All the below are from folks who have/have had ME puppies:
Usually dogs born with ME do better with it than dogs who get it later in life as part of other health problems, such as myasthenia gravis. Yours is doing really well to not have to have drugs and to only need to be upright for 15-20 minutes. My dog did really well, and her ME resolved at 8 months old, but she had to stay upright for 30 minutes or she would regurgitate. Part of the reason you might be reading that they only last about a year is that most vets will encourage euthanization. If people don’t find out how to properly feed their puppy and the vet is encouraging euthanization, they will probably end up doing that. My vet told me Piper wouldn’t last a year, but I found this group and found out how to care for her. She’s going to be 8 years old next month. My dog did still have some motility, which I think may be the key to ME resolving as they get older.
I used metoclopramide with my ME puppy and she began eating normally at 8 months old. She possibly could have started sooner than that, but I just didn’t try it until she was 8 months old. She hadn’t regurgitated in a long time and was able to eat training treats okay, so I just tried feeding her normally, and she was fine. There were 3 puppies in her litter, but I did not have the other 2 tested for ME as they had no symptoms. Neither of her parents had symptoms either. I did find out the breeder of her grandfather has had several puppies with ME, most of them mild like mine. She actually did nothing special with them in terms of feeding, and most of them had their ME resolve. Some didn’t though, and they were placed in pet homes. I wouldn’t recommend going her route of not feeding the puppies upright though. I also wouldn’t recommend breeding the parents again since they obviously are passing ME on.
There was a shift in their condition about three weeks ago, with the weaker puppy starting to be able to eat more, and hold it down. No more throat swelling with feeding, or weird GI noises. No more regurg. He gained weight and was looking good. For all intents and purposes, he seemed like a normal pup.
We started experimenting by putting them down immediately after upright feeding. No regurg, and we saw weight gain in both pups.
This week we have shifted to feeding normal canned food in regular dog dishes, with no problem. Both pups doing well. If things continue this way, I’m going to take them in for another x-ray evaluation next week to see if we’re on the road to normalcy!
My German Shepard Niko was also born with Megaesophagus (ME).
It was officially diagnosed when he was 6 weeks old…at 7 weeks old he was put on a medication called bethanechol chloride….fed upright and sat upright on the sofa for 15-20 minutes after eating..his symptoms slowly disappeared and by the time he was 7 months old we had another set of barium X-rays done and his ME had resolved. Niko is now over 2 years old and over 100lbs of happy healthy GSD. My DVM and I used Bethanechol chloride. Niko was given 5mg 1 hour before his 1st am and 5 pm meals (he was fed several small meals a day – he was fed California natural brand food. ) Costco had the best price on the Rx for bethanechol …around 24.00 for a bottle of 100 pills that were 10mg…I broke them in half for his dose…Walmart was next at bout 30.00 a bottle.
It’s going to depend on the severity of the ME as to what expenses you’d have, but dogs that are born with ME generally have a better time of it than dogs that acquire it later in life. There is also the possibility that the puppy might “outgrow” the ME. While the percentage isn’t real high, there have been several puppies whose ME resolved around 7-8 months old. While I can’t tell you for sure what to do with this puppy, I can share my experience because my dog, was also diagnosed at 4 weeks old.
