What is the life expectancy of our ME dogs?
– It depends on the extent of the ME and if there are related conditions present.
– Are there other related disorders (hypothyroidism, Myasthenia Gravis (MG), lead toxicity, trauma, chemical damage, etc.)?
– Are there other health issues – stomach or bowel disease such as Helicobacter pylori (HP), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) ), etc.
– How often does the pet develop aspiration pneumonia?
– How “intense” the treatment must be – some dogs require only elevated feedings; others require 4-7 small vertical feedings daily and then require being kept vertical for 10-45 minutes.
With many of the dogs, especially those belonging to the owners who frequent ME support groups, it depends on how much time the pet owner has to devote to the pet’s care. Please remember that the owners of dogs who are EASILY managed, only participate occasionally, because they don’t need as much advice. You will find dogs who have lived a pretty normal length of years.
From an ME dog owner: “Dogs with megaesophagus can, and do, live relatively normal lives with a bit of extra care. When they die, a very significant portion of dogs with idiopathic megaesophagus die of other causes, unrelated to the megaesophagus. Dogs who manifest megaesophagus later in life often have primary causes and may have complications from one or more of their diagnoses that causes or contributes to their ultimate decompensation and eventual death. A small percentage of dogs with megaesophagus die of cancer, which in many cases is eventually learned to be the probable cause of their megaesophagus. A percentage of dogs with megaesophagus die of complications from aspiration pneumonia and of these, too many don’t make it because of the time delay in getting treatment started.
Some dogs with megaesophagus cannot be maintained well enough with vertical feeding for anatomical or physiological reasons, or both. Many go on to longer, quality lives with feeding tubes. Some don’t make it because of delay in workup for and insertion of feeding tubes, and some just aren’t given the opportunity either because of unwarranted bias toward the tubes or because of lack of financial ability to seek further treatment. Although this number is rapidly decreasing because of collective efforts to educate the veterinary profession and allied fields, too many dogs are “euthanized” before they get a chance for a quality life with megaesophagus because of ignorance about options that are now available for success, whether that success is a full life ahead for a puppy, or several more weeks or months, even years, for a senior dog with late onset.
Some we can’t really say about, because we don’t know, and can’t be certain about the attention or quality of care, either because of owner lack of compliance, understanding, or attention to the dog. It might benefit the ME community to have post mortem studies, but it is a very personal subject, and we respect everyone’s right to make the decision for themselves and their family. The truth is, we never have a guarantee about the life of anyone, pet, human, or whatever, and we here are about helping the quality of life of our pets so long as we are able to do so. We are about hope and help. I hope this information is helpful.”