Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute

Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute

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France-flagGermany-flagRev March 2013

Occasionally an Aussie will have megaesophagus, an abnormally enlarged esophagus.  Affected dogs cannot swallow or keep food or water normally.  It can be an inherited congenital condition.  However, it can also be secondary to other health problems.  Dogs with certain heart or neuromuscular diseases may develop megaesophagus.

There is no surgical correction for this condition.  Affected dogs must be fed with their forequarters elevated and must be kept in that position for 10-15 minutes after eating.  Feeding gruel rather than solid food will reduce risk of regurgitation.  Prognosis is poor due to a high risk of malnutrition and aspiration pneumonia, caused by vomited material entering the lungs.

We do not know if this is a primary inherited problem in Aussies.  Heart vessel defects like persistent right aortic arch (PRAA) can cause a stricture of the esophagus, leading to the disease; this is inherited and crosses that produce it ought not be repeated.  Parents and siblings of affected dogs should not be bred close on their own pedigrees or to mates with a recent family history of the disease.