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What is Esophageal Stricture?

Esophageal narrowing is a relatively uncommon condition in dogs, caused in the majority of cases by the ingestion of foreign materials (rawhide, toys, ropes), accidental poisoning, or as a side effect from receiving anesthesia for an unrelated surgery. Dogs suffering from a narrowing of the esophagus have great difficulty swallowing food, and often regurgitate meals and treats.

The esophagus is the pipe-like organ at the front of the neck through which saliva, food and water passes from the throat to the stomach. An abnormal narrowing of the esophagus in dogs, commonly referred to as esophageal stricture, can affect dogs of any size or age, and is most often not hereditary.

Esophageal Stricture Average Cost

From 21 quotes ranging from $1,200 - $4,000

Average Cost

$1,500

Symptoms of Esophageal Stricture in Dogs

Narrowing of the esophagus can have many varied symptoms, including:

  • Regurgitation of food; water is generally better tolerated
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Signs of distress, such as crying, whining or moaning while eating
  • Anorexia (refusal to eat)
  • Coughing
  • Weight loss
  • Excessive drooling
  • Persistent gulping

Advanced esophageal stricture may lead to aspiration pneumonia, a condition in which food or liquid is inhaled into the lungs. If this occurs, the dog may also present with:

  • Extreme weight loss and malnutrition
  • Wheezing or labored breathing
  • Weakness or lethargy
  • Fever
  • Coughing
Types

Acquired esophageal stricture is a rare inherited condition that generally presents itself during the first months of life.

Benign esophageal stricture (BES) is most commonly caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Secondary causes may include trauma, such as that experienced after swallowing a foreign object or caustic substance, or following recent surgery during with anesthesia was used.

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Causes of Esophageal Stricture in Dogs

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Inflammation of the esophagus (esophagitis) following trauma or surgery
  • Presence of foreign object in the esophagus
  • Repeated episodes of vomiting
  • Benign or malignant tumors
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Diagnosis of Esophageal Stricture in Dogs

The veterinarian will first physically examine your dog to check for swelling and tender areas in the neck and throat region. During this time, your veterinarian will also gain medical history from you about your dog, including information as to whether your dog has come in contact with caustic agents, had recent surgery, or is currently taking any medications.

In order to differentiate between causes, your veterinarian may perform any or all of the following procedures:

  • Complete blood count (CBC) to check for inflammation, infection and illness
  • Urinalysis to rule out other conditions
  • Chest X-ray to identify foreign objects or growths
  • Esophagram, a type of barium X-ray that highlights any narrowing or foreign objects
  • Fluoroscopy, a test that allows doctors to view the esophagus in motion
  • Endoscopy, which gives vets a close-up view of the esophagus via a camera attached to a long tube that is inserted down the esophagus.

In cases of simple stricture, blood tests, and urinalysis results are generally normal. Dogs whose narrowing is due to cancer or aspiration pneumonia may have irregular results that your doctor will discuss with you.

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Treatment of Esophageal Stricture in Dogs

Treatment is largely dependent on the cause of the problem.

  • GERD

    - Dogs that have been diagnosed with GERD will be treated with proton pump inhibitors, a prescription medicine that reduces gastric acid, or over-the-counter acid blockers. You may also be instructed to feed your dog a soft diet for a time, and at specific times, being careful never to feed your dog close to bedtime.

  • Ingestion of foreign objects

    - Strictures caused by partial obstruction of the esophagus are treated by first removing the object causing the blockage. This is done during a non-surgical procedure called an endoscopy. The removal of the foreign object as quickly as possible is imperative to relieve inflammation and prevent further damage, including tissue death.

  • Surgical complications

    - Dogs that develop narrowing of the esophagus following anesthesia during surgery are candidates for a balloon catheter, a procedure in which tubes are inserted into the esophagus and then expanded, like a balloon, to mechanically dilate the narrowed tissue.

  • Injury

    - Balloon catheters are used to treat dogs with mild to moderate strictures caused by injury. More advanced cases of trauma may call for surgical intervention.

  • Growths

    - Lesions, tumors and masses are biopsied during endoscopic procedures to rule out malignancy.

Dogs will likely be hospitalized initially to be assessed, given intravenous fluids, if necessary, and to be monitored post-procedure. If your dog has developed aspiration pneumonia, intravenous medications, and oxygen, plus extended hospital stays, may be necessary.

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Recovery of Esophageal Stricture in Dogs

Recovery from narrowing of the esophagus is largely dependent on the cause of the problem. Dogs are often given antacids or proton pump inhibitors following surgery to reduce stomach acid and prevent it from traveling up the esophagus and further injuring healing tissue.

