Alternative Feeding in Pets: What Is An E-Tube?
Thu, September 29, 2022

Alternative Feeding in Pets: What Is An E-Tube?


An esophagostomy tube, a type of feeding tube, enters your pet’s esophagus or the “food pipe” via surgical incision located at the left side of its neck, explained Veterinary Health Center, a full-service veterinary hospital providing routine, specialty, and emergency care. It does not enter the stomach, as it begins and ends in the esophagus. E-tubes help your pet consume food until it has regained the appetite to eat. It also makes administering oral medications easier. However, having an e-tube does not stop your pet from eating and drinking on its own volition. In fact, having your pet consume food or drink water by mouth is encouraged.  Your furry companion’s e-tube can be removed as soon as it gets all the food and medicine by mouth. E-tubes can save your pet’s life but feeding it via this tool requires commitment.

E-Tubes Complications In Dogs and Cats (2019)

Olivia Nathanson and colleagues of Wiley Online Library, an American multinational publishing company, found that 44.4% of the 225 cases experienced a complication, with dogs and cats having a 43.1% and 45.5% complication rate, respectively. Complications were documented during initial hospitalization and during follow-up visits. 4.8% of cats and 3.9% of dogs had erythema noted around the stoma in hospital, while 11.3% of felines and 12.7% of canines were found to have erythema at follow‐up. 7.3% of cats and 13.7% of dogs were found to have inflammation around the stoma in hospital whereas 15.4% of felines and 13.7% of canines at follow-up.

12.2% of cats and 11.7% of dogs had active mucoid, mucopurulent, or purulent discharge around the stoma in the hospital. During the follow-up, 22.7% of cats and 19.6% of dogs had discharge. The cats (13.8%) and dogs (9.8%) had loose sutures during the follow-up, requiring the animals to undergo resuturing of the site. 1.6% of cats and 1.9% of dogs were assessed for vomiting at the tube. 17.8% of cats and 13.7% of dogs developed clinical signs consistent with infection, with 4% of felines and 3.9% of canines developing the signs during hospitalization.

Further, 13.8% of cats and 9.8% of dogs had clinical signs documented during the follow-up. Six cats (4.8%) and one dog (0.9%) had necrotic skin around the stoma, which was observed during the follow-up visits and ranged from two to 22 days after initial placement. 4.4% of patients with stoma site infections required surgical debridement, including 22.7% of cats and 35.7% of dogs. For a median of 19 days, esophagostomy tubes were kept in place in both cats and dogs. However, 3.2% of felines and 7.8% of canines had their e-tubes removed due to tube-related complications. Likewise, one cat (0.8%) and two dogs (1.9%) were euthanized due to tube-related complications. The authors acknowledged that e-tubes are important in providing nutrition to hyporexic patients; however, using this tool is not risk-free.



Why Does My Pet Need An E-Tube?

It needs nutritional support when your pet either cannot or will not consume enough food to its nutritional needs, said the Ohio State University: Veterinary Medical Center, a provider of compassionate, cutting-edge care for their clients’ needs. If your pet cannot eat voluntarily due to disease, e-tubes allow you or the veterinary team to feed it with the optimal diet. Administering oral medications is made easier thanks to e-tubes. You can bring your pet home with the tube in place and feed with a variety of diets, albeit in a form of a slurry.



How Do I Feed My Pet Using An E-Tube?

Prepare a syringe filled with liquid food, according to Wendy Brooks, DVM, DABVP, of Veterinary Partner, a website that publishes pet health information. Liquid food should be in the appropriate amount and should be warmed, not hot. Don’t microwave the food or else the hot spots in the diet will be too hot for your pet. Microwave a tall glass of water and insert the syringe containing the diet in warm water until it is at least room temperature. Ideally, the temperature of the diet should be close to body temperature.

Prepare a small glass or cup of tepid water and any medication that your pet needs. Squirt 6 cc of tepid water to clear the tube and prevent clogs. Attach the syringe and slowly deliver the food to your pet. It’s tempting to squirt everything to your pet, but this step may take several minutes or more to ensure comfort. To clear the tube, follow it up with a chaser of 6 cc of tepid water. You can administer the oral medication so long as the tube is cleared with 6 cc of tepid water before and after giving the medicine. Avoid putting pills to prevent clogging; rather, they should be crushed and given via the e-tube if they are well-dissolved. Pill powder sticking to the tube can lead to clogging, it is advisable to clear it with tepid water. Clean the stoma or the opening of the skin where the e-tube enters each day using a moist tissue or a baby wipe. Otherwise, discharge and/or crusting will build up there.

Are There Any Complications Associated With E-Tube Use?

E-tubes require general anesthesia, which can occasionally cause minor or serious complications. The site where the e-tube is placed through and into the esophagus can be infected— only if you fail to clean the tube. Consult your veterinarian immediately if the site turns red, warm to the touch, secretes an abnormal discharge like pus, or if your pet flinches in pain after touching the site.

Your pet might also displace the e-tube by pulling it out or vomiting it out of the esophagus and into the mouth. If this happens, consult your veterinarian so that they can replace it quickly. The e-tube can also be clogged with food. In this case, consider forcing 6 cc or so of tepid water through the tube. If it does not work, hook up a syringe of 6 cc or so of tepid water, alternately pushing and pulling back. Continue doing this until the tube is clog-free. Some people use cola to unclog the e-tube by incubating it overnight, infusing 5 ml of cola into the tube, and letting it sit for 10 minutes before flushing it out with water. You can try it since the e-tube will be useless if it is clogged. If the food cannot be removed, call your veterinarian.

E-tubes help meet a pet’s nutritional needs if it cannot eat or drink by itself due to disease. Complications such as vomiting the tube up or abnormal discharges. The tube can also be clogged with food. Cases like this require immediate veterinary attention.