Feeding tube options (Proceedings)
Nutritional needs of the anorectic or debilitated animal are sometimes overlooked, since most of the focus is placed on curing the disease and not the whole patient. Nutritional support can provide the energy the body needs to help combat disease. Diets are now being formulated to meet the caloric requirements of the individual patient depending on such factors as disease process, age, caloric requirements, and route of ingestion. While one canine patient in kidney failure might require a protein restricted diet, another might require low fat diet. Most of these formulated diets, while nutritionally appropriate, are not palatable to the patient. So here's the dilemma--how do we feed our patient their correct diet if they are not willing to eat it?
Dietary stimulants such as cyproheptadine and mirtazapine are an option, but only offer temporary support and are minimally effective, especially in the anorectic animal. TPN (total parenteral nutrition) or PPN (partial parenteral nutrition) can be very costly and can lead to catheter-related infections. Force feeding is not recommended--most of the food ends up on the floor or on you instead of in the patient. Patients can also become fractious after several feeding attempts.
Feeding tubes offer the most options for nutritional support. There are many factors to take into consideration when choosing a feeding tube in regards to the patient -
The material that your feeding tube is made of is very important. Gastric juices can render some tubes brittle and stiff. Tubes that are too flimsy or thin may burst if too much pressure is applied. Silicone catheters are usually the best option, and can withstand the abdominal environment. Latex is another good option. Latex tubes create a reaction on the skin, allowing a stoma to form and making it easier to replace if needed. Latex tubes can discolor and break in the presence of digestive juices and should be removed and/or replaced after about 12 weeks. Red rubber feeding tubes (Sherwood Medical) are used frequently at the VMTH, especially for esophagostomy tube placements. These tubes can also discolor and turn brittle and should be monitored closely and replace if needed.
Outer diameter of feeding tubes is dependent on where the tube will be placed and the size of the patient. Keep in mind that the bigger the diameter, the easier it will be to get the food into the patient. Tubes are measured at the outer diameter using the French (fr.) unit which is equivalent to 0.33 mm per unit.
Nasoesophageal tube placement
These tubes are for short-term use, the simplest to place, and require only topical anesthetic. Only a liquid diet may be used through these tubes. A functional nasal cavity and GI tract are necessary for these tubes to work properly. A gag reflex must also be present to prevent reflux. Small diameter catheters such as 5 or 8 fr. infant feeding tube or red rubber catheter work well for this procedure. Additional materials needed are Proparacaine ophthalmic drops, Lidocaine jelly, tape, and either suture, tissue glue or staples to secure the tube.