Megaesophagus in Cats

Megaesophagus in Cats

Here we can see, “Megaesophagus in Cats”

Megaesophagus is a problem that can affect cats of all ages and breeds and can be acquired or congenital. An inherited form of megaesophagus can affect Siamese and Abyssian cats. Cats with megaesophagus have trouble swallowing their food, and regurgitation is the most prevalent symptom. They may also vomit up undigested food before it reaches the stomach. Megaesophagus is not a communicable disease. An underlying disease process, genetic abnormalities, nerve damage, trauma, or poisons are all possible causes. The reason for some occurrences is uncertain. Megaesophagus is usually treated for the rest of a cat’s life, requiring particular feeding procedures and drugs to maintain optimal nutrition and prevent medical issues. Some types of megaesophagus can be fixed with surgery, but most cats will need care and monitoring for the rest of their lives.

What is Megaesophagus in Cats?

When the esophagus—the muscular tube in the throat that connects the mouth to the stomach—can not effectively convey food down into the stomach, megaesophagus develops in cats. The muscles in the oesophagus do not contract normally in this disorder, causing the oesophagus to become big, weak, and flaccid. Dysmotility or hypomotility refers to the inability of muscles to contract correctly. Food can get stuck in the oesophagus, causing cats to throw up food they haven’t digested right after they eat.

Megaesophagus Symptoms in Cats

Megaesophagus symptoms can appear in kittens or develop later in cats of any age, depending on the underlying reason. Megaesophagus should be detected in circumstances where an animal regurgitates food and water.

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  • Regurgitation
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Cough or difficulty breathing
  • Excessive salivation/drooling
  • Weight loss
  • Failure to gain weight
  • Nasal discharge
  • Fever
  • Bulge in neck area


The most prevalent symptom of megaesophagus is regurgitation. Regurgitation and vomiting can appear to be the same thing, so it’s crucial to know the difference. Regurgitation is a passive process in which a cat appears to vomit up food or water after eating or drinking with minimal effort. Regurgitation can happen minutes after eating or hours later. In contrast, before food or liquid is pushed up from the stomach, vomiting is an active process requiring abdominal muscle contractions that may be prolonged. Food that has been vomited may be partially digested. Cats on the verge of vomiting may become agitated, lick their lips frequently, and produce gagging sounds, although these behaviours are unrelated to regurgitation.

Difficulty Swallowing

Cats will have trouble swallowing food and drink if they have a megaesophagus, which prevents food from moving down the throat normally. Cats may make repeated attempts to swallow, and food may fall out of their jaws as they do so. While eating, some cats may become distressed.

Coughing or Breathing Problems

Coughing, difficulty breathing, lethargy, fever, and/or an unusually fast respiratory rate are all symptoms of aspiration pneumonia in cats with megaesophagus. Regurgitation allows food or fluids to be unintentionally breathed into the respiratory tract, resulting in aspiration pneumonia. This causes inflammation and infection in the lungs, which can develop into pneumonia, which can be fatal.

Excessive Salivation/Drooling

Cats who can’t swallow their saliva will drool a lot and have wet fur and skin around their mouth, neck, and chest all the time.

Loss of weight

Because food cannot reach the stomach to be broken down and used by the cat’s body for nutrition, the megaesophagus hinders proper digestion. Cats with megaesophagus become malnourished and begin to lose weight as a result. They may not be in good shape, not take care of their fur, and not do much.

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The Inability to Gain Weight

When compared to other kittens of the same age, those with congenital megaesophagus (a disorder that is present from birth) will not acquire weight normally. They may appear smaller or feebler and skinny than their littermates.

Nasal Congestion

If the sinuses are infected or inflamed, nasal discharge may be present. This could be related to regurgitation, which can cause respiratory infections and pneumonia, as well as their poor overall health, which makes them more vulnerable to infectious diseases. Sneezing, coughing, and/or nasal discharge are common in cats.


The infection can cause a fever in cats with aspiration pneumonia. A fever can make you tired, not want to move or talk to other people, stop eating, and hide.

Bulge in the Throat

Food can build up in the oesophagus, resulting in a bloated or inflated neck. This is only seen on rare occasions and is most noticeable in the bottom area of the neck, around the thoracic inlet, where it meets the shoulder.

Causes of Megaesophagus

Congenital or acquired disorders can cause megaesophagus. Congenital disorders are present at birth, can be passed down through the generations, and are most common in newborn kittens. When kittens are weaned and begin eating solid food, these issues are often the most obvious.

Injuries to adult cats are more likely to cause them to acquire conditions later in life. Megaesophagus can also be idiopathic, meaning that the source of the ailment is unknown.

