Annie's Tale

An Owner's Account of dealing with the 'Gulpies'

I just wanted to share with owners whose Wheatens endure episodes of the 'Gulpies'.

I adopted Annie from a breeder when she was three and a half years old, but over the last 2 years have had a heck of a time with Gulpies


I took her to a specialist in my area and he is phenomenal with her. He initially prescribed Cisapride for her twice a day along with Prilosec twice a day.

We tried this for almost two years. Although it helped, she still had episodes to the point she’d eaten the bottoms off three panels of my drapes as well as other things. So obviously you can’t leave them alone for a second while they have their episodes.

In the past she would tremble terribly and her tummy would get so much air that she’d be uncomfortable that I’d have to burp her. The episodes would literally last 2-3 days. We’d go through lots of Tums.

I took Annie back for her six monthly check about a month ago to her specialist and told him that I feel like she needs some kind of muscle relaxer for her throat because the “Gulpies” seemed to be throat related on top of acid reflux. He informed me that for some of his clients he’d prescribed Viagra. He said Viagra in dogs works as a muscle relaxer, unlike it’s use in humans.

At this point I’d try anything because some of Annie’s episodes can be really bad and they scare her terribly. So, I had to discontinue her Cisapride for two weeks and then start the Sildenifil (It’s the generic for Viagra). She has now been on it for two weeks and twice she started to get Gulpies but it never progressed into an episode because her throat was relaxed and nothing transpired. She looked at me as though thinking 'OMG, here we go' but then just walked away and she was fine - NEVER did I think I’d EVER see this day.

She got a very mild episode yesterday morning with her breakfast and it was so mild that I couldn’t even believe it. She was done with it within 30 minutes and I was even able to let her outside without her harness on. We’d have to always make sure her harness was on when she had Gulpies to keep her from mowing the grass

This morning I was feeding her and she started with a very very mild “gulping” so I started massaging her throat and again, she never developed into a full blown “Gulpies” episode. It lasted maybe 15 minutes (instead of hours/days) but very very mild and manageable.

I’m thrilled beyond my wildest imagination that something has finally helped her Gulpies. I’ve tried EVERYTHING between Probiotics, Slippery Elm, elevated food/water dishes, OTC acid meds, Manuka honey, and so much more.

Nothing worked. I even make her food into “meatball” form and hand feed her 10 meatballs twice a day per her specialists recommendation due to her swallowing problems. When we first went to him I showed him videos of her episodes and he watched and listened to them intently. He asked lots of questions and then did a barium swallow test which revealed the muscle in her esophagus did not open and close properly which was causing tiny bits of food to hang up in her esophagus which then caused her to constantly swallow and lick. He took the time to feed her dog food and water while doing the swallow test along with the barium.

I know how hard it is living with a dog that has this issue as you feel like you can never leave the house because you never know when their going to start Gulping, eating everything in the house including the kitchen sink or going outside and mowing the grass by eating so much grass.

This may not be for everyone but it has helped Annie so far. Although she still gets Gulpies, the episodes are mild and only last for maybe 30 minutes and she hasn’t had a full blown episode.

She’s been on the Viagra for 10 days now. After she’s been on it for 2 weeks I have to call her doctor to let him know how she’s doing.

I can’t believe the relief I feel with this change. I honestly thought I’d never be able to leave on vacation ever again because of Gulpies unless we could bring Annie with us. I just didn’t think I could trust anyone handling her Gulpies except me.

Now I feel like we have some hope - she is the love of my life and I can’t imagine ever being without her.

She is the most beautiful and gentle and loving dog I’ve ever had.

I will keep you informed of any changes in her with this new medication and gulpies.

Update June 2021

I just wanted to post an update on my Annie using Viagra for her “Gulpies”. She has now been on Viagra/Sildenafil for close to 6 weeks. During this time I’ve seen an improvement in the frequency of her episodes as well as duration.

It took approximately 2-3 weeks to start to see a real difference in the medicine. Prior to Sildenafil she was taking Cisapride twice a day which helped some but did not completely eliminate “Gulpies”.

After starting the Sildenafil I was giving it to her when I started feeding her meals to her. I’ve since learned to give the medication 30 minutes prior to starting a meal in order for the medication to begin working. Sildenafil works as a muscle relaxer in dogs. She gets Sildenafil and Prilosec twice a day prior to meals.

I’ve seen a big difference in her episodes. In the past almost 6 weeks she has had 2 episodes of Gulpies and maybe 3 times they tried to start but nothing progressed. In the past she would have at least one episode a week and it would last 1-3 days. The first 2 hours were the worst and then the Gulpies would resolve to minor gulping and indigestion/burping over the next day or so due to the intake of lots of air with Gulpies.

