Category Archives: Langley Cornwell

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

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If Your Dog had One Wish, What Would it Be?

By Langley Cornwell

Pet memes and videos that use anthropomorphism as a comedic vehicle always strike my funny bone. In fact, I recently wrote an article on the Best Pet Memes on the Internet and every meme I cited ascribed human thoughts and attitudes to animals.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines anthropomorphism as the attribution of human characteristics or behaviors to that which is not human. As a logophile (lover of words), I was interested to learn that the origins of the word anthropomorphism are derived from the Greek word anthropos – which means human – and morphe – which means form. That makes perfect sense.

Without getting too far off the subject, here’s an interesting little fact. Since the 1600s, scholars have believed that our human tendency to anthropomorphize, while deep-rooted and innate, impedes our true understanding of the world. But if it makes us laugh, hey, isn’t that what it’s really all about?

So I thought it would be fun to ask my friends and family to anthropomorphize right along with me by answering this question: If your dog had one wish, what would it be? The answers were varied but can easily be grouped into a few categories.

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Three Common Grooming Mistakes Dog Owners Make

grooming mapleBy Langley Cornwell

We live on the coast of South Carolina. If you are familiar with this area, you may have become acquainted with pluff mud (aka plough mud), a slippery, oozy, brownish, grayish, viscous sucking mud. This slimy mud, which is abundant around our tidal flats and salt marshes, has an accompanying aroma that is like nothing I’ve ever smelled before. I’m not sure I can accurately describe the smell in words but I can tell you this, it’s nearly impossible to wash out of dog fur. The mud itself takes a firm hand and lots of elbow grease to remove, but that smell has a lingering quality that you almost have to get used to. I often say our dogs smell like a combination of popcorn and pluff mud.

Our dogs get into pluff mud a lot. One of our favorite places to let them run is deep in a small island not far from our house. Of course the island is rife with the stuff and our dogs love to romp through it. Not to digress too far off topic, but you have to be careful around pluff mud because you can sink into it and get stuck. So can dogs. Just saying.

Every time we take the pups for off-leash playtime, we know we’re going to have a long, intense grooming session afterwards. Fortunately, they are used to the routine and understand that “if you want to play, you’ve got to pay” so they stand by patiently as we soap them up and wash them down.

If you are a new dog owner or your dog has recently discovered the joys of pluff mud (or skunk chasing or stink rolling, etc.), here are three grooming mistakes to avoid.

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The Best Halloween Costumes for Pets

By Langley Cornwell

Which one are you – a pet owner who dresses up the family dog or cat for Halloween, or a pet owner who thinks it’s a silly practice? Most people fall into one category or the other, without a lot of gray space in between. Even if you’re in the “it’s silly” camp, you have to admit that sometimes Halloween costumes for pets are funny, sometimes they’re clever and sometimes they’re downright brilliant.

Let’s Pretend

It’s popular to dress up your dog or cat as another animal. There are some precious pandas, penguins, pigs, bumblebees and sharks out there. Another standby is a lion mane costume for a cat. This Halloween costume is especially effective if the cat is an oversized orange tabby. I recently saw a plush lion’s mane on a Golden Retriever which was also cute, especially considering the dog’s loving, wistful stare (very un-lion like).

I always thought my Samoyed mix looked like a polar bear, and apparently I’m not alone. A local animal shelter recently held a Halloween costume fundraiser and the winner was a white, fluffy dog dressed like a polar bear.

There are spider costumes for every size dog. The best I’ve seen is a black Pug with black spider legs, but there was a German Shepherd dressed like a big spider with a hairy spider body and hairy spider legs. Horrifyingly cute!

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How to Talk to Your Dog

talk to dog madabandonBy Langley Cornwell

True confession time: we sing to our pets. My husband would vehemently deny that statement but it’s true, and I can prove it. In fact, we have three pets – two dogs and a cat – and we have a song for each one of them. What’s more, they all know which pet we’re singing to at any given time. Sure, each one’s song has his or her name in it, but even if we hum their specific tune, the appropriate animal responds. It’s fun for us and I think they like it, but I’m not sure.

What I am sure about is this: the way we talk (or sing) to our dog is important. It’s not just what we say but the manner in which we say it. Tone and pitch are critical in forging a strong bond and establishing good communication between you and your pet.

When talking to your dog, if you institute three different and specific tones—one for commands, one for corrections and one for praise—it will improve the flow of understanding between the two of you.

Here are some tips for how to talk to your dog:
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Best Pet Memes on the Internet

Meme_1-1By Langley Cornwell

One of my favorite guilty pleasures is looking at pet memes on various social media platforms. Inevitably, when I see a clever meme I think about how funny pets are and how creative some people can be. So I thought, let’s turn this guilty pleasure/time-wasting vortex into an article. That way, at least for today, I won’t feel bad about indulging.

Let’s begin with a definition.

Meme: The word is a derivation of the Greek word mimem which means “to imitate” or “imitated thing.” It was coined by Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist from the UK, as a way to describe cultural ideas and phenomena that reproduce and spread. The creation and proliferation of memes is enhanced by the internet, and the ease in which you can share them.

With the advent of cellphone cameras, taking photos of your pets has never been easier. Most people I know have a photo roll full of adorable pet pictures. To create a meme, you just place a border around a cute or funny photo, write a caption and post it to a social media site.

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