When she was just six months old, Nala’s family noticed that she was struggling to hold down food. Shortly thereafter, the young German shepherd became weak and started running a fever. And she was shrinking. Concerned for the dog they had grown to love, the McDonald family rushed Nala to their vet for an examination.
A series of x-rays eventually led to a diagnosis: Nala was afflicted with canine megaesophagus, a condition that causes muscles in the esophagus to fail, allowing food and water to escape the stomach and come back up. Considering her age, in many cases that diagnosis could have proved fatal. When faced with lifelong afflictions, owners of pets diagnosed at a young age commonly choose euthanasia. Christine McDonald say that was the last thing on her mind.
“I think anyone who has an animal, if you choose to have an animal we fall in love with them and they’re part of your family,” McDonald said. “I mean, you’d do anything to keep a family member alive and it is the same thing with her.”
After researching the condition, the McDonalds built a modified version of the Bailey Chair, a sort of high chair for dogs that allows gravity to do the work that Nala’s esophageal muscles cannot.
Nala has been using her chair for three years now with terrific results: she is healthy at 80 pounds, is happy and energetic. She spends 25 minutes in her chair after each meal, allowing food and water to fully settle in her stomach before resuming normal activity. Her chair is comfortable enough that she often falls asleep in it.
Does Nala’s condition make for more work than the average dog owner will face? Only a little, according to the McDonalds, and they say it pales in comparison to they joy that Nala’s companionship brings them.