There are a variety of feeding tubes that can be placed in dogs and cats to assist in the administration of foods and medications. These tubes are used during times of serious illness when a pet will not voluntarily eat or drink. One of the more common types of feeding tubes used is called an esophagostomy tube.
An esophagostomy tube is a flexible latex tube, approximately the diameter of pencil and up to ten inches long.
Patients are anesthetized during placement of the tube for their comfort. Once anesthetized, the fur is clipped and the skin aseptically prepared on the left side of the neck. The feeding tube is inserted through a small skin incision and then directed into the esophagus. The tube is secured in place with skin sutures. A light-fitting bandage is placed around the neck to keep the tube clean and safe from damage. At the end of the tube a syringe can be attached to administer blenderized food, water and liquid medications.
Left: Esophagostomy tube placement procedure.
Right: Tube bandaged and ready for use.
Esophagostomy tubes can be left in place for extended periods of time, even months, if needed. Patients are discharged home with the tube in place and they are used at home by their owners. When the patient is again voluntarily eating, the tube is very easily removed during an outpatient appointment. Anesthesia is not typically required to remove the tube.