January 25, 2023 Everyday Medicine

Simple, Yet Essential: Stomach Tubes in Dogs and Cats

NG tube appears on an x-ray

Simple, Yet Essential: Stomach Tubes in Dogs and Cats

Veterinarians at the Schwarzman Animal Medical Center have many pieces of medical equipment available to provide excellent care for your pets. Some equipment is high tech like our CT scanner, MRI and brand new linear accelerator. Other pieces of equipment are decidedly low tech. Today’s blogpost focuses on the low tech, yet essential stomach tube.

Stomach Tube Design

NG tube

This crucial medical device is a deceptively simple piece of equipment. It is a flexible tube (no surprise here) available in various sizes for the wide variety of patients cared for at AMC. One end has a “port”.  A syringe attaches here to flush liquid into the stomach or draw liquid or air out of the stomach. The tip is radiopaque, meaning it can be seen on an x-ray. In the photograph of the actual tube, you see the dark green radiopaque tip which shows up on the x-rays in this blogpost as a bright white area at the end of the tube. Highlighting the tip allows veterinarians to confirm proper positioning of the tube.

Stomach tube location

This x-ray shows the route of the stomach tube from left to right.  It travels down the esophagus and into the stomach. The curl of tubing is the extra length wrapped in a loop and secured to the outside of the dog’s neck with a loose bandage. This tube is perfectly positioned with the bright white, radiopaque tip sitting in the stomach.

NG tube shown in x-ray

Debloating a Dog

Gastric dilatation and volvulus or bloat is a life-threatening canine emergency where a dog’s stomach distends and twists on itself. If you follow the pathway of the stomach tube in this x-ray, you see it making a loop. The loop occurred because this dog’s stomach is twisted. To prepare this dog for surgery, the tube was placed allowing 4 cups of air and 1 cup of fluid to be removed from the dog’s stomach.

NG tube shown in x-ray

Removing a Back Up

This x-ray shows a cat with a stomach tube. She feasted on a non-food item and developed an intestinal blockage. Since food and digestive juices could not pass the obstruction, her stomach became dangerously overdistended. Passing a stomach tube allowed removal of the accumulated fluid until this kitty was rolled into the operating room to remove the stuck object.

Pet owners may never see their pet with a stomach tube, because their placement is often urgent and temporary. We hope your pet never needs a stomach tube, but if they do, you now know how this simple device can help to save their life.

Tags: cats, diagnostic imaging, dogs, ng tube, pets, veterinary equipment, veterinary technology, xray,

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