is your one-stop destination for:

  • Information (We're all experienced with the condition, so we know how it works!)
  • Management Tips (Chairs, Food, Treats!)
  • Recommended Veterinarians (We know they're good because we use them!)
  • Awareness Events (Let's get ME off the "rare" list!)
  • Support (Who better than ME parents to laugh, and cry with you throughout your journey!?)  

Welcome to our family -- Welcome to our crazy ME world -- Let us help your dog live a long and healthy life with Megaesophagus  ♥

*DISCLAIMER* We are NOT veterinarians, and we are NOT speaking on behalf of any companies or others.  We ARE a community of pet parents with ME/MG dogs.  The information contained on this website is not meant to diagnose, treat, or take the place of advice from your vet.  Utilize this information at your own risk. - Thank you*


What is Megaesophagus?

Megaesophagus (ME) is basically a "floppy" esophagus. The esophagus is a tube connecting the mouth to the stomach. A normal esophagus moves food to the stomach with wave-like contractions called peristalsis. An ME dog's esophagus loses its muscle tone, becomes enlarged, and can develop pockets where food can become trapped. Since the esophagus does not function normally, food sits in the esophagus and doesn't make its way to the stomach. This can cause malnutrition and regurgitation of vast amounts of undigested materials.
ME can be idiopathic (no known cause), or a result of a secondary disease. The most common secondary diseases causing ME are Persistent Right Aortic Arch (PRAA), which is most commonly seen in puppies and can sometimes be successfully treated with surgery, and Myasthenia Gravis (MG), which is a neuromuscular condition that can be treated with medication. Please see the links on our homepage for more information about PRAA and MG.
One of the main symptoms of Megaesophagus is regurgitation. Regurgitation is different than vomiting. When a dog regurgitates, it does not usually require much effort from the dog, and the food comes out looking a lot like it went in (undigested), sometimes in a tube shape (like the esophagus). When a dog vomits, there's a lot of effort involved. A vomiting dog will exhibit a heaving motion (the ribcage and stomach will rapidly contract multiple times) before partially or totally digested food and/or bile is expelled. A dog will also lick his lips often prior to vomiting (this is a sign of nausea). It is important to know whether your dog is regurgitating or vomiting, as it aids in diagnosis. Often, a vet will not even consider ME if he or she is told that a dog is "vomiting."
When a dog regurgitates, some of the regurgitated material (food, water, saliva) can be inhaled into his lungs. Inhalation of foreign material into the lungs can cause another, more dangerous, symptom of Megaesophagus, Aspiration Pneumonia (AP). It is imperative that your dog be seen right away by your vet if you suspect AP. In some cases, a bout with AP is the trigger for an ME diagnosis.
Common symptoms of aspiration pneumonia in dogs include trouble breathing (heavy panting without strenuous exercise), shuddering/shaking/shivering, lack of appetite (not drinking water or eating), lack of activity (not playing), and fever. Not all of these symptoms may be present at the same time if your dog has AP. Again, if you suspect your dog has inhaled material into his or her lungs, it is our recommendation that you seek veterinary treatment.
The most common method of diagnosis for Canine Megaesophagus is an x-ray (radiograph). Since an enlarged esophagus can be difficult to see on an x-ray, often a Barium Swallow will be done. In a Barium Swallow, the dog is fed a contrast material that makes the esophagus stand out on an x-ray. This contrast material is used regularly in humans to provide clearer x-rays.

With proper management, ME dogs can live long and healthy lives!

The most important management technique for ME is Vertical Feeding.  Since the esophagus isn't working correctly in an ME dog, gravity is needed to get food to the stomach.
# 1 Feed your Dog Upright - You can use a “Bailey Chair," a high chair, a laundry basket, ANYTHING that keeps your pup vertical!  After each feeding, have your dog remain upright in the chair for at least 10 minutes.  Some dogs may need more time upright than others -- this part is trial and error.

*Please check out the Bailey Chairs 4 Dogs link here or on our homepage to purchase a chair, request a chair donation, or even get plans to make your own MegaE chair!*

# 2 Food Consistency- Yet another area that requires some trial and error.  Some dogs do well with a slurry or milkshake consistency.  Some dogs thrive on soaked kibble (water or broth overnight to make into a "mush"), and some dogs do better with food shaped into little meatballs (be sure that they are small enough so that your dog can swallow them--chewing negates the benefits of the meatball shape).
Many ME dogs do not do well with water, so water is added to their food (in addition to the softer easy-to-swallow consistency of softened food, it's a great way to incorporate water into your pup's diet).  Dogs that eat meatballs can get their water with something called Knox Blocks -- basically jigglers for your pup!  *See Recipes under link on homepage* Other dogs may do well with a large hamster style bottle mounted high enough to keep the throat in an elevated position.
There are several recipes you can try to add nutrition and weight to your dog, like “satin balls,” or you can try adding coconut milk or “Ensure” to their food.   Please continue to check the Recipes link for new concoctions!

