The esophagus is the part of the digestive tract that lies between the mouth and the stomach. Food passes through it thanks to muscle contractions.
Esophagitis is an inflammation of the lining of the esophagus.
One of the most common causes of esophagitis is gastroesophageal reflux disease: acidic stomach contents rise up and irritate the esophagus. A vicious circle sets in as esophagitis decreases the tone of the lower esophageal sphincter (circular band of muscles that separate the esophagus from the stomach and prevent stomach contents from flowing back up into the esophagus). This causes more reflux and therefore aggravates the esophagitis.
General anesthesia can cause gastroesophageal reflux and therefore cause esophagitis.
In dogs, brachycephalic breeds such as the French bulldog or the pug are frequently affected by gastroesophageal reflux disease and esophagitis. This is explained by their anatomy and their frequent anomalies of the upper respiratory tract.
Any other chemical, mechanical or thermal irritation can lead to esophagitis.
Cats, more than dogs, are susceptible to esophagitis caused by the ingestion of certain medications. This is why it is advisable to make them drink water following the administration of a doxycycline tablet in particular, so that the tablet is not retained too long in the esophagus.
Symptoms are not always obvious or specific. We can observe a loss of appetite, excessive salivation, repeated and difficult swallowing, retching, chewing, an abnormal behavior of dog “licking in the void”, nervousness, cough,…
The best way to demonstrate esophagitis is gastroscopy. This technique uses a flexible tube fitted with a camera to visualize the lining of the esophagus and stomach.
When a cause of esophagitis is identified as a foreign body, medication, vomiting, that cause should be treated. Anxiety is an aggravating factor, to the same extent as is the ingestion of non-food objects (toys, pieces of wood, etc.).
The other part of the treatment consists in reducing the acidity of the contents of the stomach, so that they no longer irritate the wall of the esophagus. The most frequently used molecule is an antacid called omeprazole. The treatment lasts on average between 1 to 4 weeks, depending on the severity of the lesions of the esophagus. A mucosal protector such as Gastro Supp TM may also be administered.
The prognosis is very good in the majority of cases.
Dr Emilie Vangrinsven
Diplomate from European college of veterinary internal medicine | PhD U-Liège
Assistant at the Liege University in the university clinic for PETs | Author and co-author of numerous scientific publications