Esophagitis in dogs - Symptoms and treatment

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Esophagitis or inflammation of the esophagus in dogs It can be produced by multiple causes, such as hiatal hernias, reflux, parasites, drugs, anesthesia in the supine position, chronic vomiting or foreign bodies. This esophagitis will be more or less serious depending on the damage that the substances cause in the esophagus and the content of the reflux, if it is only gastric acid or if they also include other irritants such as pepsin, trypsin or bile acids. Esophagitis can be very annoying for the dog and puts him at risk of suffering from aspiration pneumonia, appearing coughing and lung sounds.

Keep reading this AnimalWised article about esophagitis in dogs, its symptoms and treatment, and you will learn more about this condition that our dogs can suffer.

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  1. What is esophagitis in dogs?
  2. Causes of esophagitis in dogs
  3. Symptoms of esophagitis in dogs
  4. Diagnosis of canine esophagitis
  5. Treatment for esophagitis in dogs

What is esophagitis in dogs?

Esophagitis is the acute or chronic inflammation of the lining of the esophagus. Occasionally, it can also affect the submucosal and muscular layer of the esophagus. This esophageal inflammation occurs when the protective barrier of the esophagus is disturbed, which leads to the inflammatory process with erosions or ulcerations. The protective barriers that the mucous layer of the esophagus has consists of:

  • Mucous gel.
  • Surface bicarbonate ion.
  • Stratified squamous epithelium with tight intercellular junctions.

Most of the time it occurs due to damage or injury caused by ingested substances, foreign bodies or increased reflux from the stomach into the esophagus.

Causes of esophagitis in dogs

Causes of esophagitis in dogs include:

  • Anesthetic procedures in the supine position (due to gastric content rise).
  • Gastroesophageal reflux.
  • Hiatal hernias (can cause gastroesophageal reflux).
  • Caustic substances (bleach).
  • Drugs: tetracyclines, NSAIDs, ciprofloxacin, clindamycin.
  • Vomiting prolonged in time (chronic).
  • Eosinophilic esophagitis of the dogs.
  • Necrosis by foreign body pressure.
  • Parasitosis for Spirocerca lupi, causing granulomatous esophagitis in dogs, forming granulomas in the wall of the esophagus that grow as the parasites grow inside, pressing on the trachea and the aorta artery and can occlude the esophagus.

Newborn dogs or puppies with congenital hiatal hernia may be at increased risk for reflux esophagitis from the stomach.

Symptoms of esophagitis in dogs

The clinical signs that the dog presents will vary depending on the type of injury, the severity of the inflammation and the involvement or not of other layers of the esophagus. While mild esophagitis can present regurgitation of mucus and phlegm, severe esophagitis can cause so much pain that patients refuse to swallow their own saliva or water.

In general, the following clinical signs of esophagitis may be seen in dogs:

  • Regurgitation.
  • Salivation.
  • Head and neck extension while swallowing.
  • Odynophagia (pain when swallowing).
  • Reluctance to eat.
  • Coughing and wheezing (lung sounds) if there is aspiration pneumonia.
  • Fever.

In cases of mild esophagitis, dogs may not have associated clinical signs.

Diagnosis of canine esophagitis

In the blood test It can be seen in cases of severe esophagitis alterations such as leukocytosis and neutrophilia (an increase in white blood cells with a special increase in neutrophils), however, the rest of the blood count and biochemistry parameters must be normal.

On plain radiographs, the esophagus usually appears normal. If there is aspiration pneumonia it could be seen in parts of the lung. If we add contrast with barium, the irregular esophageal mucosa could be seen, with narrowing by segments, with dilatation of the esophagus or hypomotility of the same.

The differential diagnosis of esophagitis in dogs includes:

  • Foreign body in the esophagus.
  • Esophageal stricture.
  • Hiatal hernia.
  • Megaesophagus.
  • Esophageal diverticulum.
  • Vascular ring abnormality.

The endoscopy and the biopsy They are the best methods for definitive diagnosis because they allow direct observation of the mucosa and its damages, the associated problems and the histopathology of the organ:

  • Endoscopy is the diagnostic method of choice in severe cases of esophagitis. In these cases, the mucosa will be increased in color (hyperemic) and edematous, with ulcers and bleeding..
  • Biopsy will be necessary for milder cases where hardly any changes can be seen with endoscopy..

Treatment for esophagitis in dogs

The pillars of the treatment of this pathology are to reduce the acidity of the stomach, the reflux of its contents and protect the damaged esophageal mucosa. For this, the treatment of esophagitis in dogs may or may not include hospital admission:

  • Dogs with mild esophagitis can be managed at home, without requiring income.
  • If the esophagitis is more serious, if they do not eat, are dehydrated or have aspiration pneumonia they may require hospital admission.

In the most serious cases, the medical treatment to follow will be the following:

  • Parenteral nutrition through a gastrotomy tube to avoid the esophagus and remove water and food for oral ingestion.
  • Inhibitors of gastric secretion such as ranitidine, cimetidine, or famotidine to reduce gastroesophageal reflux. However, omeprazole as a proton pump inhibitor is best for reducing stomach acid..
  • The metoclopramide stimulates the emptying of the stomach, reducing the volume of gastric content that can rise to the esophagus. It has the advantage that it can be administered intravenously.
  • The sucralfate In the form of an oral suspension it is the best treatment for canine esophagitis, they are more specific than tablets since the liquid adheres to the damaged surface of the esophagus and will act much more effectively. In addition, it provides some analgesia if there is discomfort.
  • Lidocaine by mouth for dogs in pain so severe that they won't even swallow their own saliva.
  • The antibiotics Broad spectrum should be reserved for the most severe cases of esophagitis to prevent bacterial invasion and infection or in dogs with aspiration pneumonia.

Prognosis of esophagitis in dogs

The prognosis for dogs with mild esophagitis is usually good. However, in cases of ulcerative esophagitis, the prognosis is more reserved. Esophagitis can be complicated by esophageal stricture, and dogs will develop progressive regurgitation, malnutrition, and weight loss. Therefore, it is very important go to the vet in the presence of the first symptoms and do not self-medicate the animal because it could worsen the clinical picture.

This article is merely informative, at we do not have the power to prescribe veterinary treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the vet in the event that it presents any type of condition or discomfort.

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