What works for one dog may not work for another, so keep track of what you try so that you can find what works best!  

# 3 Smaller more frequent meals. Some dogs can eat twice a day while others may tolerate smaller, more frequent meals better.  Say it with us, "this requires trial and error!"

Don't get discouraged and don't give up -- you'll find something that works!

# 4 Try a “Pro Collar” or “Neck Hug”.  These devices help to elevate your dog's head while reclining.  Keeping your dog's head elevated helps keep any food that's still in the esophagus, or saliva (face it, that's always there), from being regurged.  Some dogs take a while to get used to this large fluffy collar -- This elevates your dog’s head off the floor when they are laying down.   You can find inflatable Pro Collars at Petsmart or Petco.  The Neck Hug from Wag Tail Farms is a stuffed elizabethan collar.

Please check out the Wag Tail Farms website here or via the link on our homepage!

# 5 Try medications - Antacids, like famotidine or omeprazole can to help to control stomach acid. Your vet may also prescribe a motility drug.  One more time, "this requires trial and error!"

Each dog is different, so don't be afraid to try new things! Don't give up!

 Bully shows us how it's done! Click Here to see Bully eat!

Listed here are some of the most commonly prescribed drugs associated with Canine Megaesophagus.

Not all ME dogs take the medications listed below - trial and error (and the advice of your vet) will help you to find what works best.

Antacids The sphincter between the esophagus and stomach in ME dogs does not work properly and often allows acidic stomach fluids to reflux (leak back) in the esophagus. Acid can cause burning and ulcers and lead to esophagitis. Here are some common antacids that your vet may prescribe:

  • (esomeprazole magnesium)
  • (famotidine)
  • (omeprazole)
  • (cimetidine)
  • (ranitidine )
Antibiotics to treat AP (Aspiration Pneumonia) It is very important to recognize the signs of AP and act on it right away. If your dog shows signs of being lethargic, coughing, wheezing, sneezing, increased respiration rate, fever, off of their food or water, incessant panting it’s best to get them in for x-rays.
Many times a vet cannot tell just by listening on their stethoscope. Your vet may take two x-rays of the lungs –one with the dog on its stomach or back, and one with the dog lying on its side.
Often, two antibiotics will be prescribed for 2-6 weeks, consisting of a broad -spectrum antibiotic, like Enrofloxacin, along with one other. If a dog has chronic or recurring AP, the drugs can be administered through a Nebulizer to avoid taking orally.
*Each of these meds has side effects that may or may not impact your pup. Clavamox, for example, can cause nausea, loss of appetite, or vomiting. You will need to monitor your pup while taking this medication for any complications.
  • (enroflaxacin)
  • (Clavamox)
  • (cephalexin)
Esophagitis Prevention/Treatment
(sulcralfate)- is an anti-ulcer medication used in the treatment of ulcers of the esophagus, stomach , or small intestines. Give orally on an empty stomach (1 hour before or 2 hours after feeding or giving other medications). It is best to crush them and mix with water (can be given with a syringe), so the medication is better absorbed.
(maropitant) - Severe Esophagitis can cause nausea. This is an anti-emetics drug that really works!
(neurontin) – Esophagitis can be painful for your pup, causing him to avoid eating. This is a medication that helps manage your pup's pain.
Slippery Elm
Slippery Elm is an herbal treatment prepared from the inner bark of the Slippery or Red Elm Tree. The term “slippery” refers to the remarkable sticky gel that is formed when the powdered bark comes in contact with water. It is a protector and lubricator for pets with gastrointestinal disease and esophageal diseases. It is very soothing to the esophagus.
Recipe for Slippery Elm Soup can be found here
(Tramadol) - Pain medication that is used often for pain management associated with many illnesses/injuries in dogs.
(ondanestron) - anti-emetics for nausea caused by severe Esophagitis
Pro-Motility Drugs
Pro-motility drugs help open up the sphincter between the stomach and small intestines, allowing stomach contents to more quickly enter the small intestines, so that it is less likely to reflux back up into the esophagus.
(Propulsid )- helps with reflux –give 15-30 minutes to an hour prior to eating
(metoclopromide)- helps empty the stomach – give 15-30 minutes to an hour prior to eating
(Bethanechol)- increases the speed of rhythmic contractions in esophageal muscle
Note: Again, some dogs do not require drugs to manage ME, though most are on some sort of antacid. Some have had success with the pro-motility drugs and others have not. Keep trying until you find what works for your pup!
*Any and all medications and dosages should be regulated by your veterinarian.*

