We've been fostering a German Shepherd with mega-esophagus. If you've never heard of that (like us), it's a genetic condition. The diameter of the esophagus is much bigger than a normal one and lacks any tone, so it's like a deflated balloon. Therefore, food doesn't move along as it should and sits in the esophagus until it's full and the dog regurgitates everything she's eaten a few hours later.
At first she threw up once in a while, but when it became every three days or so, my husband took her to the vet, which is where we got the diagnosis. The vet said there's not much to be done, just feed her in an elevated position and wet down the kibble so that it's soft. He basically inferred that it was a death sentence and offered to put her down right there.
Not ready for that - by that time we were in love with Ash. We ordered one of those feeders that lets the dog eat and drink standing up. We fed her a raw diet of soft food to maximize nutrition. The info I could get on the internet said that life expectancy was 7 months. She was a little over a year old at that point. For a while, the new regimen seemed to be working okay; but gradually, she quit doing puppy things: stealing my shoes, rough housing with our blue heeler, but still doing well on walks: excited, keeping up, exploring.
I actually missed her stealing my shoes - it was a worry, but everything else seemed okay. She was a bit thin still, but otherwise had a shiny coat and bright eyes.
At some point there began a rapid deterioration: throwing up every day, rapid weight loss, listless, couldn't keep up with the other dogs on a walk, laid down to rest every chance and had noisy breathing. That's the other thing with mega-esophagus - it can be aspirated into the lungs and cause pneumonia.
I prayed and prayed and researched some more, this time finding more helpful information, that the condition is not a death sentence, that a Bailey chair (basically a doggie highchair) would allow gravity to take the food down to her stomach. While we waited for our son to build the chair, I would sit next to her and make her sit upright while I held the bowl for her to eat, then made her sit upright for 20-30 minutes after she finished. She seemed to feel, as my husband said, If this is your idea of bonding, it sucks.
Unfortunately, at that point, even that didn't work. I'd get up in the middle of the night when she began to regurgitate foul smelling vomit and hold her up some more, hoping that gravity would send it the other direction instead.
How hard it was to watch her waste away. There'd be a day when what I was doing seemed to be working. She revived and was her old self, playing and running around; but then hope would be dashed. A night of continual vomiting followed by a resumption of listlessness. Three days ago she stopped wanting to eat, next she didn't even want water, and yesterday morning she died sometime between 5:15 and 7.
She was gentle, obedient and learned so quickly it hardly seemed like training. How could she have this fatal flaw? I miss her. It's hard to find the right adverb to say how much.