The following are some of the causes:

  • Abnormal nerve function in part (or all) of the esophagus and/or abnormal movement of muscles in the esophagus. Siamese cats may be more prone to inherited causes of this.
  • Congenital vascular ring abnormalities—presence of abnormal blood vessels that constrict the esophagus.
  • Idiopathic–cause unknown .
  • Obstruction in the esophagus–foreign body, tumor.
  • Stricture of the esophagus- anything that causes scarring and/or narrowing of the esophagus can affect motility and lead to megaesphagus.
  • Inflammation in the esophagus.
  • Neuromuscular disorders–myasthenia gravis, tetanus, botulism, glycogen storage diseases.
  • Autonomic nervous system diseases .
  • Infectious diseases causing muscle inflammation.
  • Hypoadrenocorticism.
  • Tumors.
  • Polyps .
  • Immune-mediated nerve disorders.
  • Toxins–lead, organophosphates, snake venom, certain medications.
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Diagnosing Megaesophagus in Cats

Whether your cat is exhibiting megaesophagus symptoms or not, your veterinarian will do a thorough physical examination and other testing to see if an underlying reason can be found. These tests include the following:

  • Blood tests to search for endocrine illnesses, infections, and poisons, among other things.
  • Specialized testing is used to diagnose diseases like myasthenia gravis.
  • Xrays of the chest and neck—possibly with a liquid visible on xrays that your cat consumes—to learn more about the structure and motility of the oesophagus.
  • Fluoroscopy is a continuous x-ray image that can show esophageal motility.
  • Endoscopy is a procedure in which a camera is put into your cat’s oesophagus and upper digestive tract while your cat is put to sleep.


The underlying cause of megaesophagus should be treated if it can be recognised. Specific treatment may include medication or surgery to remedy the issue, depending on the reason. Vascular ring abnormalities, for example, are aberrant blood vessels that constrict the oesophagus and can be corrected with surgery. No matter what the cause is, most cats with megaesophagus will need help for the rest of their lives.

Aspiration pneumonia requires supportive treatment to assist cats eat and limit the risk of complications like aspiration pneumonia, regardless of the aetiology. Cats must be fed a high-calorie gruel in numerous little meals. Food bowls must be elevated so that cats can eat while standing on their hind legs. Food is moved down into the stomach with the help of gravity in this position. After eating, cats must remain in an elevated position for 30 minutes. You can do this by carrying your cat in a sling or holding it upright in your arms or over your shoulder.

Your veterinarian may give your pet drugs to enhance the mobility of the oesophagus, antibiotics to treat infections, and antacids.

Prognosis for Cats with Megaesophagus

The prognosis is determined by the underlying illness and whether it is curable. The prognosis is made worse by complications such as aspiration pneumonia, dehydration, and malnutrition. Some kinds of congenital megaesophagus may improve with age, but idiopathic megaesophagus has a dismal prognosis, especially if comorbidities are present. Megaesophagus symptoms can be resolved if the underlying cause can be addressed and cured. Cats’ megaesophagus can be progressive in some situations, resulting in early death.

How to Prevent Megaesophagus

Although most causes of megaesophagus cannot be avoided, there are some steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of some forms of megaesophagus in cats.

  • Animals suspected of having inherited megaesophagus disease should not be bred.
  • Keep toys and other objects that your cat might eat picked up and out of reach to prevent foreign body ingestion. If an obstruction is suspected, seek care from a veterinarian as soon as possible.
  • If the oesophagus is irritated, treat it as soon and as strongly as your vet tells you to.
  • Always give water to cats via a syringe after giving them a pill to ensure the pill is flushed into the stomach and avoid harm to the oesophagus.

User Question

How do you treat a cat with a megaesophagus?

Megaesophagus can be treated with a variety of medications. To improve gastrointestinal movement in your cat, a drug like Metoclopramide may be administered. To keep them comfortable and prevent esophageal harm, your veterinarian may suggest giving them an antacid or anti-nausea medicine.

Can cats develop megaesophagus?

Megaesophagus can be both congenital and acquired. Young cats, particularly Siamese, have been suspected of having a genetic form of megaesophagus. Stomach emptying problems in Siamese cats are commonly accompanied by megaesophagus. Usually, the underlying aetiology of acquired megaesophagus is unknown.

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Does megaesophagus get worse?

Megaesophagus is a frequent canine condition characterised by sluggish motility and esophageal dilatation. Food will “pool” in the oesophagus as a result of hypomotility, stretching it. Nerve injury occurs as a result of the stretching. This aggravates hypomotility, resulting in a vicious cycle.

What can cause megaesophagus?

Although specific nervous system disorders (such as myasthenia gravis and Addison’s disease) are frequently associated with acquired megaesophagus, a variety of other conditions (particularly hypothyroidism and laryngeal paralysis) have been linked to it.

Why does regurgitation happen?

When digestive fluids and undigested food rise from the oesophagus and enter the mouth, this is known as regurgitation. Acid reflux, GERD, and rumination syndrome are all symptoms of involuntary regurgitation in adults. Regurgitation is a typical symptom of functional infant regurgitation and GERD in newborns.


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