Category Archives: health problems in dogs

Megaesophagus in Dogs

bailey chairBy Langley Cornwell

There was an adorable photo circulating on social media that featured a dog sitting in a high-chair eating a meal. The image was endearing but it piqued my curiosity. Were the dog’s owners anthropomorphizing their pup? Was the customized high-chair an attempt at being cute, or did the chair serve a purpose? I had to find out.

It turns out the dog has a condition called Megaesophagus, also referred to as ME or Mega E. Dogs with this condition must eat in an upright position, almost like he’s begging, hence the high-chair image.

Megaesophagus can affect dogs, cats, and humans, and occurs when the muscles of the esophagus lose tone and becomes inflated to the point where the animal or person can’t get food to go down their throat and into their stomach. As a result, the food just sits in the esophagus tube until it is regurgitated.

Megaesophagus can be a congenital defect or acquired as an adult. Any dog breed can develop this condition, but some are more susceptible than others. Dachshunds, Shar Pei, Miniature Schnauzers, Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Irish Setters, Newfoundlands and Great Danes seem to be at a higher risk.

Symptoms of Megaesophagus

Regurgitation is the primary symptom of Megaesophagus, and the easiest to detect, obviously. Another symptom that is fairly easy to notice is weight loss. If your dog suddenly begins losing weight and you don’t know why, pay close attention to his eating habits. Because the dog’s food is not making it into his stomach, the food is not digested so none of the nutrients are assimilated. As such, your pet’s weight loss is likely combined with malnourishment.

Bailey chairs 3Aspiration pneumonia is a common complication of Megaesophagus, and it’s the most serious. Because your dog’s food sits in his esophagus, it can migrate into his lungs and cause pneumonia.

Care and Treatments

At this time, there are no medical cures for Megaesophagus. The answer to a long and relatively normal life and a good quality of life is lifestyle management.

The main consideration is what and how your dog will eat. You must find a nutritious and healthy dog food that works for your dog, like CANIDAE Pure Elements. Feed him small, frequent meals instead of one large daily meal.

High-chairs made for this condition are called Bailey Chairs, and they work because gravity helps pull the dog food through the dog’s esophagus and into his stomach.

Dog owners Joe and Donna Koch designed the first high-chair for Megaesophagus-inflicted dogs. They named it the Bailey Chair after their dog, who had Megaesophagus. These days, there are a wide variety of Bailey Chairs available. There is even a DIY kit available for you industrious types.

There are other options for feeding a dog with Megaesophagus. Some people Bailey chair 2pad a small wastepaper basket and turn it into a comfortable seat for their dog to eat from.

It will take some experimentation to figure out what works best for you and your dog. Whatever you settle on, it’s important to keep your dog in the upright position for at least 10 minutes after every meal so gravity has time to do its thing.

Megaesophagus Support Groups

A quick Megaesophagus search on Facebook delivered five active results. There is a general page dedicated to the condition and there are two support groups; Canine Megaesophagus Support Group (3200 members), Feline Megaesophagus and Upright Canine Brigade, Megaesophagus Awareness and Support (599 members). There is also a great website, Canine Megaesophagus Info, which offers a wealth of ME information in addition to support and awareness.

Members of these support groups share beautiful testimonials along with tips and tricks for establishing a thriving routine with a Megaesophagus dog. From what I’ve learned, a few adjustments in your lifestyle will allow your dog to have a long, happy, healthy life.

Photos courtesy of Susan Sanchez /Bailey Chairs 4 Dogs

Read more articles by Langley Cornwell

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Why Do Dogs Tilt Their Heads?


By Linda Cole

We all have the same reaction to a puppy tilting their head as tiny bright eyes stare at us. It’s so cute and adorable, you just can’t help but pick her up and cuddle with her. All dogs regardless of their age tilt their heads as they listen to what’s going on around them. Dogs tilt their heads when certain types of medical problems arise also.

A dog’s head tilt is another way our pets communicate with us through use of body language. They are experts in reading our smallest movements, understanding our tone of voice and even noticing how we look at them when we speak. They can read us like a book and try their best to understand what we say. We know the average dog can understand up to 165 words and some learn even more than that, but in order to learn our words, they have to be able to hear. Dogs tilt their heads not only to hear us better, but to hear noises that interest them or listen to a sound they are curious about.

We can learn from our pets how to appreciate the environment we live in. Dogs are always listening for the smallest sound. I love sitting outside at night with my dogs watching their ears move like little antennas trying to pick up minute sounds – an owl hooting in the darkness, a lone coyote howling, a rustling in the grass or a far away sound we can’t hear.

The shape of a dog’s ear depends on their breed. Different breeds hear sounds with their heads in different positions. A dog tilts his head to reposition the ears so he can hear better in order to determine where the sound is coming from. My terrier mix Kelly has been on toad guard duty all summer. She pricks up her left ear and tilts her head as she listens for movement in the dew covered grass. Every now and then, she moves her ear so she can fine tune the sound of a toad making its way through the grass. Thankfully, she seems to enjoy listening for them more than trying to capture one. Turning and cocking their head to one side helps to open up their ear canal so they can hear better.

