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Tube Feeding - Esophagostomy Tubes in Cats

By Ernest Ward, DVM

Nutrition, Treatment, Others, Pet Services

esophagostomy_tube_feedingAn esophagostomy tube is a small rubber tube that enters the esophagus through a surgical incision on the side of the neck. This allows food to be placed directly into the esophagus so that it can flow down into the stomach. The feeding tube is not placed directly into the stomach.

An esophagostomy tube is used in cats that have jaw fractures or other mouth injuries that prevent normal or adequate eating, or in cats with diseases that have anorexia as a symptom.

How do I feed my cat through the tube?

You will syringe a special liquid diet or a homemade mixture through the tube two to five times per day. This food is formulated to meet your cat's nutritional needs; it should not cause vomiting or diarrhea. To feed your cat, follow these steps:

1. Prepare the food by combining the following ingredients in a blender:

1 can (14 oz or 396 gm) of a high quality feline growth food +

10 oz (300 mls) of water +

2 oz (60 mls) _of vegetable oil +

8 potassium chloride tablets

Run the blender at high 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.



2. Remove the cap from the feeding tube.

3. Using the syringes provided, inject ________ cc of the food into your cat's feeding tube ________ times per day FOR A TOTAL OF ________ cc PER 24 HOURS. It is helpful to inject the food slowly, about 1 cc per second, and to elevate your cat's front feet so that the food goes easily into the stomach.

"Inject 5 cc of tap water through the tube to flush any remaining food from the tube."

4. After you have given the appropriate amount of food, inject 5 cc of tap water through the tube to flush any remaining food from the tube. Replace the cap on the tube.

5. Any remaining food should be stored in the refrigerator. Before the next feeding, you should warm it to body temperature under hot tap water or in a microwave oven. If you heat it in a microwave oven, be sure to mix the contents thoroughly prior to feeding because of the potential for uneven heating. Always check the temperature prior to feeding to be sure that the food is not too hot by placing food on the back of your hand.

NOTE:  Technically, a cubic centimeter (cc) and a milliliter (ml) are slightly different. However, for our purposes, a cc is the same as a ml. Syringes are often marked in cc's.

When and how is the feeding tube removed?

Some cats require several weeks of tube feeding before healing occurs and/or their appetite returns. At least twice weekly, offer your cat a small amount of its favorite food by mouth so that you will know when its appetite is improving. The esophagostomy tube will not hinder chewing or swallowing. After your cat has been eating well for three to four days, you should book an appointment for a recheck examination and tube removal. Removal of the tube is simple and does not require anesthesia; however, you should not attempt to remove the tube on your own.

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