Sunday, February 12, 2017


Megaesophagus in Friesians is on the talk boards a lot lately.  It's common in dogs and has been seen in other breeds. But with the Friesians there are unique traits associated with the disorder.

Symptoms include chronic choke and swelling/deformation of the area where the esophagus is on the neck. Loss of weight (because of the swallowing complications) Some horses have nasal discharge from the backup of feed. (See photo).

This is a lot more than just a choking disorder, it's actually on the cellular level of the esophageal structure. The malformation results in impaired function of the esophagus which then results in choke and debris collecting in the esophagus. Some horses have mild cases and can be managed with moist food, frequent small mash meals, elevated eating and lifestyle adjustments. Decreased exercise can also help. This disorder is degenerative and develops as the horse ages so there is not cure, just treatment. Some have sever enough deterioration that they have to be put to sleep so evaluation of your horses situation and quality of life is very important.
The best tool for diagnosis is to have contrast radiographs or endoscope. When scoped there is a clear difference in a unaffected horse vs a horse with megaesophagus. On Autopsy Friesians with Megaesophagus usually have thickened esophageal walls and not much sign of food pockets or tissue degeneration from obstructions fermenting. Further examination of the tissue also shows decreased elastin, and disorganized collagen. Where other breeds tended to have a fold or pocket that deteriorated or other degradation to the tissue.

There is some belief that because in Friesians the megaesophagus is related to abnormal collagen that it could be hereditary, there are no genetic tests in place to prove or disprove this but it's something that should be addressed. So if you have a horse with Megaesophagus and want to share their pedigree that would be appreciated. The more information we have the better chance we have at helping our horses. Fenway Foundation is trying to research  Megaesophagus and it's link to the collagen disorder, they even believe it can be linked with CPL and Aortic Rupture. They are not disclosing blood lines, but if you would like to share that information either privately with me or publicly on the blog I'm happy to share whatever information I can.

Here is a postmortem of a torn esophagus.

This is a video of Freerk, a Friesian with Megaesophagus. The information in the video was provided by the owner, Thank you. It is to help other owners with similar situations, however your veterinarian needs to be consulted for your specific case. If you have any information to share about your success or struggles please share that with us so that we can help more people through this situation
VIDEO - Freerk

Research Gate A
Slide show with some information, independent source
Article C
Fenway Info


  1. Do you have any pictures of how to get the horse upright or vertical to eat? Saw one years ago in a barn with a rig that allowed the horse to sit on a bale of hay and eat comfortably. Cannot find it and wondering how they are fed.

  2. I have not seen one where they have to sit on a bale of hay to eat. that may not be practical for a 1400 horse. But an elevated hay net or raising the feeder to where the height is above the withers should be sufficient to create downward flow of the neck.

  3. I have a Friesian w/ Mega E. There is much more to consider, other than just feeding height. With dry hay or roughage the blockages can still occur or usually will. Drenching/wetting of roughage is highly suggested. AS well as soaked/watery feed.My Friesian eats appx. at knee height. Too high and the esophagus gets a bend in it, too low and they are not assisted enough.
    This is a trial and error process, however they can maintain and be healthy this way.

  4. Thank you for putting up this information and photos. My 19yo Friesian has had a good half dozen episodes of choke this year, out of the blue. It has recently occured to me to start investigating ME as a possible source.

    1. Sorry to hear that. I'm working on posting some videos to help also