A number of options exist for enteral feeding tubes. Factors to consider when choosing the most appropriate tube include the
animal's nutritional status, its ability to tolerate anesthesia, the length of time the animal is expected to require nutritional
support, the function of the animal's gastrointestinal tract (and using as much of the gastrointestinal tract as possible),
available hospital facilities, the cost, and your comfort level with different techniques for tube placement. Detailed information
on placing these feeding tubes is described elsewhere.1-3
Nasoesophageal and nasogastric tubes
Nasoesophageal (NE) and nasogastric (NG) tubes are typically 3.5- to 8-Fr feeding tubes (red rubber, silicone, or polyurethane).
Light sedation may be required; however, applying a local topical anesthetic agent (e.g. ophthalmic proparacaine hydrochloride) to the nares is usually sufficient for tube placement in most animals.
NE tubes terminate in the distal third of the esophagus, whereas NG tubes reach the stomach. There is some thought that NG
tubes may interfere with the lower esophageal sphincter and contribute to gastric reflux; however, this relationship has not
been proved. Placing an NG tube may be preferable if measurement or removal of residual gastric fluid is desirable or if occasional
vomiting is possible. Secure the tube to the nasal planum by using sutures, skin staples, or glue, and perform radiography
to confirm proper placement. Elizabethan collars are usually required to prevent early tube removal (Figure 1).
1. A dog with an NG tube. The dog was anorectic because of acute kidney injury due to leptospirosis, so enteral feeding was
used to provide nutrition and to help maintain gastrointestinal function. An E-collar was used to reduce the risk of early
Potential reasons to avoid placing an NE or NG tube include severe thrombocyctopenia, underlying coagulopathy (epistaxis may
occur), or dyspnea since one nostril will be occluded. NE and NG tubes require a liquid diet and are best used for short-term
(< five days) nutritional support.
Esophagostomy (E) tubes are typically > 14-Fr feeding tubes (red rubber, silicone, or polyurethane). Red rubber tubes are
less expensive than tubes made of other material but do not last as long and may be less comfortable for the patient. However,
anecdotally, tubes made of other material can be harder to place and may be more likely to displace if the animal vomits.
For large dogs (> 55.1 lb [25 kg]), long E tubes are available commercially, or stallion urinary catheters can be used.
General anesthesia is required when placing E tubes. Although commercial tube placement devices are available, we prefer curved
forceps for placement. E tubes should terminate in the distal third of the esophagus, and proper placement should be confirmed
with radiography. Secure tubes with a purse-string and finger-trap suture pattern (Figure 2).
2. A cat with an oral squamous cell carcinoma with an E tube in place. The tube was secured with a purse-string and finger-trap
E tubes may be maintained for weeks to months if necessary and are good choices for long-term nutritional support. Liquid
enteral diets, critical care diets, or canned food that has been liquefied by using a blender can be fed through an E tube.
Choosing an appropriate diet will depend on the patient's underlying medical condition.
E tubes are contraindicated if esophageal disease is present (e.g. megaesophagus, stricture).