Viagra could become a ‘life-saving and changing’ drug for dogs

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Viagra could be given to dogs with a rare eating disorder that can cause pneumonia, becoming a “life-saving and life-changing” drug.

Sildenafil, the generic version of Viagra, has been tested by a team of veterinarians at Washington State University in Pullman to treat a condition called megaesophagus.

The condition involves enlargement of the esophagus and loss of the organ’s ability to move food into the stomach, which lets food accumulate in the lower esophagus and, if left untreated , can cause aspiration pneumonia.

It is actually a number of conditions, resulting in the enlargement of the esophagus, and has been shown to be inherited in a number of breeds, including Wirehaired Fox Terriers and Miniature Schnauzers.

Other breeds that may be predisposed are the German Shepherd, Newfoundland, Great Dane, Irish Setter, Shar-Pei, Greyhound, and Labrador Retriever.

Given in liquid form, the medication relaxes the smooth muscle of the lower esophagus so that it can open and allow food to pass into the stomach, thereby providing relief to the dog.

Viagra could be given to dogs with a rare eating disorder that can cause pneumonia, becoming a ‘life-saving and changing’ drug

Ten dogs with the disease, megaesophagus, were enrolled in the study and given either a placebo or sildenafil for two weeks, then a week without any medication, before switching them and taking whatever they didn’t. had not received before.

Owners were required to keep a diary of all regurgitation episodes during the five-week study, but they did not know what medication their dog was taking.

“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, who co-leads the study.

Other than a few rare gastrointestinal irritations, the team found no side effects in the dogs from the drug, at the dose used in the study.

Although sildenafil is best known for treating erectile dysfunction in men, the drug is also used to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension in dogs and men.

“There are no medications we can use to manage megaesophagus,” Haines said, adding that “sildenafil is the first to target these mechanisms and reduce regurgitation, which is important because it’s is what ultimately kills these dogs.”

The surgery can damage the nerves supplying the penis, leaving up to eight out of ten patients with erectile dysfunction (ED). Many will need lifelong medication, such as Viagra, but medication does not work in all cases (stock image)

“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.”

MEGAESOPAGE: A RARE FEEDING DISORDER IN DOGS

Megaesophagus is a combined disorder in which the esophagus enlarges and loses its ability to move food through the stomach.

This can cause food and fluid to build up in the esophagus.

Regurgitation is the most common sign of megaesophagus, where food and water float up the esophagus and, with the help of gravity, are released.

There are two types of megaesophagus.

Congenital megaesophagus, where the animal is born with the disease, and acquired megaesophagus which occurs later in life, in young adults and middle-aged animals.

The team used videofluoroscopy, which provides a real-time image of swallowing, to monitor liquid and later mixed moist food as it passed through the esophagus.

There was no significant difference between placebo and sildenafil during a 30-minute videofluoroscopy, however, nine of 10 owners reported a reduction in regurgitation during the two weeks that liquid sildenafil was administered.

“In many cases, owners were able to figure out which drug sildenafil was because it worked,” Haines said, adding that they also gained weight.

“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.”

Unfortunately, the results weren’t as positive for dogs with severe signs of the disease because it was more difficult to get the drug into the stomach for absorption.

While the study is promising, Haines said there is still a lot to know about the drug and hopes future studies will further investigate its use 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.

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

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