FunNature & AnimalViagra could help treat dogs with megaesophagus

Viagra could help treat dogs with megaesophagus

A new study conducted by researchers at the Washington State University School of Veterinary Medicine and published in the American Journal of Veterinary Research has concluded that sildenafil, a generic component of the well-known blue pill, Viagra, could help dogs suffering from a rare disorder known as megaesophagus.

The dogs that suffer from this pathology have an enlarged esophagus, something that hinders the ability of this organ to drive food to the stomach . As a consequence, food accumulates in the lower part of the stomach. If the problem is not treated properly, the animal will regurgitate food and it could end up in the lungs, leading to dangerous aspiration pneumonia . Precisely this complication can end the life of the dog, as indicated by Jillian Haines, co-director of the study. Furthermore, many dogs are euthanized within eight months of diagnosis due to poor quality of life .

What scientists have seen is that liquid sildenafil relaxes the smooth muscle in the lower part of the esophagus, causing it to open and allowing food to pass into the stomach. “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’re eating,” Haines said.

Another good news is that no side effects have been seen with the dose used in the study. At most and infrequently, gastrointestinal irritation has been observed.

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

The viagra component is not only used to treat erectile dysfunction but also to treat elevated pulmonary arterial pressure in humans and dogs.

The study involved 10 dogs suffering from megaesophagus (ME). What was done with them was to give them sildenafil or a placebo for two weeks in a row. The animals then went a week without taking any of the compounds, then switched roles so that those taking sildenafil took placebo and those on placebo sildenafil. The researchers gave the dogs a 30-minute videofluoroscopy that uses moving X-rays to see in real time how they swallow.

Owners, meanwhile, had to record their pets’ regurgitation episodes without knowing what their dog had taken, placebo or sildenafil. Although there was no significant difference between placebo and sildenafil during videofluoroscopy, 9 of the 10 owners indicated that their animal regurgitated less during the weeks in which the Viagra compound was administered. In fact, many identified that this was the moment in which the dog had taken the sildenafil because of the change that the animal experienced. A weight gain of the dogs was also observed at the end of the study.

“Affected dogs that regurgitated frequently, but not excessively, seemed to experience the most dramatic results,” says Haines. “In fact, I prescribed sildenafil to several of those patients after the study, and they are still using it today,” Haines explained.

Despite these good results, the animals showing severe signs of the disease did not experience such positive changes. The reason is that in them it was more complicated for the medicine to reach the stomach to be absorbed.

ME has been shown to run in families in several breeds, including wire-haired fox terriers and miniature schnauzers . Other dogs that may be predisposed to it are the German Shepherd, the Newfoundland, the Great Dane, the Irish Setter, the Shar-Pei, the Greyhound and the Labrador .

The study is promising, but according to Haines, more research is needed on sildenafil.

 

Referencia: American Journal of Veterinary Research (2022, January 21). A randomized crossover study of compounded liquid sildenafil for treatment of generalized megaesophagus in dogs, Susan O. Mehain, Jillian M. Haines DVM, and Sarah C. Guess, DOI: https://doi.org/10.2460/ajvr.21.02.0030

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