Reno's Satin Balls Recipe

5lbs ground beef
6.5 cups of a corn flake cereal
7.5 cups of quick oats
5 raw eggs with shell
2 cups organic wheat germ
5 packs of unflavored gelatin
1.5 cups vegetable oil
2/3 cup of molasses
2 tablespoons of elk velvet powder
6 tablespoons of powdered puppy milk
4 tablespoons of cranberry powder 

Mix together raw, and shape into meatballs that are the appropriate size so your dog can swallow without chewing.  Separate meatballs into meal sizes and store in freezer bags. Feed in upright position.   Recipe courtesy of  Reno's Mom, Chrissy Wilson.



Megaesophagus is NOT a death sentence! 

There is a frustrating lack of information accessible to pet parents given the Megaesophagus diagnosis;  it often seems as if there's no hope.  Our group,  pet parents living with ME dogs (congenital, idiopathic, Myasthenia Gravis - young and old) and a family who have been inspired by an ME story, have decided that it's time to dispel the myth that ME is a death sentence.  

Member Recommended Vets and Specialists

This list is made up of veterinarians and specialists recommended by members of the ME/MG community.  This list is only a starting point - please choose your vet based upon your own criteria.  

There are many knowledgeable vets that are not included in this list... YET!

Please send us your recommendations!

 Click Here For Recommended Vets and Specialists


Savannah in Chair



We've Come a Long Way, Baby!  (Before & After Pics!) 


MEatball!  MEatball Before and After



Foster!  Foster Dog Before and AfterFoster's After!




Shiloh!  Shiloh BeforeShiloh After!


Bully! Bully's weight gain


Reno! Reno before and after

Kris Long

Mom to ME dog, Shade.

"I've had Shade since she was a puppy. She was fine her first year. The older she got, the worse her regurge got. I had been in and out of the vet for years trying to figure out what was wrong, and they just gave her Pepcid and told me to feed her sensitive stomach food. No X-rays or other tests. I finally got a diagnosis a month and a half ago when I insisted on a better answer- clearly it wasn't just a case of food sensitivity or acid reflux. I had never even heard of ME, so I didn't know to ask about it. It amazes (and irritates) me that it took YEARS for vets to figure out what was wrong [...] It took 4 years to get an accurate diagnosis."

How to give subcutaneous fluids



Click here for Carter's Story


Carter's Story ♥

Carter is a Boxer/St. Barnard mix.

We call him a Boxnard.

Until 2013, he was a perfectly healthy 140+ pound lover boy.  Around April 2013, he began regurgitating everything he ate and drank. Our vet started treating him for acid re-flux, but nothing seemed to be working.  

We watched as he dropped in weight to just under 100 lbs.  

We were afraid we were going to lose him.

On Memorial Day weekend he developed aspiration pneumonia.  We took him to a pet ER and we were promptly sent to MedVet Animal and Cancer Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. 

It was there that he was properly diagnosed with hypothyrodism. 

Once we got him back home it took a bit to get his meds and food regimen squared away, but he just couldn't handle any liquids.  We tried it all: ice chips, ensure, thickening agents, gelatin blocks - you name it, we tried it. 

I would even make him an Elvis smoothie.

Anything with even the slightest amount of liquid would be promptly regurgitated.  We would end up in the vet's office 3 times a week getting our boy re-hydrated.  

Our vet finally told us we could give him fluids at home.  He instructed us how to do it and my husband does it every evening.

We want to share it so that you can see that it isn't as scary as it sounds.  

We feel very blessed to still have our boy with us.  While he may never achieve his 140+ pre-diagnosis weight, I am happy to say that at his last vet visit he weighed 127lbs.

Since Carter was diagnosed, our vet has been amazing.  He apologized over and over for months of misdiagnosis.  Carter is his first ME patient (he did have a mega-colon cat, though).  Our vet has become our champion. 

