Clinical Studies

Dogs with Megaesophagus

“Understanding esophageal transit to improve management of canine megaesophagus”


Purpose of Study

The goal of this study is to improve quality of life for dogs with megaesophagus by developing better feeding guidelines so veterinarians and owners can more easily manage this challenging disease.


We will be evaluating various food consistencies and optimal time spent upright in a Bailey chair. After our evaluations, we will discuss our findings with each owner who has enrolled their dog in our study and give them a written plan for feeding their dog.  In addition, all testing required for this study (chest radiographs, CBC, biochemistry panel, urinalysis, etc) will be at no cost to dog owners.

Enrollment Requirements

Eligible dogs can be any age or size. They must have well controlled, idiopathic megaesophagus, but be otherwise healthy.  Dogs must be comfortable sitting in a Bailey chair for prolonged periods of time and willing to eat in a novel setting. Dogs will be handfed and in close contact with researchers so they cannot be food aggressive or aggressive with strangers. Dogs cannot currently have pneumonia and will be screened for pneumonia prior to initiation of the study.

Treatment Methods

Dog getting a chest radiograph During the initial examination, owners will be interviewed so we have a thorough history for your dog. We will perform a physical examination, and chest radiographs to rule out pneumonia. If needed for a final diagnosis we will collect blood and urine to make sure your dog qualifies for the study. Dogs accepted into the study will receive three diet consistencies in 2-3 sessions with a break between sessions. During each session, dogs will sit in a Bailey chair and we will use video fluoroscopy (an X-ray movie) to evaluate how much food is in the esophagus at given times. Sessions will end as soon as all the food has moved to the stomach or after 30 minutes.


All dogs with megaesophagus are at risk for regurgitation and aspiration pneumonia. The stress of traveling and being in a new place could increase those risks. By feeding the dogs in a vertical position we hope to minimize the risk of regurgitation following imaging. However, it is possible that your dog may not tolerate certain food consistencies or water.

Owner Responsibilities

Owners are responsible for transporting their dogs to the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Our goal is to perform all the evaluations in one day if the dog meets the inclusion criteria. The dog will be with us for the majority of the day and should be able to go home that evening. In dogs that are not fully diagnosed with idiopathic megaesophagus or have other complications or diseases (e.g. pneumonia) two separate visits may be needed to complete the study. We also request that all previous medical records be provided, especially those pertaining to diagnosis and treatment of the megaesophagus.

Contact Information

For more information please contact:

Valorie Wiss, Clinical Studies Coordinator
Office: 509-335-0798
Cell: 509-432-5345

Jillian Haines DVM, DACVIM, Assistant Professor, Small Animal Internal Medicine
Clinic: 509-335-0711