Pharyngostomy Tube Feeding in Dogs

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

What is a pharyngostomy tube?

A pharyngostomy tube is a small rubber tube that enters the skin through a small incision in the side of the neck. The tube enters the esophagus (the muscular tube that transports food from the mouth to the stomach) through the pharynx (back of the throat), allowing food to bypass the mouth and be delivered to the stomach. The pharyngostomy tube does not go all the way into the stomach because of increased risk of complications.

With the development of so-called gastric peg tubes, pharyngostomy and esophagostomy feeding tubes are not as popular as they used to be; however, these tubes can be useful in certain cases.

What food is used with a pharyngostomy tube, and how do I feed my dog through the tube?

A special liquid diet or a homemade mixture (listed below) is administered by syringe through the tube three to five times per day. This food is formulated to meet your dog's nutritional needs and should not cause vomiting or diarrhea. To feed your dog, follow these steps:

  • Prepare the food. Place one can of the recommended diet + 10 oz (300 ml) of water in a blender and run it at the fastest (liquefy) speed until the food is uniformly mixed. After mixing, pour the food through a kitchen strainer to remove any chunks or clumps of unblended food. Your veterinarian will recommend a diet based on your dog's individual needs.
  • Flush the tube with 5-10 mL of water to ensure it is not clogged.
  • Have your pet lay on its side with the feeding tube facing up. Gently clean around the feeding tube and administration port (opening where you will connect the syringe to the feeding tube). Remove the protective cap from the feeding tube. You may need to release or open an additional safety valve prior to administering the liquefied diet.
  • 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, and to elevate your dog's front feet slightly so the food goes easily into the stomach.
  • After all the food has been injected, flush 10 ml of plain water through the tube to remove any remaining food. Replace the cap on the tube.
  • Any remaining food should be stored in the refrigerator. Before the next feeding, it should be warmed to body temperature under hot tap water or in a microwave oven. If you heat the liquid in a microwave oven, be sure to thoroughly mix the contents prior to feeding because of 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.

If the feeding tube becomes clogged or obstructed, you may try injecting 5 to 10 ml of carbonated cola beverage or fresh pineapple juice to attempt to loosen the obstruction. If you are unable to clear the obstruction, contact your veterinarian for further instructions.

Note: Some metric measuring devices show measurements in milliliters (ml) and others in cubic centimeters (cc). One ml equals one cc.

When will the feeding tube be removed?

The decision to remove the feeding tube is based on the condition being treated. Generally speaking, the objective is to correct the underlying condition and when the pet can resume eating on its own, the tube may be removed. You will be instructed when to return for this procedure; removal of the tube is simple and does not require anesthesia. However, under no circumstances should you attempt to remove it yourself.

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