Esophageal balloon dilation is a procedure to treat esophageal strictures, a narrowing caused by scar tissue within the lining of the esophagus. Patients with esophageal strictures have problems swallowing food and sometimes water. This condition may occur following an esophageal obstruction with a foreign body or may be due to regurgitation while under anesthesia. Multiple sessions of balloon dilation are often required for complete resolution of the stricture. The number of sessions varies depending on the severity and location of the stricture, as well as the response to treatment.

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Why it’s done

Your veterinarian may recommend esophageal balloon dilation if your pet has:

  • Difficulty swallowing food or water
  • Regurgitation shortly after eating or drinking
  • Excessive salivation
  • Anorexia
  • Weight loss
  • Aspiration pneumonia

How to prepare for your pet’s procedure

Before your pet’s procedure, you will meet with one of our specialists to talk about the procedure and what to expect.

When you meet with our team, please bring a list of all medications that your pet is currently taking, including over the counter medications, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Before your pet’s procedure, you may be asked to discontinue giving certain medications that can increase the risk of bleeding.

This is a good time to ask questions about the procedure and make sure you understand the risks and benefits.

Preoperative diagnostics and tests

Before your pet’s esophageal balloon dilation the following may be indicated:

  • Comprehensive blood panel
  • Radiographs (x-rays)
  • Fluoroscopy (swallowing study)

General Instructions for the Day of Surgery

  • Give your pet nothing by mouth after midnight the night before. This means that all food and water should be withheld.
  • Please arrive for pet’s admission promptly at your scheduled arrival time.
  • You will be asked to sign both an Anesthetic Consent Form as well as an Estimate, indicating your understanding of the procedure, risks, and associated costs.

What happens during an esophageal balloon dilation procedure?

Your pet will be given a general anesthetic. A combination of fluoroscopy and endoscopy will be used to visualize the location of the narrowing. Special instruments, including a balloon dilator, are passed through the mouth and down the esophagus. The stricture is identified and then slowly stretched open with the balloon dilator. Medication is then injected directly into the site, to aid in healing.


Complications associated with esophageal balloon dilation can include the following:

  • Bleeding
  • Pain
  • Aspiration pneumonia
  • Esophageal tear/perforation
  • Recurrence of the stricture

After the procedure

  • Following the procedure, you will be given a phone call with an update on your pet’s recovery. A scheduled discharge will be coordinated at that time.
  • Please remove the bandage from your pet’s intravenous catheter site 10 to 15 minutes after arriving home.
  • Many patients will not eat the night following anesthesia. If your pet has not eaten after 24 hours of returning home, please call Salt River.
  • Some patients will vomit or have diarrhea following anesthesia. If the vomiting or diarrhea persists more than 24 hours, please call Salt River. In contrast, some patients may be constipated or may not have a bowel movement for up to 72 hours following anesthesia. If your pet is straining to defecate after 72 hours, please call Salt River.
  • Your pet will be sent home with medication to coat the lining of the esophagus as it heals.
  • Feeding guidelines will be provided at the time of discharge.

Follow up

A recheck examination is required 2-4 weeks following the procedure.