What is a feeding tube?

Feeding tubes are used for patients who need continuous nutritional supplementation because they are unable to eat, do not want to eat or are in need of a temporary bypass of a portion of their digestive tract [mouth, esophagus, stomach or intestines].

There are several options which include the following:

Nasoesophageal – the tube passes through the nostril [nose] and is passed down into the esophagus. This is a small diameter tube, and is only for liquid diets.

Pharyngostomy – the tube passes from the back of the mouth into the esophagus. A larger tube can be used but it does require general anesthesia.

Esophagostomy – similar to the pharyngostomy tube but passes from the neck into the esophagus.

Gastrostomy tube – passes through the left side of the abdomen [belly] directly into the stomach. This tube can be placed blindly through the skin [special instrumentation], by using an endoscope, or when doing abdominal surgery.

Enterostomy – passes through skin of abdomen directly into small intestines. This tube is placed when doing abdominal surgery.

Once the tube has been placed, the site where it enters the skin must be cleaned daily. Feeding instructions [type of food, consistency of food, frequency of feeding and amount to be fed] will be calculated for each individual patient. The tube will need to be protected with either a bandage or a shirt. The patient may also require an Elizabethan collar.

Please discuss with your primary care veterinarian if your pet might benefit from a feeding tube.

-Dr. Lesley Phillips

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