Myasthenia Gravis may be the Cause

Question:
Why does my Jack Russell (5 months) get sick when he drinks? Every time the poor little guy gets a drink, especially first thing in morning, he throws it back up.

Dr. Nichol:
If little Jack (May I call him Jack?) is like others of his ilk, he does everything fast. If he is just guzzling water fiendishly, a Drink Better bowl would be a great way of slowing him down. But there may be much more to his problem. He could have megaesophagus – a bulging of the tube that runs from the throat to the stomach.

Some Jack Russell terriers carry a genetic predisposition for myasthenia gravis (MG), a disorder of the chemical transmitters at the nerve/muscle junction. Many dogs with MG suffer with generalized muscle weakness, often too tired for play or exercise. But for others the primary problem is in the esophagus. Rather than being pushed along to the stomach, food and water can accumulate in a pouch (megaesophagus) and get regurgitated.

Untreated myasthenia gravis could cause Jack to lose significant weight. If he hiccups as he regurgitates he might inhale food and water into his lungs, resulting in aspiration pneumonia, a severe and potentially fatal infection.

You could gamble and just elevate Jack’s bowl so he has to stand like a person to drink but for the best shot at a good long life he needs a diagnosis. Barium x-rays of his chest and neck would identify esophageal problems. A blood sample can then be submitted for an acetylcholine receptor antibody titer. If Jack is positive his doctor can prescribe a medication called Mestinon. Get after it soon. A “wait-and-see” approach would only court disaster. Young Jack sounds like way too good a puppy for benign neglect.