Update from the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) on megaoesophagus in dogs.

In 2009, the AVA and the Pet Food Industry Association of Australia set up a voluntary reporting system called PetFAST, so that health problems in dogs and cats that may be associated with pet food or treats can be logged by their veterinarian. It is designed to identify possible patterns that might point to a cause.  As the peak body for the veterinary industry, the role of the AVA is to ensure our members are kept informed of these types of events.

In early March, the University of Melbourne advised the AVA of a cluster of cases of megaoesophagus in dogs with unexplained cause.

AVA President Dr. Paula Parker said that megaoesophagus is a complex syndrome with a range of causes including genetic, toxic and environmental, or underlying medical conditions.

“That’s why a thorough investigation is so important and why it’s critical for us to continue to communicate with our members who may have seen similar cases and inform the Melbourne University team, who is leading this investigation.

“Our understanding is that at this stage no causal link between the food and the condition has been determined, as Mars Petcare continues to test the product,” Dr. Parker said.

At this stage, we do not know how many cases of megaoesophagus have been reported. Melbourne University has advised they are working to determine which are of congenital origin (genetic cause) or potentially acquired cases (caused by other factors).

We will continue to liaise with Melbourne University and Mars Petcare so that we can update our members when more information comes to hand.

What is Megaoesophagus in dogs and what are the symptoms?

Megaoesophagus is an enlargement of the oesophagus, which is the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach.  When the oesophagus enlarges and loses elasticity, food cannot pass easily into the stomach, and both food and drink may be regurgitated after consuming.  There is a risk that some of this food can be inhaled into the lungs, causing a serious illness.  Megaoesophagus can be present at birth (congenital) or acquired due to a range of medical conditions.

What can concerned members of the public do?

As with any pet illness, it’s essential that owners who are concerned about their pet’s health contact their veterinarian as soon as possible. If your veterinarian suspects a food-associated illness, he or she can log this information via the PetFAST system at: www.ava.com.au/petfast.  Suspected cases should also be reported to Melbourne University: [email protected].

Members of the public can also call the Mars Petcare customer service line on 1800 640 111.

About the AVA

The Australian Veterinary Association is the professional association representing veterinarians around Australia.  Our 9,500 members work in all areas of animal science, health, and welfare.