How do I know if my dog has difficulty swallowing? Here’s the Answer

You will need to give a thorough history of your dogs health, onset of symptoms, and possible incidents that might have led to this condition, such as recent illnesses or injuries. Your veterinarian will order standard tests, including a chemical blood profile, a complete blood profile and a urinalysis. These tests will indicate if your pet has an infectious disease, kidney disease or a muscular injury. During the physical exam it is crucial that your veterinarian distinguish between vomiting and dysphagia. Vomiting involves abdominal contractions while dysphagia does not.

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Your veterinarian will take X-ray and ultrasound s of your dogs skull and neck to inspect for any abnormalities. An ultrasound of the pharynx will help your veterinarian to visualize masses and help take tissue samples if needed. If your veterinarian suspects that your dog has a brain tumor, a computed tomography (CT) scan and/or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) will be used to locate the tumor and determine its severity.

Dysphagia, the medical term given to difficulty swallowing, can occur anatomically as oral dysphagia (in the mouth), pharyngeal dysphagia (in the pharynx itself), or cricopharyngeal dysphagia (at the far end of the pharynx entering the esophagus).

Symptoms of aspiration pneumonia include depression, fever, pus-like nasal discharge, coughing, and/or problems breathing. If your dog should ever show any of these signs, call your veterinarian immediately and/or take your dog to an emergency veterinary clinic for immediate treatment.

Diagnosis of Swallowing Difficulties in Dogs

Your dog’s symptoms can sometimes indicate which part of the swallowing phase is creating a problem. If the difficulty is in the oral phase, food will likely remain in the mouth. Gagging, retching and multiple attempts to swallow will usually indicate a problem with bolus entering or leaving the pharynx, while regurgitation, coughing, and aspiration suggest problems with movement along the esophagus.

The veterinarian will discuss your dog’s symptoms with you. He will then perform a thorough physical examination followed by a clinical feeding test. He will evaluate each stage of swallowing as much as possible during the examination, and check for inflammation. Unless the cause is obvious, X-rays will be taken to determine if there is a physical obstruction. Contrast dyes may be added to your dog’s food so that the vet can determine where the bolus is getting stuck. If the problem appears to be neurological or related to muscle weakness, further testing will be needed to evaluate tissue degeneration.

Watch the animal eat or drink.

Usually prehension abnormalities are easy to identify as the food or water never makes it into the mouth. Asymmetrical chewing or dropping of unchewed food particles (quidding) are commonly seen with painful chewing. Basically what goes in is what falls out.

Swallowing disorders and feeding your dog