For most dogs, mealtime is the highlight of their day. But for some, it can be a painful, potentially life-threatening ordeal. This is caused by a rare disorder called megaesophagus, which is an enlargement of the esophagus that makes it difficult for a dog to swallow its food. The condition can be congenital or acquired due to an underlying condition or as a dog ages. The disorder commonly results in vomiting and choking, especially if the food gets into the dog's lungs.
Thankfully, there is a solution—and it’s one that has dogs looking a lot more sophisticated as they eat their dinner. The dogs are placed into specially designed highchairs that help them keep their food down. Below, you can see the chair in action as a young pup named Tickles enjoys a meal at the Manhattan office of Pure Paws Veterinary Care:
“The chair (or manually holding the pet up after feeding) helps by utilizing gravity to move the food down to the stomach,” Dr. Stephanie Liff, owner and medical director of Pure Paws Vet, tells mental_floss. “She also is fed small meals in the form of soft meatballs of dog food, to help the food to get into the stomach, without settling halfway down in the esophagus, and not getting to the stomach.”
Dogs with megaesophagus need a certain amount of care and attention around mealtime, but in the case of Tickles, as long as food is there, she’s ready to cooperate with the chair.
"[Once] she is in the chair, she loves food, so she is willing to remain in the contraption as long as the food keeps coming,” Dr. Liff explains. “She has to remain in the chair for 15 to 30 minutes after she's done eating to give the food time to get into her stomach, and she's mostly willing to do this, as long as someone will stay with her.”
Right now, Tickles is learning to use her chair and will be ready for fostering on April 17. Dr. Liff says it’s “ideal” for dogs with megaesophagus to be fed four smaller meals a day, with the aforementioned 15 to 30 minute post-eating time spent sitting upright in the chair. After that’s done? “She is also a puppy, so she has tons of energy that she needs to expel in between her meals,” Dr. Liff says.
The chair currently in use at the office was borrowed from a pet owner, but they can be ordered online for dogs in need. Dr. Liff also stresses that, “there are numerous resources online about how to build the chair or a variation of it by yourself.” And if you're interested in fostering Tickles, you can contact Shelter Chic for more details.