Percutaneous gastrostomy tubes (PEG tubes)

Written by Dana Brooks, DVM, Diplomate ACVIM

Percutaneous gastrostomy tubes (commonly called PEG tubes) are feeding tubes that are placed through the skin into the stomach to allow an animal to be fed when they are not able to take in adequate calories of their own, or after trauma or surgery to the jaw or esophagus.   There are several ways to place gastrostomy tubes without the need for surgery and they can supply life saving nutrition. The tube is placed on the dog or cat’s left side and held in place with a rubber stent to keep it from slipping. Often a shirt is put on the animal to keep the tube from dragging the ground or getting caught. If long term use of a tube is needed (over a month), lower profile ports can be placed which are less cumbersome and more cosmetically appealing. Once a tube is placed, it is necessary to leave it in place for a minimum of one week, even if the animal begins to eat. This is because a scar tissue seal needs to occur between the stomach wall and the body wall. If this does not occur, stomach contents could leak out into the abdomen causing peritonitis. Anesthesia is required to place the tube, but is a short procedure – often less than 15 minutes.   High calorie liquefied foods are used for feedings which must be done at least three times per day. Once the dog or cat has healed and can eat on their own again, the tube can be quickly removed, usually without sedation.   Your veterinarian will give you instructions on what type and how much food to give as well as how often to feed and how to care for the tube. Complications rates are very low, but you should contact your veterinarian immediately if any of the following occur:

  1. If the tube position has changed and cannot be corrected easily or the tube comes out.
  2. The insertion site is excessively irritated, swollen, painful, or has a discharge or odor
  3. The tube cracks or rips, or the stent is lost. (if the stent comes off, the tube will get pulled into the stomach and will have to be retrieved).
  4. If the patient begins to vomit, develops a fever, has a painful abdomen or becomes lethargic.
  5. If the tube becomes clogged.

Published on July 16, 2008.