The first episode of Gulpies after starting this new med was very very mild and only lasted maybe an hour. The second episode she had was completely my fault. I got overconfident that she was improving that I started giving her bites of bananas, a few licks of yogurt and ice cream and some of her lamb treats. Bad idea on my part as she got a big case of Gulpies after her second piece of Banana. Lesson learned!!!!!! I take full responsibility of this bad episode as she is not familiar with “people” food.

Now that I’ve learned she still cannot have “people” food we’ve stayed on “her diet”. She has had a few “starts” of Gulpies while hand feeding her meals to her but they dissipate almost as fast as they try to begin. You can tell the Sildenafil calms the muscles in her throat and the Gulpies are not able to progress. She tries to gulp but basically, she can not make that motion with her throat muscles. I am so far, very happy with the results of this new medication and as long as I stick with her dog food and no people food I think we will see a continued improvement.

Again, I’m not telling everyone who experiences Gulpies with their dog to run out and get Sildenafil as you really need to talk with your vet but it has helped us tremendously. I just wanted to post this and keep you updated with our experiences because sooooo many people experience this and it is life changing.

Thank you all for your time and meaningful comments in the past and I hope someday we can eliminate “Gulpies” completely.

Update 17 August 2021

Just giving an update on Annie since starting Sildenafil/Viagra for “Gulpies”

She has been on Sildenafil for approximately 3-4 months. It has made a huge difference in the amount of episodes and the duration of them as well and the severity of her episodes. It has taken me some time to adjust things with the medicine but I think I have now nailed down what is working.

The Sildenafil works as a muscle relaxer in dogs so with that, I’ve found that giving her the Sildenafil 30-45 minutes prior to her meal works the best. It allows the medicine to start working by calming her throat muscles.

I’ve made her meatballs very small, about the size of a nickel, maybe a bit bigger. The doctor suggested they be small enough for her just to swallow or chew 1-2 times and then swallow. All food must be in this meatball form for better “swallowing” for Annie.

She did have a barium swallow test about 2 years ago and we discovered she has difficulties swallowing water and food that was not in “meatball” form.

I continue to hand feed her one meatball at a time and separate them out about a minute between each bite. This may seem excessive to some people but it seems to be working and she has only had about 4 episodes since starting the Sildenafil which were very mild as opposed to having an episode every 4-6 days. I can certainly live with one episode a month.

Certainly, as I feed her I can tell the way she swallows that an episode is going to start so I immediately stop feeding her and begin massaging her throat and calming her. I discontinue her feeding until the episode has passed comfortably.

I hope this info helps anyone who may be frustrated by “Gulpies”.

Certainly do not go out and buy Viagra for your dog without consulting your vet. We’ve had MANY visits with her doctor and have tried several drugs. Her specialist follows her care and symptoms very carefully and we are thankful for such wonderful care.

We didn’t jump into using Sildenafil/Viagra right off the top.

Update November 2021

Two and a half weeks ago she had an Upper GI/ Endoscopy with biopsies. It revealed a large amount of inflammation in her colon and upper GI tract. The specialist started her on a hydrolyzed diet, Flagyl (antibiotic) and a steroid. She still takes Viagra twice a day 30-45 min before each meal.

All of these changes have brought us to a point where Annie has actually been able to eat out of a dog bowl with her food given in 4 increments as opposed to all at once which would trigger Gulpies. This is the first time in 2.5 years that Annie has eaten out of a dog bowl. I no longer have to make her food in “meatball” form or feed her one meatball at a time over a 15-20 min period!!!! 

Reducing all of her inflammation with the medications and starting a hydrolyzed diet has made a miracle happen. We’ve gone 2 weeks without Gulpies. She is a rambunctious dog, running around like crazy. Prior to this she had lost 9 pounds and was skin and bones and we couldn’t figure out what was happening. She just wasn’t feeling well and her Gulpies were horrible!!!!!  Her IBD had gotten so bad in her gut and we had no idea. She was eating just fine but having 5-7 bowel movements per day. She was not retaining any nutrients at all. The biopsies also revealed that she is not absorbing B12 so she is on a supplement daily. 

I also place her food in the freezer for about 30-40 min to freeze it up a bit to help her throat and not trigger Gulpies. 

All of these things have change her life and mine completely. I don’t know how long this will last but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it is forever!!!!

Deby Miller-Dato