Your feeding tube options
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.
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.
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).