Poorly puppy has to be fed in high chair due to rare illness

The owner of a special Derby puppy has explained how a medical condition means he has to be fed upright in a specially designed chair. Cooper, a Labrador puppy, suffers from a throat condition that if fed normally could cause him a number of problems.

Emma Mas-Lilleman, 43, a Royal Mail worker from Mackworth, fostered Cooper from the Yappy Ever After shelter in November 2021. He had been given up by the breeder, along with his sister, due to the throat condition – congenital megaoesophagus (ME ) – which prevents food from being pushed down into the stomach.

Emma said: “Cooper and his sister were not well enough to sell as healthy puppies, so the breeder gave them up to Yappy Ever After. I took them both in, his sister hasn’t got it as severe and they’re managing her well.

Read more: All the latest dog stories from across Derby and Derbyshire

“In humans or other animals, they have a tube in the esophagus which contracts and allows food to go to the stomach, and his doesn’t do that. The food goes in and just drops in and lands near his stomach so if he bends forward it comes back out again.

“We have to feed him upright in his chair and he sits in it for about 20 minutes to half an hour to help the food digest. We nearly lost him three times when he caught pneumonia.”

Going through this routine of being fed upright four times a day, Emma admits his condition can be hard to manage. They have had to find a correct balance of food and frequency of meals, but also give him smooth food with no lumps.

Because of his complicated condition, Cooper’s weight has fluctuated, sometimes weighing as little as five kilos, whereas a healthy Labrador will weigh around 22 kilos. He has also suffered from another condition that impacted his mobility.



Emma (right) and her family fostered Cooper in the hopes of managing his conditions.

She added: “A couple of months ago we got up in the morning and he just couldn’t walk at all. He lost all the use in his back legs, so we took him to Scarsdale Vets and did some tests that came to £4,500.

“Through the tests they found out he had polyarthritis which is when your body is fighting an infection. The immune system knows you’re not well so it fights it, but it doesn’t know what it’s fighting so it’s attacking its joints.

“They put him on steroids so he’s walking again now and rebuilding his strength and he’s walking again now, but he’s probably about 60 to 70 percent fit. The idea is they reduce the steroids gradually, so it’s just a case of managing his conditions which we don’t know if he’ll have it for the rest of his life or not.”

With a vet bill that currently stands at £6000, food costs of £46 per week and medication costing £40 per week, Emma has set up a fundraiser in the hopes of raising as much money as possible for Cooper’s treatment.

“Cooper will always have his ME. How long will Cooper live? That depends on Cooper. He’s fighting and not giving up any time soon,” Emma added.

“As a foster family, we are trying our hardest to get him through this and giving him the best chance we can of survival. It’s been tough to get this far, but it’s been a real fight for Cooper.”

You can access Cooper’s fundraiser here.

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