Generally the ME shows up as the puppy is transitioning to solid food. Mine was diagnosed with ME and aspiration pneumonia after I noticed her looking like she was trying to vomit, which I thought was unusual for a puppy that young. She was diagnosed with a barium X-ray. My vet had me wean her immediately so she could be fed in an upright position. He gave me a weaning formula to use: 1 can evaporated goat’s milk, 1 can water, 4 Tbsp. light corn syrup, and 4 egg yolks. I blended this together and then would warm it in the microwave before giving it to her. At 4 weeks old, she was old enough to lap this up from a bowl so I didn’t use a bottle. I wrapped a hand towel around her and put her in a cookie jar to keep her upright. My vet also gave me Metoclopromide, which I gave to her 30 minutes before eating. Since I work during the day, I was only able to feed her 3 times a day, but 4 times a day would be better. I then kept her upright for 30 minutes after eating. Since she was transitioning to solid food, I started mixing in Gerber’s baby rice cereal with the weaning formula to make a milkshake consistency. I think I used this more than just the plain formula. I then started mixing this mixture with canned Pro Plan puppy food. When she was older, I phased out the weaning formula and then just used the canned puppy food. I would warm it in the microwave, which makes it easier to blend with water, and then added water, baby rice cereal, a spoonful of canned pumpkin, and a teaspoon of plain yogurt. The canned pumpkin helps to prevent diarrhea or constipation, and the yogurt was for the probiotics. As she got bigger, I started using a small plastic wastepaper basket to keep her upright. She had to stay upright 30 minutes after eating or she would regurgitate. At 8 months old, she was able to eat normally so her ME resolved sufficiently. She was able to eat regular dog food on all 4 feet. This lasted until she was 4 1/2, after having surgery for a car accident. I don’t know if there was any connection with the surgery, but she had a mild case of AP again, so I went back to feeding her upright and am still doing so. My vet didn’t think she’d last a year when she was first diagnosed, but I found out how to take care of her. She is now 6 1/2 years old. She is not on any medication, so my only expense is for baby oatmeal and canned food. Lately, I’ve been using Natural Balance Fish and Sweet Potato or Venison and Sweet Potato. Over the years, my expenses have been for the 2 X-rays she had (the second was done this year), the Metoclopromide, and the Baytril for when she’s had AP. For most ME dogs, the food needs to be blended in a blender, but her ME is mild enough that I’ve always just stirred the food together with the water, etc.
Dart, Wylie’s mom is being fed and kept in his chair as a puppy:
Janet P. Wallace, Ph.D., FACSM
Clinical Exercise Physiology
A couple of things you said concern me. You mention that you’re feeding blended food but you’re not holding Oscar upright. Then in this email, you said it looked like he was crying and looked like he couldn’t swallow. He might have been swallowing, but since the esophagus doesn’t work that well and he wasn’t upright, the food was probably piling up in his esophagus. That has to be pretty uncomfortable. You said he hasn’t regurgitated since you’ve been feeding blended food, but he could be regurgitating into his mouth and then reswallowing the food so you don’t see it. My suggestion would be to feed him upright in a begging position so gravity can pull the food to the stomach. The main health risk that you want to avoid is aspiration pneumonia, which is a major cause for death in ME dogs.
Dogs born with ME usually do better with it than older dogs because the older dogs usually have other health issues too. As long as the dogs are fed properly – blended food or meatballs (depending on the dog), upright position, medicines as needed, and not allowed to eat things on the ground, they shouldn’t suffer. They’re fed differently than normal dogs and have restrictions about treats and water, but otherwise they can live long, happy lives. One of our list members hunts with his dog, even though it has a permanent feeding tube. Another list member shows her dog in agility. My dog, has competed at dachshund field trials. Even though she’s my smallest dachshund, she would take toys away from all the rest of my dogs so they just quit playing with the toys so she could have them. She’d also bark at any big dog as if she was just as big.
Here is a weaning formula that would be more nutritious than just plain goat’s milk. My vet gave me this:
1 can evaporated goat’s milk
1 can water
4 egg yolks
4 Tbsp. light corn syrup
This will last in the refrigerator for a few days. To make it thicker, you can add baby rice cereal or baby oatmeal, enough to make a milkshake consistency. You can also add some canned pumpkin and plain yogurt (about a spoonful) to aid digestion. Do NOT include raw egg whites as they bind with biotin. I used this formula for my miniature dachshund when she was 4 weeks old. Is she able to keep the canned food down okay? Are you adding water to it? You could mix the canned food in with the formula above.