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. The 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.


Here is a postmortem of a torn esophagus.


















Click here to view a video of 'Freek' 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


Credit to  Sable Ranch for this information

Excessive loss of saliva in a 2 year old Friesian stallion suffering from an oesophageal obstruction as a result of Megaesophagus

Healthy esophagus

Endoscopic view of  Megaesophagus

Megaoesophagus with longitudinal rupture in a 12 year old Friesian (Utrecht, Veterinary Pathology,