It takes a special family to take in a special-needs dog, but the Sullivans of Grand Rapids, MI, would probably argue that their Tink is a special special-needs dog!
She was born with a condition called megaesophagus, which prevents food and water from ever making it to her stomach.
“The esophagus, how it works, is it kind of squeezes the food and water down in a wave-like motion. We call that peristalsis. And because she can’t do that, when she eats or drinks, the food just stays in the esophagus,” Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Jeremy Hutchinson of Weisner Innis & Schoen told Fox 17 West Michigan.
An upright position ensures the food will move down to her tummy. Otherwise, she will throw it back up. And so since she was 9 weeks old, she has taken meals, four times daily, in what’s called a “bailey chair,” essentially a high chair for dogs.
After that, just like a human baby, she has to be burped.
“For about five minutes we typically burp her, as crazy as that sounds. And then we do a throat massage where we get in deep to the esophagus and just try to help move the food down,” says Tom Sullivan.
It’s a big commitment, of course.
“What ends up happening is the animal might be euthanized because the owners can’t handle or can’t dedicate the time and effort it takes, or they suffer from malnutrition,” says Hutchinson.
Survival rates are low but the Sullivans have so far kept Tink happy and healthy. They say online support groups and information gleaned from experienced owners dealing with the same condition have been essential in helping them give Tink the chance at life the deserves.