Nutritional support is required for anorexic patients, debilitated patients, patients in a high catabolic stage (peritonitis, sepsis, burns), or stressed patients (surgical patient). Nutritional support allows a faster soft tissue healing, a better immune system response and a faster recovery from the patient. Nutritional support can be performed with food intake stimulation, force feeding, and feeding tubes. Vitamin B, valium (0.2 mg/kg IV) and ciproheptadine (2 mg/cat 2 to 3 times a day) have been used to stimulate food intake in dogs and cats with variable results. Force feeding with a syringe or tube is possible for one day or two. Force feeding places lot of stress on the animal and may induce aspiration pneumonia. Feeding tube placed either surgically or under endoscopy is the most efficient technique to provide nutritional support to a patient. Feeding tubes can be easily placed at the end of an abdominal surgery and may avoid lot of complications and troubles after surgery. Gastrostomy and jejunostomy tubes are the 2 most commonly used feeding tube in small animal. Esophagostomy tube and gastrojejunostomy tube are the feeding tubes used most commonly.
A nasogastric tube can be placed in dogs and cats if feedings need to be continued for more than 2 days. It is a good technique for the nutritional support of young animals. It does not require general anesthesia for its placement. A topical anesthetic (bupivacaine: 2 to 5 dropes) is placed into the nostril. Before placing the tube, the distance from the nares to the stomach needs to be measured. The stomach is located at the level of the last rib. A 3.5 French tube is recommended for puppies and kitten, while a 5.0 Fr tube can be used for adult cat and dogs less than 8 kg. With the animal's head held in a normal static position the tube is introduced in the nose in a caudo-medial direction ventral to the alar fold. Pushing the nose upward helps moving the tube downward in the ventral meatus. A stylet or guide wire might be useful to guide the tube in the correct direction. The tube progress through the larynx into the esophagus and the stomach. If the animal is coughing, the tube is more likely going into the trachea. A bolus of sterile saline can be injected in the tube. If the animal coughs more likely the tube is in the trachea. If there is any doubts on the placement of the tube radiographs should be taken to confirm the placement of the tube in the stomach and not the trachea. Palpation of the trachea and the tube in the esophagus is a good indication for correct placement of the nasogastric tube. Since the tubes are small in diameter a liquid diet (Clinicare) is recommended. The tube needs to be flushed between feeding to prevent the tube from plugging.