Tube Feeding - Esophagostomy Tubes in Dogs

By Ernest Ward, DVM

Nutrition, Treatment

December 10, 2008

What is an esophagostomy tube?

esophagostomy_tube_feedingThe esophagus is the muscular tube that transports food from the mouth to the stomach.

"The esophagostomy tube allows food to be delivered to the stomach, by-passing the mouth and pharynx."

An esophagostomy tube is a small rubber tube that is surgically inserted into the esophagus 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).

What food is used with an esophagostomy tube?

In order to pass through the feeding tube, the food must be liquified by mixing it with water. Most pets 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. For your pet, your veterinarian may recommend a different diet, based on its 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 premium quality puppy or growth food + 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.

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How do I feed my pet through an esophagostomy tube?

gastrostomy_tube_feeding-1_20091. Remove the cap from the feeding tube.

2. 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-cc per second, and to elevate your dog's front feet so the food goes easily into the stomach. (Note:  Some measuring devices are measured in milliliters (ml) and others in cubic centimeters (cc). For our purposes, one ml equals one cc.)

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

4. Any remaining blenderized 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 it in a microwave oven, be sure to thoroughly mix the contents prior to feeding to minimize uneven heating. Always check the temperature prior to feeding to be sure that it is not too hot. If the food is too warm, you may inadvertently injure your pet's esophagus or stomach.

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

When is the tube removed?

This 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, you should not attempt to remove it yourself.

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