Esophagostomy Tube Feeding in Dogs

By Krista Williams, BSc, DVM, CCRP; Ernest Ward, DVM

What is an esophagostomy tube?

An esophagostomy tube is a small rubber tube that is surgically inserted into the esophagus (the muscular tube that transports food from the mouth to the stomach) through the skin of the neck. The esophagostomy tube allows food to be delivered to the stomach, by-passing the mouth and pharynx (back of the throat). This type of feeding tube is not placed directly into the stomach.

What food is used with an esophagostomy tube?

In order to pass through the feeding tube, the food must be liquefied by mixing it with water. Most dogs that require a feeding tube need a high calorie diet to meet their nutritional needs. Premium brands of puppy food will often meet these needs. Your veterinarian may recommend a different diet, based on your pet’s individual needs. The liquid food mixture is administered by a syringe through the tube three to five times per day. To prepare the food for your dog, follow these steps:

  • Place one can of the recommended diet + 10 oz (300 ml) of water in a blender and run it at the high speed (liquefy) until the food is uniformly mixed.
  • After mixing, pour the food through a kitchen strainer to remove any chunks or clumps of unblended food.

OR, follow these instructions provided by your veterinarian:




How do I feed my dog through the tube?

  • Remove the cap from the feeding tube.

  • Flush the tube with 5-10 ml of water to ensure it is not clogged.

  • Using the feeding syringe provided, inject _____________ ml of the food into your dog's feeding tube _____________ times per day for a TOTAL of _____________ ml PER 24 HOURS. It is helpful to inject the food slowly, about 1 ml per second. Elevate your dog's front feet so the food goes easily into the stomach.

  • When the food has been injected, rinse 10 ml of water through the tube to flush any remaining food from the tube. Replace the cap on the feeding tube.

  • Any remaining food should be stored in the refrigerator. Before the next feeding, the food should be warmed to body temperature under hot tap water or in a microwave oven. If you heat it in a microwave oven, be sure to thoroughly mix the contents prior to feeding to minimize uneven heating. To be sure the food is not too hot, always check the temperature prior to feeding by placing food on the back of your hand. It should feel slightly warm.

  • Contact your veterinary hospital if you experience any difficulty when feeding your pet through its esophagostomy tube.

Note: Some measuring devices are measured in milliliters (ml) and others in cubic centimeters (cc). For our purposes, one ml equals one cc.

When is the tube removed?

The decision is based on the condition being treated. You will be instructed when to return for a recheck examination. Removal of the tube is simple and does not require anesthesia. However, do not attempt to remove it yourself.

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