Abstract Congenital idiopathic megaoesophagus (CIM) is a rare, naturally occurring disorder of the dog that is characterised by deficient motility and dilatation of the oesophagus. Recent studies indicate that the vagal sensory system mediating reflexes induced by oesophageal distension is defective in, and may underlie the pathomechanism of this disorder. We sought to establish whether other distension sensitive vagal afferent systems were impaired in CIM, or whether the vagal afferent dysfunction was selective. Thus, we examined the Hering–Breuer lung inflation reflex (HBR), which is subserved by a contiguous and physiologically similar vagal afferent system, in five dogs with CIM in which oesophageal vagal afferent dysfunction had been demonstrated. At varying levels of lung inflation, we found the HBR to be normally graded and of normal strength in affected dogs and that this result was unlikely to be influenced by other factors known to alter the strength of the reflex. These observations provide evidence for an organ specific, selective vagal afferent dysfunction in dogs with CIM. It is possible that similar processes may be active in disorders of visceral organ systems subserved by vagal afferents in other species, including man.