Dogs also tilt their heads because we make them feel good when they hear us say things like, “Isn’t that just so cute.” We provide them with positive reenforcement because our tone of voice allows them to understand we are saying something good.

Since dogs can’t tell us when they don’t feel well, it’s important to know your dog and their body language. This will help you determine if they are cocking their head to one side to hear better, or if a medical situation or illness has developed. Dogs tilt their heads if they have something in their ear, some kind of infection or ear mites.

Sometimes a blood vessel will break in the ear which causes a condition called Hematoma. The ear will swell up, which requires lancing the ear to relieve the swelling. This is usually caused by your dog scratching his ear which is also a sign of ear mites or a foreign object that may be lodged inside the ear. Dogs who like to swim or play in water can get water in their ears which can cause irritation and head tilting.

More serious medical conditions can also be reasons why dogs tilt their heads. An under active thyroid, inflammation of the brain, a punctured eardrum, head injuries or cancer can cause your dog to cock his head to one side. Watch for any changes in your dog’s body language to help you determine if your dog’s head tilt is from trying to hear better or he has something else bothering him.

Any signs of redness or pain in or around the ear, apparent pain when they are eating or trying to open their mouth for any reason, a lack of appetite or throwing up should be followed up with a trip to your vet. Wobbling, walking in circles, rolling or falling down can indicate an inner ear problem.

In most cases, a cute head tilt is nothing to be concerned about, but keep in mind that our dogs can and do tell us when things aren’t quite right. Changes in their body language and normal behavior can help us understand them better.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Foods You Should Never Feed Your Dog


By Linda Cole

Most dog owners have faced a begging dog sitting at our feet as we eat a meal or snack. Even though we know our food isn’t particularly healthy for them, we still toss a choice tidbit every now and then. If you are among the many who can’t resist those begging eyes staring up at you, keep in mind there are certain foods you should never feed your dog under any circumstances. Food that is safe for us can be deadly for your pet.

Chocolate tops the list of foods you should never feed your dog. The darker it is, the more deadly for your pet. Chocolate affects your dog’s nervous system and heart, and can cause seizures and death. Depending on a dog’s size and weight and how dark the chocolate is, a small amount won’t hurt them, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Grapes and raisins contain a toxin that so far is unknown and can cause kidney failure. Just a few grapes or raisins can be deadly for your pet.

Onions and garlic, whether raw, powdered or cooked, can cause anemia by destroying red blood cells. Some people swear garlic helps control fleas, but great caution needs to be taken if you have or are now using garlic as a flea control. It’s not as toxic as onions, but can cause anemia over a prolonged period of time.

Macadamia nuts and walnuts, like grapes and raisins, are foods you should not feed your pet. They are high in phosphorous which can lead to bladder stones. They can also cause muscle tremors and even paralysis. Organic peanut butter is fine to give to your dog if they like the taste of nuts. Most dogs love peanut butter. Stick with organic, however, to avoid overloading your pet with sugar and pesticides found in regular peanut butter.

Cooked bones of any kind, especially fish bones, can splinter easily and get lodged in your pet’s throat or digestive system. Raw bones like the round stew bones that can be found at the grocery store are fine, but watch to make sure your dog doesn’t swallow one whole. Once it begins to crack or splinter, throw it away.

Fruit with pits, like peaches or apples, are okay for your pet to eat, but the pit or seeds have cyanide in them. Do not let your pet chew on any fruit pits or seeds. Seeds from apples or cherries can lodge in your dog’s intestines and cause severe damage quickly.

Raw eggs are a great source for salmonella. They can also manifest skin problems created by an enzyme, avidin, that is present in the raw egg. This enzyme slows absorption of a B vitamin called biotin. Vitamins are essential for healthy skin and coat and help build strong muscles and aid in growth.

Other foods you should not feed your dog: tomato leaves and stems, potato leaves and stems, avocados, nutmeg, salt, persimmons, mushrooms (except for shitaki, maitake or reishi) and sugar – not even organic. Honey and molasses in small amounts are fine. Avoid raw red meat high in fat. Cut out excess fat before feeding to your pet. Raw red meat is fantastic for cats and dogs. No raw fish or chicken.

Our dogs are notorious beggars. If in doubt about a certain food, just don’t give it to them. Make sure your pet doesn’t root through the garbage can inside or out while you are away. It’s our job to know which foods we should never feed our dogs. They don’t know and will more than likely eat just about anything we offer them or nab what they can dig out of the garbage can.

If your dog does manage to eat something you know they should not have eaten, call your vet immediately. It can make the difference between a healthy pet and a seriously ill pet in a life threatening emergency.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.