This video, featuring Dr Chris Halman from our internal medicine team, discusses how to feed via an esophageal feeding tube, and how to care for the tube at home. It also explains what to watch out for in terms of any complications.

Feeding your pet via an esophageal feeding tube is a simple process that can be performed in the comfort of your own home. It can provide your pet with the nutrition and medications that they need, in an environment they are familiar with.

Esophageal tube feeding and management

Preparing the food:

Always follow the instructions from your veterinary team to prepare and store the nutritional formulation you will use to feed your pet through their esophageal tube. Additional information on creating a feeding tube solution can be found here.

The food you use for each meal must be at room temperature prior to giving it to your pet. Not too hot and not too cold. 

The best way to warm the food is to leave it out of the refridgerator for 30-60 minutes prior to use. You could also warm it up in a water bath but make sure that the water is at room temperature.

It’s critical that you avoid using the microwave to warm the food. 

Preparing to feed:

Have your required materials ready before you begin the feed.

  1. Ensure that the tube is still in its intended position in the side of your pet’s neck. You can do this by taking a look under the bandage and checking that the stitches are still intact and check that the tube is still attached to the skin. The length of tube that is visible should be the same as per the last inspection (not appearing longer or shorter than previously). If the tube isn’t intact: Wrap it up and give your local VSS a call for assistance.

  2. Position your pet so that they are sitting up and awake so that they don’t choke on food and can swallow comfortably.

  3. Take the cap off the end of the tube and attach an empty syringe to it to check for negative pressure. To do that, draw back the syringe and watch to see if it sucks back down. If it doesn’t and fills with air, there may be a leakage in the tube or opening. (If this happens, call your local VSS). Once you have established that negative pressure is present, you can continue.


  1. Attach a syringe filled with water to the tube and begin to slowly press down to feed water down the tube. Flush through about 5ml of water and watch that it moves normally through the tube while noting your pet’s reaction. Watch for coughing or uneasiness. 

  2. Now swap to your syringe filled with your pet’s food and begin to slowly push down on the plunger. Normally, you will administer the food over about 15 to 20 minutes. If there’s any coughing or regurgitation, stop the feeding and call your local VSS clinic.

  3. Once the instructed volume of food has been given, you must flush the tube again with water to ensure that there are no pieces of food stuck inside it. This ensures that no food will dry and block the tube which would might prevent future use. Using one to two milliliters at a time, flush through a total of five to ten mililiters depending on the size of the tube. To determine if sufficient water has been pushed through: Check that you feel little to no resistance when pushing on the plunger of the syringe and that you see the water flowing through easily.

  4. Once you’re satisfied with the cleanliness of the tube, disconnect the syringe and put the cap back onto the end. Tuck the tube back under the collar or bandage to secure it until the next use.

Irritation around the wound:

A common issue when using an esophageal feeding tube is irritation surrounding the wound which can sometimes become infected.

You should check this area as often - at least once a day. 

You should also change the bandage once a day initially and potentially every few days as the healing continues.

If there’s any discharge present:VSS will typically provide a solution to give the wound a clean and you should do so as often as you can. If the wound is producing a yellow/green discharge, smells, or looks inflamed, call us and we will provide assistance. Click here to find your local VSS phone number.

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