Esophageal diseases cause disturbance of food flow through the esophagus due to obstructions from foreign bodies and tumors,
inflammation, decreased motility, and compression of the esophagus from intramural or extra-luminal masses. Esophageal diseases
in the dog and cat can be very debilitating and require emergency treatment in many cases. Complications of esophageal disease
can be life-threatening due to aspiration pneumonia, necrosis of the esophagus, strictures of the esophagus and severe malnutrition.
Most esophageal diseases are treatable if diagnosed early and immediate treatment administered. Diagnosis of esophageal disease
is usually not difficult although some patients require more expensive diagnostic tools such as fluoroscopy or endoscopy to
diagnose the problem. Treatment is specific for each condition with obstructions and esophagitis being most treatable. Primary
motility disorders and neoplasia of the esophagus have a poorer prognosis. In general, dogs present more frequently for esophageal
diseases than cats however, overlooking the clinical signs of esophageal disease in cats may prevent proper diagnosis with
feline patients possibly being under-diagnosed.
Clinical Signs of Esophageal Disease
Regurgitation is the hallmark sign of esophageal disease. It is distinguished from vomiting as being a passive process that
contains undigested food in a tubular shape containing mucus and having a neutral Ph. No bile is seen in regurgitation due
to the ingesta not reaching the stomach or small intestine. Regurgitation is similar to vomiting in that it can occur immediately
after the patient eats or hours later. There is usually no retching or hypersalivation prior to regurgitation as there is
with vomiting. Owners are not very good at distinguishing the two so the clinician must be very specific in asking questions
to distinguish or to observe the patient during the process. A patient that has had esophageal disease for a period of time
will have weight loss, muscle wasting, weakness, dehydration, malnourished, ravenous appetite is not a painful disease and
possibly trouble swallowing. Coughing, dyspnea and pyrexia may be present if aspiration pneumonia is present.