Small Animal Internal Medicine


We are pleased to announce the addition of individualized imaging for dogs with megaesophagus. Megaesophagus is a condition in which the esophagus loses the ability to contract to move material to the stomach and becomes dilated. For more information on this condition please check out our FAQs.

This imaging protocol was designed for dogs that have already been diagnosed with megaesophagus and are currently being fed upright, typically through the use of a Bailey chair. The protocol involves placing the dog in an appropriately sized Bailey chair and offering several different food consistencies and a water equivalent. Video fluoroscopy is then used to watch the movement of food/water to the stomach. The imaging is performed in two separate sessions to allow the esophagus and stomach to empty between feeding periods. These sessions are generally 3-4 hours apart depending on how quickly the food clears.

Benefits of individualized esophageal motility imaging:esophageal motility imaging

  • Evaluate your current feeding strategies including food consistency and duration of time being fed upright.
  • Evaluate different food consistencies to determine if other feeding options may be more ideal.
  • Evaluate duration of time your dog needs to remain in a vertical position after feeding.
  • Determine tolerance for pure liquid/water consumption in order to assess what strategies are needed for maintaining proper hydration.
  • Potentially observe residual esophageal function, swallowing abnormalities, or gastric reflux.
  • You will receive an individualized consult to discuss the findings of the imaging as well as recommendations. We will work with your family veterinarian to help you make the best decisions for your dog.

dog getting an examination

Who is a candidate for this imaging?

  • Dogs of any age with previously diagnosed megaesophagus due to any cause.
  • Dogs that are comfortable sitting in a Bailey chair for prolonged periods of time.
  • Dogs that are willing to eat in a novel setting. We will not force feed any dogs though they could be syringe fed small amounts of liquid.
  • Dogs will be handfed and in close contact with students and clinicians so they cannot be food aggressive or aggressive with strangers.

If you have questions about the procedure, are unsure if your pet is a candidate, would like a cost estimate, or to set up an appointment for imaging please contact Erin Patterson-Semler (


What are the risks?

  • All dogs with megaesophagus are at risk for regurgitation and aspiration pneumonia. The stress of traveling and being in a new place could increase those risks. By feeding the dogs in a vertical position we hope to minimize the risk of regurgitation following imaging. However, it is possible that your dog may not tolerate certain food consistencies or water. The food consistencies chosen can be individualized to each dog. If you already know that your dog does not tolerate a food type, we can avoid imaging with that consistency.

Things to know before your appointment:

  • Please bring previous medical records including your dog’s most recent chest x-rays, blood work, or any previous testing that was performed to determine the cause of the megaesophagus. Your family veterinarian may be able to provide records and x-rays directly to the WSU veterinary teaching hospital. If additional testing is desired, this may potentially be performed at your visit.
  • Please bring a container of your dog’s usual food that we can use during the imaging session.
  • In most cases we will not need you to bring your dog’s Bailey chair as we have adjustable chairs available. If your dog is especially large or small please let us know in advance so that we can plan ahead and make special arrangements if needed. However, you will want to bring your Bailey chair if you will be staying overnight at a hotel.
  • Ideally dogs should not be fed the morning of the procedure. If medications are needed in the morning, please feed them with a small meal and follow your normal routine. If medications need to be given during the day the medication time can be coordinated with the feedings given during the imaging session.
  • As the imaging periods must be spaced several hours apart please be prepared to spend most of the day with us.
  • Unfortunately you cannot be with your dog during the imaging. Since the procedure involves exposure to radiation (similar to an x-ray) only authorized personnel can be present. Your dog can however be with you between imaging periods.

It is important that we minimize risk to the dogs as much as possible. Therefore, if a dog becomes too stressed or cannot be reasonably restrained in the Bailey chair the session will be terminated.

Washington State University