Nov. 6 (UPI) -- A Michigan family said a special high chair their dog uses for every meal has a more important purpose than cuteness -- it's the only way she can eat.
Tom Sullivan of Grand Rapids said his family's Labrador retriever, Tink, was born with a condition known as Megaesophagus, which prevents food eaten from the normal position from making its way to the canine's 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," Dr. Jeremy Hutchinson, a veterinarian with Weisner Innis & Schoen, told WXMI-TV.
Sullivan said Tink takes all of her meals in a "bailey chair," a special eating seat that bears a strong resemblance to a baby's high chair.
"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," Sullivan said.
Hutchinson said the survival rate for the condition is low, and many dog diagnosed with the condition end up euthanized.
"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," he said.
Sullivan said veterinarians initially recommended euthanasia when Tink was first diagnosed at 9 weeks old.
"The first few vets said we should consider euthanizing. So glad we didn't listen," he wrote on Facebook.
"Our vet now loves working with Tink and seeing her success. At 9 weeks she was 5 lbs and looked frail and fragile, and was losing fur everywhere. It was a very slow and steady climb but she's now 1 year and 3 months old and 50 lbs. She has always had tons of energy and loves playing and loving on people. It's been a ton of work, but that dedication is what's kept her in the right track. If you love that pup already then stick with it and give her the best life possible regardless of her condition!"