The esophagus is a tubular, muscular organ that functions to transmit material from the throat to the stomach. Esophageal disease is any disease that effects the esophagus.
Although in most esophageal diseases there are no sex, breed or age predilections, some esophageal diseases are congenital and seen more commonly in younger animals.
Certain diagnostic tests must be performed to definitively diagnose esophageal disease and exclude other disease processes that may cause similar symptoms. A complete history is especially important in these cases, as regurgitation, a common clinical sign seen with esophageal disease, is often referred to as vomiting by the pet owner. A thorough work-up begins with a broad general baseline of diagnostic tests and, in many cases, more specialized or advanced testing is indicated as well. It is important to note that an accurate diagnosis is necessary for an accurate treatment regime.
The primary goals in treating esophageal disease are to identify and treat the primary disease, provide adequate nutrition, and treat any associated complications. Although most animals with esophageal disease are treated as outpatients, certain individuals with extremely severe cases do warrant hospitalization for intensive therapy and support. Therapy for various esophageal diseases includes:
There are cases in which recurrent strictures occur despite treatment and ultimately do not do well.
Optimal treatment for your cat requires a combination of home and professional veterinary care. There is no set regime when following animals with esophageal disease; rather, a plan that is formulated specifically for that individual may be implemented.
It is important to administer all prescribed medications, and follow feeding recommendations closely. In individuals with mild to moderate disease, follow up with periodic veterinary exams often all that is necessary. In cases of severe esophageal disease (for example, severe esophagitis or stricture formation), follow-up endoscopy is recommended 2 to 4 weeks after the initial diagnosis.
It is important to be aware of signs that would suggest a secondary pneumonia. These include coughing, difficult or pronounced breathing, general malaise or any unusual behavior for your pet. A chest X-ray would be indicated in these cases.
In severe or prolonged cases of esophagitis, strictures are not uncommonly seen. Alert your veterinarian if there is an increase in regurgitation, or extreme discomfort upon ingesting food. The prognosis for these animals depends on the particular disease and its severity. Generally, mild to moderate cases respond nicely to treatment. Although severe cases often respond well, they may be associated with complications and/or lengthy healing periods. In extreme cases, despite appropriate therapy, complete resolution or even control may be unattainable.