In pets whose caloric intake is marginal to poor, consideration should be given to place a feeding
tube to maintain pet nutritional support. This method of feeding is termed enteral nutrition. Feeding tubes are an effective and inexpensive means of providing nutrition to a pet. Several types of feeding tubes exist to provide the pet nutrition. Types of feeding tubes include a nasoesophageal, esophagostomy, gastrostomy and jejunostomy tubes.
Types of feeding tubes for pet nutritional support.
Nasoesophageal tubes are used on a short-term basis for animals that have problems in their mouth or pharyngeal region and cannot tolerate general anesthesia to place the other types of feeding tubes. These tubes are passed through the nasal cavity to the mid level of the esophagus. The size of the tube limits the type of pet nutrition product that can be administered in the form of a liquid. An example of a liquid commercial veterinary pet nutrition product is CliniCare (Abbott Laboratories). It is important to appreciate that human enteral feeding products are not complete and balanced for dogs and cats.
An esophagostomy tube is used for animals that may have a disease of the mouth that prevents them from eating or anorexic animals that have a normal functioning intestinal tract. These tubes are placed in the upper part of the esophagus and they come out the side of the neck. They tend to be large diameter tubes that allow the feeding of thicker consistency pet nutritional products. Placement of esophagostomy tubes requires general anesthesia and the tubes can be maintained for as long as 8 weeks.
Gastrostomy tubes are the preferred choice for long-term enteral feeding, as they can be left in place indefinitely. They require general anesthesia for placement. They can be placed in a relatively non-invasive manner with endoscopy or during abdominal surgery. Long tubes can be replaced with shorter, low profile tubes over time. However, many people find the shorter tubes more difficult to work with when administering food.
Jejunostomy tubes can be placed with endoscopy, but is more commonly placed during an abdominal surgery. They are most commonly used in situations where it is necessary to bypass the upper intestinal tract. This is most common in animals with persistent vomiting, diseases of the stomach and pancreatitis. As with nasoesophageal tubes, liquid commercial veterinary pet nutrition products, such as CliniCare, are used. Use of these tubes typically occurs in the hospital setting, as it typically requires continuously administering the liquid food, rather than feeding on a periodic basis.