Bulldog Megasophagus and Esophageal Motility Disorder

January 11, 2008

Hi Jan,

Perceval has a neuromuscular disease called myasthenia gravis. He was diagnosed at the end of March of this year. It is the underlying cause of another condition called megaesophagus that has caused his esophagus to dilate and lose muscle tone. Food or water taken by mouth will not move down to his stomach, but instead sits in his esophagus until he regurgitates. There is a very high risk of aspiration into the lungs when this happens and that can cause pneumonia. He has already had two bouts of it – the first one almost killed him.

When he was first sick, they put in a feeding tube and he still has it. He is taking prednisone, as this is the best shot at putting the disease into remission. If and when that happens he should be able to start eating and drinking normally. Even after remission he can relapse, and I will always have to watch for signs of pneumonia, so there are no guarantees. He’s had some ups and downs but he has been doing well the past few weeks. He has gradually regained his energy, and is bright and always so cheerful. He never fails to make me laugh.



Hi Lorna,

Vivy had “esophageal motility disorder” which I think is the similar.
When I elevated her food to the two step platform I talk about in the book,
she never threw up again. It let gravity do the work of getting the food
down to her stomach. And although she did get pneumonia several
more times I got really good at recognizing the signs and she lived to be
12. I never had her on prednisone.

And no activity like running around or going for a walk for 30 minutes after eating.

I wish the same long life for Perceval.

Your Bulldog Pal,


Hi Jan

This esophageal motility disorder is most interesting. I’m going to see what info I can find on it. I have read so much about megaesophagus so maybe I can find out more helpful info. I have a little platform ready and waiting for him once I get the go ahead to feed him by mouth.

When I got my German Shepherd I read that it was recommended to wait approx 2 hours after feeding before walking or excercising to minimize the chance of gastric torsion. I have always taken the same precaution with Perceval just to be safe. And by the way, despite all precautions I took, my Shepherd had gastric torsion 1 1/2 yrs ago. Thankfully I knew the symptoms and got him to the emergency clinic in time and he pulled through.

Very frightening thing that is.



Hi Lorna,

In Viv’s case, she would often throw up right after eating.
She would eat, then vomit, often coughing, and had a foamy
discharge. And she snored really loudly.

And she had aspiration pneumonia several times. I took her to
my local vet who suspected she had an esophageal problem
and wanted more tests to confirm. So I took her to the
CSU Vet School in Ft Collins (she was 5) and they did a lot
of tests – much cheaper than my regular vet.

They radiographed her larynx which showed it to be normal.

They did an esophagram using liquid barium and found that
“contrations of the esophagus were weak throughout its length.”
They found a diverticulum and that her esophagus stradded over
the thrachea in places.

They concluded she had a neuromcuscular dysfunction that
included diverticulum esophagus, poor motility esophagus, and
weak contraction esophagus.

They did not use the word megasopagus as I recall, but that
means an enlarged esophagus, which is what a diverticulum is
and sounds like a broad term for what she had.

They also tested for myasthenia gravis and did a thyroid panel.

It was my local vet who recommended I try elevating the food.
First step for front paws 4″, then food on second level 6″ higher.
At CSU they agreed I could try that and if it did not work I could
give her a medication before eating (Cisapride).

That simple act of elevating the food and letting gravity help
move the food down worked immediately and she never again
vomited after eating!

I hope this helps. Perhaps your case is similar.

Let me know how Perceval is doing.

Your Bulldog Pal,


Hi Jan

There are similarities between Viv’s situation and Perceval’s especially what would happen after eating.
Although he is fed exclusively thru his PEG tube he has had some episodes of regurgitation and vomiting
but it is happening far less frequently now. He does have foamy discharge once in a while too. I take him
to a University veterinary teaching hospital and his next appt is in 2 weeks for a recheck.
Thanks for the info about Viv and what you did for her. I am happy to find out all I can. Although the
diagnosis is not exactly the same it is similar enough that I can use your experiences to try to help my
Thanks again Jan. I will keep in touch.



3 Responses to “Bulldog Megasophagus and Esophageal Motility Disorder”

  1. mrossiter Says:

    My son’s English Bulldog is only 9 months old and has already experienced going into heat just recently. She has suddenly developed over the past three weeks this regurgitation problem. We’ve spent a lot of money running tests, initially her White Blood count was up. They said it indicated an infection and put her on antibiotics. The reason we went to the Emergency Vet in the first place was because of the frequent vomiting all day long for one week. She is still vomiting, xrays have shown no blockage. They did a barium test, and the result was negative. She has lost five pounds over these past three weeks. My son switched her food from Canadai dry to soft Hill Science. No change. They are trying to hold her up for 15 minutes after eating, still vomiting. At 9 mos, it’s been suggested that a thyroid panel probably isn’t necessary to find out what’s going on. After reading about this megaesophagus and esophagael motility disorder, I’m beginning to think this is the problem. My son has been giving Pepcid AC before feeding Chubbs, but it’s not helping. What is the prognosis for this problem in such a young pup? The breeder is not aware of this pup’s problem, should she be advised? Is this eventually going to take this dog’s life? Please help.

  2. This is not an easy case.

    I’d suggest you elevate her food, in two steps.
    Put one level about 4″ and then the food bowl about 6″
    above that. So she’ll have her feet up the first step
    and the food up higher.

    See if this helps.

    Canidae is a really good food, very few allergic reactions.

    The fact that she is vomiting all day is not really an
    indication of the megasophagus or esophogeal motility
    disorder as the vomiting usually happens right after they eat and does not continue.

    I’m not sure what would cause vomiting all day unless
    perhaps she ate something that is sitting in her stomach and making her try to vomit it out. But it sounds like you did all the tests for that.

    Pancreatitis is another possibility but I think your vets would have checked for that.

    The next step is to do an endoscope and see what’s going on in her esophagus and stomach, if she does have a disorder of her esophagus or an ulcer in her stomach, your vet will be able to see it.

    Perhaps you should get her to a specialist or a vet school, if there is one in your area. They usually have the latest equipment and sophisticated testing.

    When a dog goes into heat her white blood count usually
    becomes elevated for those three weeks.

    It is of note that her vomiting is coincinental with her going
    into heat and it makes me wonder about her homones.

    You could ask the breeder if she has ever heard of this,
    since they have a lot of experience with bulldogs.

    If she keeps vomiting it could lead to serious weight loss
    and dehydration that could be life threatening.

    I hope this helps. Please keep me posted on her progress.

    Your Bulldog Pal,

  3. I just thought of a common but perhaps overlooked cause of diarrhea and vomiting: worms. Has your vet checked a stool sample?

    Your Bulldog Pal,

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