Esophageal Diverticula in Dogs
Esophageal diverticula is characterized by large, pouch-like sacs on the esophageal wall. Pulsion diverticula is a pushing outward of the wall. This occurs as a consequence of increased pressure from within the esophagus, as seen with obstruction or failure of the esophageal muscles to move food through. Traction diverticula occurs secondary to inflammation, where fibrosis and contraction pull the wall of the esophagus out into a pouch. Diverticula most commonly occurs at the inlet to the esophagus or near the diaphragm, with food being taken into the mouth and getting caught in a pouch as it travels down the esophagus towards the stomach. Organ systems affected include the gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal, and respiratory. Although no genetic basis has been proven, it may be congenital (present at birth), or acquired. There is no specific breed or gender predisposition for this disease.
The condition or disease described in this medical article can affect both dogs and cats. If you would like to learn more about how this disease affects cats, please visit this page in the PetMD health library.
Symptoms and Types
- Regurgitation following eating, difficult swallowing, lack of appetite, coughing
- Weight loss, respiratory distress (aspiration pneumonia)
- Pulsion Diverticulum
- Embryonic developmental disorders of the esophageal wall
- Esophageal foreign body or failure of the muscles to move food through
- Traction Diverticulum
- Inflammatory process associated with the trachea, lungs, lymph nodes, or lining of the stomach; causes fibrous tissue formation around the esophagus
Your veterinarian will conduct an esophagram, or an esophagoscopy to examine the diverticula in order to determine whether there is a related mass. An X-ray of the chest area, and a fluoroscopal examination to evaluate the movement of food through the esophagus will give your doctor a better idea of where the diverticula is placed in the esophageal wall. An injection of a radiocontrasting agent into the esophageal passage may be used to improve visibility on an X-ray so that an exact determination can be made, as the substance flows down the esophagus, filling the pouches as is does.
If the diverticulum is small and is not causing significant clinical signs, your veterinarian may only recommend a change in diet for you dog. A soft, bland diet, given frequently and followed by copious liquids, will most likely travel through the esophagus to the stomach unhindered. If the diverticulum is large, or is associated with significant clinical signs, surgical resection will probably be recommended. The potential for food being drawn into the lungs, and leading to aspiration pneumonia makes the importance of dietary management key to avoiding fatal complications. Aggressive care will be called for if aspiration pneumonia is present. Fluid therapy, antibiotics, and nutrition via tube will be necessary. Your veterinarian will prescribe medications for your dog on the basis of the diagnosis.
Living and Management
Your doctor will want to monitor your dog for evidence and prevention of infection or aspiration pneumonia. You will need to maintain a positive nutritional balance throughout the disease process. Patients with diverticula and impaction (i.e., food material that is packed tightly) are predisposed to perforation, fistula, stricture, and postoperative rupturing of the incision. For this reason, your veterinarian will want to revisit your dog on a regular schedule. Prognosis is guarded in patients with large diverticula and overt clinical signs.