Swallowing Difficulties in Dogs

Dysphagia is the medical term that is used to describe difficulty in swallowing. Dysphagia can be oral dysphagia (in the mouth), pharyngeal dysphagia (in the pharynx itself), or cricopharyngeal dysphagia (at the far end of the pharynx entering the esophagus). 

Oral dysphagia is due to paralysis of jaw, paralysis of tongue, dental disease, swelling or wasting of chewing muscle or inability to open mouth. Such animals eat in an altered way - tilting the head to one side or throwing the head backward while eating. Food packed in the cheek folds of the mouth without saliva are also typical signs of oral dysphagia.

Pharyngeal dysphagia occurs when dog makes several attempts to swallow the food while flexing and extending the head and the neck, chewing excessively and gagging. 

With cricopharyngeal dysphagia the dog may succeed at swallowing after several attempts, but afterward it gags, coughs and forcibly throws its food back up. Such dogs are very thin.

Dysphagia has many different causes, some of which are treatable and some are not. Diagnosing and treating the problem early can help increase the chances of a positive outcome. With longstanding dysphagia the dog may loose a lot of weight due to its inability to eat and swallow (despite a normal appetite).

Dysphagia has several symptoms that the dog will show ranging from mild to severe. First of these symptoms is a sudden or developing drooling. While large breed will naturally drool due to structure of mouth and other dogs drool from excitement, the drooling will be different on two accounts when associated with dysphagia. It will happen in dogs who have no history of drooling and in severe cases, there will be blood in saliva.

Gagging is the next symptom. The dog will appear to be making several attempts to swallow. They may drop food from the mouth or start placing food in one side of their mouth, as it may be easier from them to swallow in this manner. With advancement of the condition, coughing and regurgitation may also start.

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