Viagra shows promise as treatment for canine eating disorder – WSU Insider

PULLMAN, Wash. — Sildenafil, the generic version of the drug known as Viagra, could be the long-awaited cure for a group of dogs with a rare condition called megaesophagus.

The condition involves an enlargement of the esophagus and a loss of the organ’s ability to move food into the stomach, which lets food accumulate in the lower esophagus. If left untreated, many animals regurgitate their food and suck food into their lungs, causing aspiration pneumonia.

“The literature tells us that many dogs with the disease die of aspiration pneumonia or are humanely euthanized due to poor quality of life within eight months of diagnosis,” said Dr. Jillian Haines, veterinarian at Washington State University who co-directed the study. .

Liquid sildenafil has been shown to relax the smooth muscle of the lower esophagus so that it opens up to allow food to pass into the stomach. Other than a few rare gastrointestinal irritations, there were no side effects in the dogs at the dose used in the study. While sildenafil is best known for treating erectile dysfunction, the drug is also used to treat high pulmonary arterial pressure in dogs and humans.

The research, conducted at WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine, was published in the American Journal of Veterinary Research.

“If you look at the literature, there are no drugs that we can use to manage megaesophagus. Sildenafil is the first to target these mechanisms and reduce regurgitation, which is important because that’s what which ultimately kills these dogs,” Haines said. “It opens the lower esophageal sphincter for 20 minutes to an hour, which works really well for dogs because we only want it to open when they eat. .”

WSU Veterinarians Drs. Susan Mehain and Sarah Guess co-directed the study with Haines. The three researchers used videofluoroscopy to monitor liquid and later mixed moist food as it traveled down the esophagus.

Ten dogs with megaesophagus enrolled in the study received either a placebo or sildenafil for two weeks at a time. The dogs then went for a week without any medication. Then the placebo and sildenafil groups were reversed.

Their owners were instructed to record the regurgitation episodes but were not told what drug their dog had taken.

There was no significant difference between placebo and sildenafil during a 30-minute videofluoroscopy, where vets use a moving x-ray to look at how food is swallowed. However, the study found that nine out of 10 owners reported reduced regurgitation during the two weeks the liquid sildenafil was administered.

“In many cases, the owners were able to figure out which drug sildenafil was because it worked,” Haines said.

Enrolled dogs also gained an average of just over 2 pounds at the end of the study.

“Moderately affected dogs that regurgitated frequently but not excessively seemed to see the most dramatic results,” Haines said. “I actually prescribed sildenafil to several of these patients after the study, and they are still using it today.”

Dogs that showed severe signs of the disease did not show such positive results. In these cases, the researchers found that it was more difficult to get the drug into the stomach for absorption.

Although the study is promising, Haines said a lot remains to be known about the drug. She hopes that future studies will look at the use of sildenafil in veterinary medicine.

“A lot of vets are reaching out and asking about this drug,” Haines said. “I believe Sildenafil will be life changing and life saving for many dogs. This research helps support its use and hopefully encourage more people to use it.

Haines said it’s important to note the owners’ efforts in these studies. “It’s always important to recognize owners’ commitment to these studies, because without them, advances in veterinary medicine simply aren’t possible,” she said.


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