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Vascular Ring Anomalies in Dogs

Persistent Right Aortic Arch in Dogs

Vascular ring anomalies in dogs refer to congenital abnormalities of the heart’s blood vessels that lead to the compression of the esophagus at the base of the heart. This compression causes a condition known as megaesophagus, where solid food cannot pass properly beyond the compressed area, leading to dilation of the esophagus. As a result, dogs experience regurgitation due to the improper movement of food through the esophagus.

Symptoms and Types

German Shepherds, Irish Setters, and Boston Terriers are the breeds most frequently affected by vascular ring anomalies. The condition manifests with the following symptoms:

  • Regurgitation of undigested solid food in young dogs (under 6 months of age)
  • Malnourishment
  • Aspiration pneumonia leading to coughing, increased heart rate, and heavy breathing
  • The time interval between eating and regurgitation varies.


Vascular ring anomalies in dogs stem from developmental congenital abnormalities.


Typically, a comprehensive physical examination and standard blood testing are conducted. However, accurate diagnosis often requires imaging procedures such as thoracic radiographs (X-rays), contrast esophagography (commonly with barium), fluoroscopy, and/or angiography.


For dogs with aspiration pneumonia, antibiotics and oxygen supplementation may be necessary. Surgery to correct the vascular entrapment is typically recommended. However, if surgical intervention is delayed, the esophagus may sustain permanent damage due to the entrapment. In such instances, long-term specialized feeding methods for megaesophagus, such as placing food on an elevated surface or feeding the dog in an upright position with processed food, may be required indefinitely.

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