Every blogger needs at least one post that’s off subject, right?
This is my dog, Sam. He’s a 7 year old cocker spaniel/ King Charles spaniel mix. He has a condition called megaesophagus. This means his esophagus muscles stopped working and the esophagus itself expanded to three times its normal size. Vets don’t know how this condition is caused, but it’s most common in larger dogs and affects a couple thousand dogs a year. Though incurable, this condition can be treated, and as long as it is treated, it’s not life threatening.
The most popular way to treat megaesophagus is use of a bailey chair. A bailey chair is a three sided box with a bar in the front open side, for the dog to rest its front paws on. The idea of the bailey chair is to use gravity to pull food down the dogs enlarged esophagus. Since dogs stand horizontally, forcing them to eat vertically is the most efficient way to make sure the dog is getting food to its stomach.
The two most important signs of megaesophagus are frequent regurgitation from food sitting in the swollen esophagus, and sudden loss of weight. Sam’s healthy weight is about 25 lbs, but he dropped to 17 lbs before he was diagnosed. We’ve been using a bailey chair with him for about two weeks now, and walking him less to help him gain weight. Also, our local vet didn’t have the resources to diagnose him, so we had to take him to UPenn Veterinary Hospital before we actually got answers. They told us about the bailey chair and also recommended we feed him a special type of kibble from Prescription Diet. Depending on how often the dog is fed, the dog may have to sit in the bailey chair for up to 30 minutes after it eats. Since Sam is a smaller dog, we feed him 3 small meals a day and he has to stay in his chair for 15 minutes each time. We built our bailey chair with a clip for his harness in the back to keep him from getting out. He’s getting better about going into the chair, but sometimes we have to force him in it. Soon he’ll learn that it means meal time, so until then it’s a bit of a wrestling match.
Update: Feb, 2103- Sam lost his battle to megaesophagus this month. Though his bailey chair worked, eventually he couldn’t swallow anything no matter what. Ultimately, megaesophagus will lead to death by pneumonia, loss of weight, dehydration, lack of nutrition, and many other reasons.