*Sweet Carter lost his battle in 2014.  His spirit lives on in his story and video -- helping others manage and thrive with ME.

Your dog CAN live a long and healthy life!

A ME pamphlet to SHARE with your vet and others!

324 thoughts on “Canine Megaesophagus

  1. Our golden retriever is now 12 years old and after taking her to the vet, several times was finally diagnosed with ME. Her hips are weak and I try to get behind her and hold her up in a vertical position but her hind legs weaken and she won’t stay up. Eventually, w/o fail up comes the water and the food, in several piles throughput the house. We are in desperate need of help as our options seem slim. She has gotten worse every day and even vomits hours after she’s gone to sleep. I feel hopeless and frustrated. Please say something guys as we need help . We cannot rely on our vet at all.

    1. Hi George,
      I’m so sorry to hear about your golden. It can be so devastating particular with an older dog. Be sure that your golden has been checked for underlying diseases such as myasthenia gravis, hypothyroidism and addison disease. Also sometimes with older retrievers laryngeal paralysis is the problem. All of these conditions should be tested for. Hind leg weakness occurs both with myasthenia gravis and can occur with laryngeal paralysis. Monitoring and lessening the regurgitation is key. Dogs that regurgitate can aspirate the fluid and food into their lungs causing an infection known as aspiration pneumonia. This can be life threatening. If you suspect that your dog has AP, go to the vet immediately for antibiotics and she may need supportive care. Symptoms of AP are fever, dehydration, coughing, wheezing, secretions from the nose, lethargy and off their food. Some dogs will not present with a fever. When caught in time and treated aggressively, 2 antibiotics for 4-6 weeks with repeated xrays, dogs can recover nicely. After she eats you will want to keep her in that upright position anywhere from 15-20 minutes so that the gravity can do the work the esophagus muscles can’t do anymore. Some need less time, some more time. At night or when she is lying down be sure to put a neck hug on her to help elevate her snout. This will keep her from regurgitating saliva that can pool in the esophagus while she is in that position. This is an essential tool to managing ME. Lastly, if you are not comfortable with your vet, find one that has some experience with ME. Best of luck and be sure to join the groups on facebook. There is so much support there.

        1. I am so sorry George. I’m sure you did the right thing. She is in heaven now, eating and drinking anything she wants. Biggest of hugs to you. <3

  2. Hey guys, we have a home made chair that I built for our beautiful big american bull, Petey. Petey has passed. The chair is rugged but well built and very functional. built for a big strong dog. We would like to donate it or get to someone who might need it.

    1. Hi Patty,
      Sorry to hear about Petey. Thank you for thinking of others. Try posting on facebook to Megaesophagus-Pawing it Forward!

    2. Hi Patty,
      We have just found out that our boxer Frankie has ME. He is 7yrs old and 115lbs. We are new to this and have been reading about chairs that people have built. Do you have a photo of what you built? We are experiencing that it’s not easy to elevate Frankie like he needs because of his size.

    3. If you still have it and live in Michigan. I would be very interested. I have a labador who has ME and is slowing withering away. I’m at a loss. I’m soo sorry for your Petey.

    4. Hi Patty, I am so sorry for the loss of your sweet Petey. We have a 11 yr old 90 lb Rottie that was diagnosed with ME back in May. After a couple of days in the ER he recovered from the initial incident and we adjusted his feeding. He had another regurg / AP episode yesterday but caught it early. We are looking for a used Bailey Chair and would like to know if you still have this available assuming Petey may have been about the same size. If it has already been put to good use, thank you for helping another manage this devastating condition.

      1. Hi Julie,
        Also check on Megaesophagus-Pawing it Forward on Facebook. Frequently people donate chairs there that they are not using. Best of luck!

  3. ******************************************************************************************My 14 year old dog recently developed primary ME. We found a study using Sildenafil to treat it with. The veterinarians were reluctant to try it. We finally convinced them as it was that or put him down. He has not puked since he started it, 5 days ago, and we have been able to increase the amount of food we are giving him. The link to the study is here:
    The 20 mg tablets come in the generic, which is not too expensive. the 50 mg and 100 mg are only available in the brand name. There is a 50% off coupon available here:
    This medication was originally developed to treat pulmonary hypertension, and apparently relaxes the cardiac sphincter in dogs (the valve between the esophagus and the stomach) so that food can go down. And no, my dog has not had an erection at all.