Post procedure, all dogs are placed on a soft diet free of hard kibble and monitored by both owners and veterinarians. Follow-up appointments are necessary so that your veterinarian can assess healing and prevent possible complications. Walks and strenuous play are to be avoided for one week to 10 days following treatment. Most dogs with mild to moderate strictures will be fully healed within a three-week period.

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Cost of Esophageal Stricture in Dogs

The treatment for narrowing of the esophagus can vary greatly, depending on the exact cause and the city in which you live. Narrowing due to GERD is often treated with a change in diet and prescription or over-the-counter acid blockers, all which can run from $10-$100. Dogs that have an injury to their esophagus and require an endoscopic procedure can expect a bill that ranges from $2,300-$3,850, including post procedure prescriptions for pain and inflammation. Growths and other lesions noted during imaging will need a biopsy, and those cost between $150 to $350. If cancer is the cause of the stricture, your veterinarian will then discuss additional treatment options with you.

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Esophageal Stricture Average Cost

From 21 quotes ranging from $1,200 - $4,000

Average Cost

$1,500

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Esophageal Stricture Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

dog-name-icon

Silas

dog-breed-icon

Labrador Retriever cross

dog-age-icon

Two Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Constant Swallowing
Lip Licking,
Lip Licking, Lick Smacking

Hi, My dog developed a stricture after a surgery. He has had close to 12 balloon dialtions and each time it does get better. We have managed to get wet food blended up for him that he eats elevated. We have learned how to avoid all vomiting etc. However now he in constantly swallowing, lip smacking and lip licking. This seems to happen when he is laying down and worse in the morning. We are all stumped.... He is on Omprazole tabelets and we just increased to 40mg a day, he is a 55 pound dog. Any ideas what would cause constant lip smacking, swallowing etc? Thank you so much!

March 12, 2018

Silas' Owner


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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. Without knowing more about his history and reason for the original surgery, I cannot comment on what might be causing these signs. It seems that it is probably related to his previous problems, and your veterinarian should be able to help you determine what might be going on, and what treatment might be needed.

March 12, 2018

Thank you. Everyone is puzzled that is why I tried this forum. He ate eaten a wine cork that was removed from his lower GI. Then stricture was found. Now this lick lipping and swallowing will now go away!

March 12, 2018

Tim

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Fritz

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Miniature Schnauzer

dog-age-icon

12 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Gagging
Whimpering
Fast Breathing

I have a 12 year old miniature schnauzer that recently had a dental with tooth extraction. He has never had any issues in the past with anesthesia. During recovery from anesthesia he had a 20 second seizure (this is not in his past medical history), he was watched the remainder of the day in observation and discharged home that evening around 6 pm. Around 10:45 pm he had a grand mal seizure at home that lasted for greater than 10 minutes for which he was rushed to the emergency vet and remained there over night in ICU. Since this procedure (February 15) he has not been himself for lack of better terminology. He has had a murmur for a few years which has progressed, now at least 4/6. Since the seizure, he has been diagnosed with heart failure and is on enalapril and vetmedin. My main concern with him is his breathing. For the most part it is shallow and rapid (sometimes in the high 40s at rest). Sometimes it is more labored. He is showing signs of gagging with his food (no cough). Is it possible something could have happened to his esophagus during his intubation? Would this contribute to the rapid shallow breathing as well as the gagging during and after eating? He's been back to the vet twice since this incident with chest xray x 2 and BP check. Last chest xray showed an opacity to right lobe; I'm waiting on radiologist final report. I'm at a loss. But something isn't right. Any advice will be greatly appreciated. Past history of elevated liver enzymes, Elevated triglycerides, chronic back pain, now seizures and heart failure. He is on a prescription GI diet for elevated liver enzymes and triglycerides.

March 11, 2018

Fritz's Owner


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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. I'm sorry that this is happening to Fritz. The only thing that I can see being related to his dental cleaning might be if he aspirated fluid, which I am sure that your veterinarian has taken into consideration. Sometimes a stress will exacerbate a condition that was previously teetering on the edge, and the dental cleaning and anesthesia may have done that, though your veterinarian would have had no way to predict that, sadly. I hope that he responds to his medications and does well.

March 11, 2018

That was a question I had for the vet -- did he possibly aspirate? There is slow improvement. So hopefully, day to day this slow improvement will continue. Thanks for answering my question.

March 12, 2018

Fritz's Owner

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Luke

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German Shorthaired Pointer

dog-age-icon

11 Months

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Licking
Vomiting
Hard Swallowing

My dog has been throwing up partially digested food a couple hours after eating a little bit at a time. He did it twice tonight about a half hour in between. He used to do this a while ago but we changed his food and it hasn't happened since. We thought it was his food and he just has a sensitive stomach. We have been noticing some acid reflux type symptoms recently and for a while he wasn't interested in eating breakfast. He is finially eating normal again from his maze bowl but that's when he got sick. I'm not sure if he has an issue with his esophagus or maybe his intestines?

