Gastrostomy Tube Feeding in Dogs

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

What is a gastrostomy tube?

A gastrostomy tube is a rubber feeding tube that passes directly into the stomach through a small opening in the skin and body wall of the dog's abdomen. It allows you to give food and water to your pet while it is recovering from a condition that prevents it from eating and drinking normally.

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

You will syringe a special liquid diet or a homemade mixture (listed below) through the tube two to five times per day. This food is formulated to meet your dog's nutritional needs and should not cause vomiting or diarrhea. You must wait at least 24 hours before beginning tube feeding to allow the tube to form a seal to the stomach. To feed your dog, follow these steps:

  • Place one can (14 oz or 396 gm) of 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 lumps of unblended food.

OR follow these instructions from your veterinarian:

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  • Have your dog lie 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.

  • Flush the tube with _____________ ml of warm water.

  • Pull back on the syringe plunger and record any volume that fills the syringe. Replace this fluid back into the stomach and notify your veterinarian of the volume that filled the syringe. If there is more than _____________ mL then skip the feeding.

  • 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. Inject the food slowly, about 1 ml per second.

  • After you have given the appropriate amount of food, flush 10 ml of plain water through the tube to remove any remaining food. If the feeding tube clogs, you may try injecting 5 to 10 ml of a carbonated cola beverage or fresh pineapple juice to attempt to loosen the obstruction. If you are unable to clear an obstruction, contact your veterinarian for further instructions. Replace the cap on the tube.

  • Store any remaining food in the refrigerator. Before the next feeding, you should warm the food to body temperature under hot tap water or in a microwave oven. If you heat the food in a microwave oven, be sure to mix the contents thoroughly prior to feeding because of the potential for 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.

Note: Some measuring devices are marked in milliliters (ml) and others in cubic centimeters (cc). Although technically these are slightly different, for our purposes, a cc is the same as a ml.

When and how will the feeding tube be removed?

The decision to remove the feeding tube is based on the condition being treated. The objective is to correct the underlying condition and when your dog is able to resume eating on its own, the tube can be removed. Your veterinarian will advise you when to bring your dog in for tube removal. This procedure is simple and does not require anesthesia. However, under no circumstances should you attempt to remove it yourself.

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