    1. That’s great news Kathryn! We’ve been hearing lots of good reports from our groups. It relaxing the LES (lower esophageal sphincter) The drug is also used to treat pulmonary hypertension in dogs. I hope your pup continues to do well and flourishes!

    2. How is your dog doing now? We are getting mentally prepared to put our Eddie down but I keep searching for something to try. Thank you for any information you can give us

      1. Hi Heather!
        Have you looked at the Bailey Chairs and how they are built? I adopted a Chihuahua from a Rescue with ME. The Foster father in law built a chair for her. He found online the Blueprints how to build a Bailey Chair. I live in Michigan too, if you need anything! On Upright Canine Brigade, there are pictures of chairs people have made for large dogs. Praying for you and your puppy dog!

    1. Thank you so much for that Christine! We will be featuring your video on “Our Stories” tab. Thank you for taking the time to educate others about this disease and congratulations on your award!

  4. My Lovely Rita (GSD) has had Megaesophagus her whole life and is now 8. She has tolerated her Bailey chair well and is pretty much a normal dog. However, for the past month or so, she has thrown up in her chair just as soon as she has finished eating. We’ve tried pulling the bowl away from her so she doesn’t eat so fast, and that doesn’t seem to be the issue. What’s interesting is that she will eat her vomit (which is white and foamy) right away and be perfectly content. She hasn’t lost any weight, because technically she’s eating (even though it’s the food that she just threw up). Any suggestions as to how we can feed Rita without her throwing up? She used to stay in her chair for at least 5 minutes after eating, but now she throws up right away.

    1. Hi Marien,
      Lovely Rita may need more time in her chair after meals. Some times things change even after years of doing things the same way. They can develop pockets in the esophagus where food hides. Most dogs sit in their chair after meals for at least 15-20 minutes, some need less time some more. You could also try throat massage to gently help the food to pass by a pocket. You could also ask your vet about a pro-motility drug like Reglan or Cisapride to help empty out the stomach faster. There is also information about a new drug called Sildenafil in our Research and Studies tab. This drug helps some dogs with their Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES) Sometimes that LES doesn’t open and close properly and causes food to become stuck up in the esophagus. The drug relaxes the LES allowing food to easily pass through into the stomach. I hope you find some solutions to her problems!

      1. Reglan is controversial, with some studies showing that it loosens the cardiac sphincter, others showing that it tightens it.

        1. In some dogs Reglan is not very effective and may cause irritability in some dogs. For megaesophagus it is used primarily to move the food through the stomach faster, so it makes room for the next meal to enter more easily.

  5. help-does anyone actually have downloadable paper plans for a bailey chair. Videos are great, but I need hands on plans. thank you

  6. I have a 14 mo. Old. Great dane, i don`t think she wieghs over 100 lbs. I would like to know how much to feed her at 3to4 feedings a day. By cupfuls, i feed her a liquid foof from the blender.

  7. Hello…our 12 year old bichon was diagnosed with ME last November. We decided on a peg tube and feed her via syringe 3 times a day. Plus, she eats about 10-12 meatballs in a homemade Bailey chair. Question: Ari seems to bring up more foam than usual. She’s on mycelin and prilosec. Has anyone found a good way to minimize or eliminate foam? Thanks for your help and helping pet parents through this wonderful site!

  8. Hello, my name is Sharen and my 6-7 year old Amstaff, Patrick, has been regertitating more frequently than since we first found him about 3 years ago. We thought he just drank water too fast, as he is obessed with ball and gets very thristy, but then it became more frquent even without having water. So, I brought him to his vet and have an xray scheduled for Wednesday and have been feeding him twice a day and holding him upright 15-30 minutes after meals. I’m realizing now that I wasn’t told to monitor his water intake nor was it suggested to me to do smaller meals throughout the day. I’m really concerned because he has had troubke breathing today and I’m not sure anything I’m doing is working. If anyone has any suggestions that can help my poor baby I’d really appreciate it. He has pneumonia and almost died within the first couple months of having him, almost 3 years ago now, and I’m concerned for that to happen again.

    1. Hi Sharen,
      Anytime a dog is struggling with his breathing he should be seen right away by a veterinarian. That is a sure sign that something is wrong and it could be aspiration pneumonia. You can help your dog by feeding upright and it sounds like he is sensitive to straight water. You can try adding thick-it to his water to thicken the consistency. It can be found at your local drug store. You can feed gelatin cubes for hydration. Check out our recipe tab. Please join the facebook groups for more great information.

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