Jan. 15, 2018

Luke's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. Luke may have a food sensitivity, or parasites, or an intestinal infection, among other things - it would probably be a good idea to have him examined by your veterinarian, as they can see him, do any testing that needs to be done, and get a treatment for him so that he is not nauseous. I hope that he does well.

Jan. 15, 2018

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Kit

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Cairn Terrier

dog-age-icon

8 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Constant Regurgitation

I have an 8 year old Cairn who has had 6 balloon dilations - 5 were done 3 years ago and then this past year she had another one. I was told 3 years ago to put her down after her 5th dilation because she was still having difficulty getting liquefied food down and she was regurgitating a lot. She was and still is so full of life, but it has been a hard 3 years of getting her diet right. I currently feed her a can of Hill's a/d mixed with a little Metamucil and a splash of Ensure (of, course I add water to make it totally liquid.) I have to feed her a little bit at a time. Sometimes she still regurgitates, but it is mostly a slimy,foam-like substance. There is often some blood in it...I know it is painful for her when she regurgitates because she makes this heart wrenching squeals (sounds like baby elephant.) My question is: Is there anything natural or "over the counter" (really anything) that can soothe her throat when she does have these episodes. And it needs to be in a liquid form. She is still a bouncy, happy little dog and she loves to eat. She so much wants to chew on something eatable...she tries to eat dried worms on the sidewalk, bugs, you name it. I have to watch her like a hawk. I really can't afford another procedure and I don't want to put her through it again either, but it does seem to make her not regurgitate so much. Am I fighting a no win battle? I have read if it does not work after 4-5 procedures it will never work? I wish the vet specialist hospital would cut me a break since I have paid quite a bit of money already for 6 procedures, but they are not like my regular vet who is old-fashioned, honest and kind. I give Kit coconut oil or peanut butter sometimes as a treat. It is hard because I have another dog that I feed regular kibble and gets regular treats...my little Kit does not understand why she gets none.

Oct. 25, 2017

Kit's Owner

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recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

It can seem like a losing battle with the odds stacked against you, but there are very few options available especially when you’ve already been through six previous dilations. Other options are using stents or surgical excision of a single stricture but both of these procedures incur many possible complications and are usually considered when dilation has been unsuccessful. I’ve added two articles below from reputable sources on this condition which may help shed some light on other options for Kit. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.msdvetmanual.com/digestive-system/diseases-of-the-esophagus-in-small-animals/esophageal-strictures-in-small-animals http://veterinarynews.dvm360.com/esophageal-strictures-cats-and-dogs-signs-causes-and-treatment

Oct. 25, 2017

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none

dog-breed-icon

not sure

dog-age-icon

adult

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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2 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

None

I just wanted to know what would be about the average size in diameter of a (medium) sized dog or a coyote's esophagus? I know the functionality of the esophagus but wondering how large (wide/diameter) is. I checked vet sites on line but they only refer to it as a small hose without explaining the general diameter. Thank you, Dave

July 26, 2017

none's Owner


answer-icon

recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

The average diameter of a dog’s oesophagus is around 20mm when not in use but can easily double in diameter when eating and swallowing. Obviously, in certain conditions the oesophagus can be narrower (stricture) or wider (megaesophagus). Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 26, 2017

I have a great dane who acquired a stricture from a spay procedure. They are telling me strictures can't be "fixed" since she is a large dog and the largest balloon is 1 inch. Best case scenario is she will be able to eat a gruel consistency for life. What other alternatives do they use to fix strictures in larger animals?

Sept. 2, 2017

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Hailey Bailey

dog-breed-icon

Lab/Hound

dog-age-icon

14 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Food Regurgitation, Gagging,

In 2026, my dog developed a stricture after a dental cleaning. She has been successful with elevating her food bowl and eating kibble softened overnight with canned food. She needs a dental badly, but concerned about the safety of putting her under anesthesia again. She was 14 in January.

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Flash

dog-breed-icon

Cavachon

dog-age-icon

8 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Esophageal Stricture

My dog has an esophageal stricture sine having a piece of bully stick stuck in his throat and he had an edoscopy done to push it down into his stomach. THe bully stick had left that part of his esophagus 70-80% damaged. This was four months ago. We now feed him pureed sweet potato mixed in with ground canned dog food and add water. He has done well with this food for the most part as long as we make sure there are not chunks of food in there (we run our fingers through the food to make sure). My question is would we be able to give him a Himalayan dog chew if we watch him closely with it, since they are very hard chews to bite off and basically they have to really work at them? He and my other dog used to have chews every day and it would be nice for him to have some kind of thing to chew on.

Esophageal Stricture Average Cost

From 21 quotes ranging from $1,200 - $4,000

Average Cost

$1,500

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