Anyone who watches TV or listens to the radio can’t escape ads for the little blue pill (or ads telling you why you need something besides the little blue pill). Well, for those who find this type of discussion embarrassing, turns out there is another reason to be discussing Viagra.
Megaesophagus, a disorder in dogs that might have a treatment
Researchers at Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine recently published research that indicates that Sildenafil (the generic name of Viagra) could be a treatment for megaesophagus. In case you don’t know, megaesophagus is a relatively rare disorder in dogs in which the esophagus gets enlarged and is unable to move food to the stomach resulting in a build-up of food in the lower esophagus. If left untreated, dogs may regurgitate their food and aspirate the food into their lungs causing aspiration pneumonia. According to the researchers, many dogs with megaesophagus either die from aspiration pneumonia or are euthanized due to poor quality of life often within eight months of diagnosis.
How could this treatment help dogs with megaesophagus?
Liquid Sildenafil was shown to relax the muscles of the lower esophagus so that it would open and allow food to pass to the stomach. Of even more interest, Sildenafil only opened the lower esophagus for between 20 minutes and an hour (sufficient time for food to pass) but did not permanently leave it open (the lower esophagus should only be open to allow food to pass down and not other things to pass up). Dogs with mild cases responded much more readily to treatment.
We have seen a few dogs with megaesophagus at Pet Camp. Their pet parents are required to feed these dogs quite frequently, the food needs to be blended to allow it to pass easily through the esophagus, and the dogs need to be fed in as upright a position as possible to allow gravity to assist in the food’s movement to the stomach. It is a cumbersome process for the pet parent and sadly these dogs don’t have the highest quality of life.
While more research is needed, it is encouraging to see a pill that is otherwise often the subject of embarrassment and jokes being used to treat pets – guess no more need for the plain brown envelope delivery.
Thanks for reading.