The morning of Thursday, July 18th, 2013 we arrived at the U of MN Veterinary Hospital with our 10 year old Flat-Coated Retriever, Flyer, who had been diagnosed the night before at our local emergency clinic with aspiration pneumonia and megaesophagus. Flyer was immediately admitted into the emergency & critical care unit, and put on antibiotics and IV fluids. He was able to have a neurology consult that afternoon and was moved into ICU under the care of Internal Medicine. The next couple of days were questionable as to whether or not Flyer would pull through, but he eventually turned the corner and was discharged the following Monday afternoon. I'm happy to report that Flyer made a full recovery from his bout with aspiration pneumonia.
Flyer will live with megaesophagus for the rest of his life. Megaesophagus is a condition where the esophagus dilates and is not able to move food into the stomach properly. Dogs must be fed in a vertical position, and usually need a few small meals fed throughout the day. This has required some changes to both Flyer's and our lifestyles. He is fed four times a day in his Bailey Chair (pictured) and sits in it for 10 minutes afterwards. We have built Flyer a portable chair that we take with us to agility trials, where we are able to educate others about this challenging, but manageable condition. Flyer turned 11 years old on January 6, 2014, has excellent quality of life, and we look forward to as much more time with him as possible!
I commend the University of Minnesota teaching staff for educating their residents that a megaesophagus diagnosis is not a death sentence. Many other facilities would recommend euthanasia for a dog with megaesophagus, but the U of MN veterinarians were educated about this condition and knew about strategies for management, such as the Bailey Chair. They should consider Flyer one of their success stories.
Thank you to Dr. Tart, Dr. Gorman, Dr. Cho, Dr. Bisignano, Dr. McVey, Dr. Feeney and the incredible veterinary technician staff in ICU for their excellent care of my sweet boy. More information about canine megaesophagus can be found on the Veterinary Information Network at: http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?A=604