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 our 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. I wish there were more 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.
To try and judge the quality of these dogs’ lives, think about the three things the loves the most….whether it is running after a ball, taking walks with you, sniffing around the yard — whatever. When they can no longer do those things, or are unwilling or unable to do what they loves most, then perhaps the quality of life is impaired. But simply eating differently and controlling water intake will not matter that much to your dog. Dogs are amazingly flexible and resilient….
That said, the impact on YOUR quality of life must be considered also….your ME dog will require lots of management, vigilance and care…not to mention time and money. But I think we all feel that what we gave to our ME dogs was returned to us a hundred fold in love and devotion. Whether your dog will have another few months, or another few years, it will NEVER stop giving you every ounce of love and devotion it has. And that, in itself, counts as quality of life!!!