There can be congenital abnormalities in the esophagus such as vascular ring abnormalities, crichopharyngeal achalasia and megaesophagus. The symptoms of an abnormality or defect in the esophagus can include difficulties in swallowing and regurgitation. The symptoms can become more noticeable in pups who are being weaned on to solid food. Corrective surgery can help some condition but it is only effective if the procedure is done early. Vascular ring abnormalities which is abnormal blood vessels surrounding and restricting the esophagus, can be treated with early corrective surgery. If the surgery is not treated or is not treated early enough, the food can become trapped in the esophagus which can result in permanent damage due to stretching.
Esophageal diverticula are small pouches in the lining of the esophagus. Only ten to fifteen per cent of cases exhibit symptoms as the symptoms depend on the severity of the condition. The pouches can cause food to accumulate and they can cause inflammation. The pouches may rupture but this is rare. If treatment is necessary then the pouches will be surgically removed. Esophageal diverticula is thought to be more common in English Bulldogs.
A hernia is when a portion of tissue or organ protrudes through an abnormal opening. There is a common congenital hernia which protrudes through an abnormal opening in the diaphragm wall or the wall of the abdomen. This can allow organs in the abdomen to enter into the chest or bulge under the skin. Hernias can be present from birth or can be the result of an injury. Symptoms can range from no symptoms to severe. This depends on the amounted of tissue involved in the hernia, and how it effects the organ. Hiatal hernias are a protrusion of the stomach through the diaphragm. This type of hernia can produce symptoms such as drooling, vomiting or loss of appetite. X-rays and contrast studies, which is when a dye is inserted to outline the organs, are used to diagnose hernias. It may be necessary to use an endoscopy in diagnosis also. Hiatal hernias may be controlled with diet changes and antacids, if the hernia is mild but in many cases, corrective surgery is necessary. If the hernia is in the abdominal wall, it can be an umbilical hernia, a scrotal hernia, or a inguinal hernia depending on the exact location. Diagnosing an umbilical hernia is relatively simple. Sometimes the hernia can be reduced by pushing it back through the abdominal wall opening. This type of hernia can be corrected by surgery which will take place at the same time as the spay or neuter operation, if the hernia is small. It is thought that the tendency of hernia development may be genetic.
Pyloric stenosis is believed to be a genetic abnormality in the stomach. Pyloric stenosis is when the muscle of the pyloric sphincter, which is the exiting end of the stomach, becomes thick. This can slow or completely block the movement of food through the digestive system. This condition can be found in smaller breeds and breeds with shortened heads such as Boxers and Boston Terriers. Vomiting for a few hours after eating is often as symptom as the food is restricted to the stomach. Medication and dietary changes are often used to control less severe cases but surgery may be beneficial to severe cases.
Maldigestion is when certain foodstuffs are not digested properly. Malabsorption is when the nutrients are not absorbed into the bloodstream properly. This can cause problems such as vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, or a combination of symptoms. There can be many causes of malabsorption and maldigestion, some causes are genetic and others are not. Inflammatory Bowel Disease which is an inflammation of the intestines is often associated with these conditions. They can also occur more often in certain breeds. Irish setters tend to be gluten sensitive, and symptoms can show as early as six months. This can be treated through changing the diet to a gluten free one. Diet changes and medications can be used to treat both maldigestion and malabsorption, but the precise treatment is dependent on the condition. In some cases diet change or medication will have any effect and the prognosis is poor. Soft coated Wheaten Terriers can suffer protein losing enteropathy and nephropathy, and protein loss can be severe with treatment having little or no effect.
Birth defects in the formation of the intestines can include duplicated sections, openings between the rectum and other structures, and no connection between the anus and rectum. These abnormalities will require corrective surgery and success depends on the severity of the defect.
Portosystemic shunt is a liver defect which is the most common at birth. Normally, blood from the intestine sis sent to the liver where the toxins are removed before the blood reaches the brain and other organs. In a dog with portosystemic shunt, the blood can bypass the liver through a shunt or shortcut, and enter the bloodstream without the removal of toxins. Breeds that are more at risk of this include, the Pug, the Maltese, the Poodle, the German Shepherd, the Yorkshire Terrier, the Cairn Terrier, the Irish Wolfhound, the Scottish Terrier, and the Retriever. Symptoms of this condition include failure to grow properly, failure to thrive, and nervous system disturbances. In later stages, ascites, which is a condition where a fluid which contains protein can accumulate in the abdomen, may occur. There may also be enlarged kidneys and kidney stones. Contrast studies, with a dye inserted to identify the blood vessels, can show the location of the shunt and number of shunts. This will also help determine if corrective surgery is possible. Dogs with a number of shunts tend not to do well.
Hepatoportal microvascular dysplasia is also related to the failure of the liver to remove the toxins from the blood. However, in this condition, the shunt is within the liver. Some cases can be treated with medication. Corrective surgery is not possible as the condition is caused by a large number of small blood vessels. It is relatively common in Yorkshire Terriers and Cairn Terriers, and has also been seen in Maltese, Lhasa Apsos, Bichon Frise, Pekingese, Shih Tzus, Toy Poodles and Miniature Poodles.
There is a liver defect which causes a build up of copper called Copper-associated hepatopathy. This can cause the development of chronic hepatitis and cirrhosis of the liver. It is most often seen in Bedlington Terriers. Dog less can six years old can have an acute form of the disorder, while chronic liver failure is found in older dogs. It is also possible for some dogs to be carriers without exhibiting any symptoms themselves. Skye Terriers, Doberman Pinschers, and West Highland White Terriers also show elevated copper levels as a symptom of genetic liver disease. The copper levels of West Highland White and Bedlington Terriers are more elevated in those of North American Descent when compared to the same breeds of European descent. Drugs which bind copper, known as chelators, along with a low copper diet and other supportive methods are used for treating liver disease. It is important that the directions from the veterinarian are followed very carefully.
Hepatic cysts can also occur. These are cysts in the liver which usually have no symptoms. However, they can occur in conjunction with polycystic kidney disease and because of this the vet must determine if it is cysts or abscesses on the liver.