Gastrostomy Tube Feeding in Cats
What is a gastrostomy tube?
A gastrostomy tube is a small rubber tube that passes directly into the stomach through the skin and body wall of the cat's abdomen. It permits you to deliver food and water directly into the stomach.
The gastrostomy tube is used in cats that have jaw fractures or head and neck injuries that prevent eating, or other diseases that cause long-term anorexia (abnormal lack of appetite).
How do I feed my cat through the tube?
You will syringe a special liquid or canned diet through the tube two to five times per day. This food is formulated to meet your cat's nutritional needs; it should not cause vomiting or diarrhea. Your veterinarian will recommend what diet your cat should receive for their medical condition. This food may be “liquid” or “thin” enough to pass through the tube or the food may need to be blended with a specified amount of water.
If using a blender, run it at the fastest speed until the food is uniformly mixed. After mixing, pour the food through a kitchen strainer to remove any chunks or clumps of unblended food.
Diet recommended (+ _____________ ml of water if needed):
Feeding should start no less than 24 hours after placement to allow a seal to form. Follow these steps to feed your cat:
- Remove the cap from the feeding tube. You may need to release or open an additional safety valve prior to administering any liquid.
- Using a small syringe, inject 2-3 ml of water into the tube to “flush it.”
- Using the feeding syringe provided, inject __________ ml of the food into your cat's feeding tube _____________ times per day for a TOTAL OF_____________ ml PER 24 HOURS. It is helpful to inject the food slowly, about 1 ml per second. Elevate your cat's front feet so that the food goes easily into the stomach.
- After you have given the appropriate amount of food, flush 2-3 ml of plain water through the tube to remove any remaining food. Replace the cap on the tube.
- Store any remaining food in the refrigerator. Before the next feeding, you should warm the food to body temperature under hot tap water or in a microwave oven. If you heat it in a microwave oven, be sure to mix the contents thoroughly prior to feeding because of the potential for uneven heating. To be sure the food is not too hot, always check the temperature prior to feeding by placing food on the back of your hand. It should feel slightly warm.
Note: Some measuring devices are marked in milliliters (ml) and others in cubic centimeters (cc). Although technically these are slightly different, for our purposes, a cc is the same as a ml.
Is there anything else I need to know?
The tube should be protected by a bandage, onesie, or t-shirt.
If the tube becomes clogged, the clog can be removed by massaging the tube to loosen any obstructions, attempting to flush it with water, or if that fails, try flushing with 1-2 mL of cola or fresh pineapple juice to break down the obstruction.
When and how is the feeding tube removed?
Some cats require several weeks of tube feeding before healing occurs and/or their appetite returns. At least twice weekly, offer your cat a small amount of its favorite food by mouth so that you will know when its appetite is improving. The gastrostomy tube will not hinder chewing or swallowing. After your cat has been eating well for three to four days, you should book an appointment with your veterinarian for a recheck examination and tube removal. The tube needs to stay in place for at least 14 days. Depending on how long the tube has been in place, removal of the tube may not require anesthesia; however, under no circumstances should you remove the tube on your own. Removal using an endoscope may be recommended.
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