My Dog has a High Chair:
The story of Jasmine, a pup with Megasophagus
Written in 2006 by the Jasmine's owner.
Megasophagus is a condition where a dog’s esophagus is enlarged due to the muscles losing their strength. Because the esophagus doesn’t work as it should to move the food down to the stomach, food just sits in the esophagus and oftentimes comes back up. There is no surgery or medication to treat the condition. All that can be done is to find the best way to manage it.
I had no idea when I stumbled across Jasmine’s adoption profile on Petfinder.com, how this German Shepherd would bring so much to our lives.
Jasmine had been very sick as a puppy and her family brought her into a veterinarian’s office to be euthanized. The vet offered to treat her if the family would give Jasmine up. Thankfully they did, and the vet treated Jasmine for pancreatitis. Another family fostered Jasmine and helped nurse her back to health before she came to the Central Illinois German Shepherd Dog Rescue.
I drove from Indianapolis to meet Jasmine in October of 2004 and decided that we couldn’t leave without bringing this energetic 10 month old back with us.
Not long after coming home, I noticed Jasmine would sometimes regurgitate a bit of food after eating. I tried to keep Jasmine calm in her crate after meals, thinking that perhaps she was just eating too fast. Concerned about her health, I took Jasmine to our local veterinarian. Our vet recommended elevating Jasmine’s food on a chair when she ate, but also mentioned a condition called Megaesophagus that could be causing the problem.
I was back in the office within a couple weeks when Jasmine's regurgitating seemed to be getting worse. Our veterinarian decided to conduct a barium x-ray on her. The x-ray’s came back confirming that she indeed had Megaesophagus. The grim outlook that the veterinarian gave us brought me to tears. Jasmine had already been through so much. All I wanted to do was give her a loving home of her own. It just wasn’t fair.
While researching on the internet one night, I came across a support group on Yahoo for owners of Megaesophagus dogs. I began reading posts from owners of dogs just like Jasmine, and began posting questions. One of the members had designed a special chair for her dog that she named the “Bailey Chair.” This device is built to allow a dog to sit back into it and rest their front paws on a bar in the begging position to eat meals. The idea is to keep the esophagus in the vertical position. This allows gravity to help bring the food down to the stomach.
The dog sits and eats his meal and then stays in the chair for 15-20 minutes to allow gravity to do its trick. The member had created a video to show owners how to construct their own chairs. With my mother’s woodworking skills, she built Jasmine her own custom chair. In the next few days, we noticed a great improvement. Jasmine's little “bloops” (as we call them) became less frequent and she began putting on weight.
I have been feeding Jasmine in her chair for over a year. The chair has truly been a blessing to us. Since using the chair, Jasmine has gained 20 pounds. She is now a very healthy 63 pounds. The weight gain is proof enough that the chair works to get the food down into her stomach and stay there. She still regurgitates a little bit now and then. Unfortunately she will probably never be able to keep everything down 100% of the time. It’s about management and continually adapting to her needs and what works best for her.
You would never know by meeting Jasmine that she has this condition. She’s a beautiful, sweet and silly girl. In all other ways she’s a completely normal dog. She is so comfortable sitting in her chair to eat, that she doesn’t think twice about it. Just ask her “Are you hungry?” and she’s headed to her chair ready to be positioned in it so she can get down to the business of eating.
See also: Buddy's Story: A young dog's life could have been saved early on if only someone had cared.
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