How Much Does It Cost To Put A Feeding Tube In A Cat?


A feeding tube is a medical device used to provide nutrition to patients who cannot eat normally. Feeding tubes allow liquid nutrition and medications to be delivered directly into the stomach or small intestine, bypassing the mouth and esophagus. In cats, feeding tubes may be necessary if the cat has a condition that makes eating and swallowing difficult or impossible, such as:

  • Cancer of the mouth, throat, or esophagus
  • Damage or scarring of the esophagus
  • Facial injuries that prevent chewing or swallowing
  • Dysphagia or trouble swallowing
  • Long-term vomiting or nausea
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Anorexia or starvation

Feeding tubes allow owners to provide cats with the nutrition and calories needed to recover from illness, undergo cancer treatment, or manage chronic diseases. While temporary in some cases, feeding tubes may need to be used long-term in cats with permanent swallowing difficulties. This article provides an overview of the average costs, risks, and care considerations for cats with feeding tubes.

Average Cost of Feeding Tube Surgery

The cost of the initial surgery to place a feeding tube in a cat can range from $250-$800 depending on the type of procedure.

For a nasogastric tube, the cost of sedation, tube placement, and an x-ray to confirm placement is typically $250-$370 ( This is considered a simpler procedure.

More complex surgeries to place an esophageal or gastrostomy tube average around $800 for the procedure itself ( This does not include additional costs for diagnostics, hospitalization, or follow-up care which can add $200-$1000+ to the total.

Overall, most sources estimate $400-$800 as the typical cost of the initial surgery and placement of a feeding tube in cats. But many factors like the surgical method, vet fees, and aftercare needs can affect the final cost.

Ongoing Feeding Tube Costs

The ongoing costs of feeding a cat through a feeding tube can add up over time. The main recurring expense is the special veterinary formula or liquid food that is used for tube feeding. This nutritional formula is typically more expensive than regular canned cat food, costing $1-3 per can or pouch ( On average, it costs $40-100 per month to continually purchase enough formula to feed a cat via a feeding tube.

Other supplies are also needed on an ongoing basis, including the feeding syringes, extension tubes, and hydration bags. These supplies may cost $15-30 per month for a typical cat. It’s important to replace tubes and syringes regularly to reduce the risk of infection. Proper cleaning and disinfecting supplies will also be a regular expense.

In total, most cat owners report spending $60-150 per month in supplies, formula, and accessories to feed their cat through a feeding tube. This cost can be higher if the cat requires a specialized prescription formula.

Additional Feeding Tube Expenses

Once the initial feeding tube is placed, there are some potential ongoing and additional costs to be aware of. According to one source, feeding tubes may need to be replaced every 3-6 months, which would require repeat of the surgical procedure (VCA Animal Hospitals). Replacement feeding tubes typically cost $200-300 each time.

Complications like tube clogging, irritation at the insertion site, or even tube dislodgement may also lead to additional expenses. Treating infections or other problems resulting from the feeding tube can cost $100-300 depending on the specific issue and required treatment (NIH study). Supplies like special feeding formula or pumps may also need to be purchased on an ongoing basis, ranging from $20-100 per month.

Overall, pet owners should be prepared for the potential of repeat procedures and complication costs associated with chronic feeding tube use. Establishing a relationship with a veterinarian experienced in managing feeding tubes can help minimize extra expenses when issues arise.

Factors That Impact Cost

There are several factors that can impact the cost of getting a feeding tube for a cat:

The cat’s health condition – Sick cats or those with complications will require more intensive care and monitoring, which increases costs. For example, a cat with megacolon may require more diagnostic tests and a longer hospital stay after feeding tube placement compared to a healthy cat [1].

Type of feeding tube – Nasogastric tubes are less expensive, with estimates ranging from $250-370 for placement. Esophagostomy tubes require surgery and average $1200-$1500 [2].

Geographic location – Prices can vary greatly depending on where you live. Urban areas and specialty veterinary centers tend to charge more than rural practices.

Individual veterinary clinic fees – Each clinic sets their own prices for services, so costs can vary even within the same city. Getting quotes from multiple vets is advisable.

Length of hospitalization – If complications occur and the cat needs to stay at the vet longer, costs rise due to added expenses for nursing care and monitoring.

Payment Options for Feeding Tube Surgery

There are several options cat owners can consider to help manage the costs of feeding tube surgery and ongoing care:

Pet Insurance – Many pet insurance plans cover a portion of feeding tube surgery, which can offset some upfront costs. Be sure to check if pre-existing conditions are excluded.

CareCredit – This healthcare credit card exclusively for healthcare expenses, including veterinary costs. CareCredit offers special financing options and flexible payment plans over 6, 12, 18 or 24 months.

Crowdfunding – Creating an online fundraiser through sites like GoFundMe can help raise funds from family, friends and supporters. This can supplement the costs of surgery and ongoing care.

Discuss all payment options with your veterinarian to determine the best solution for your budget and needs. Planning ahead can help ease the financial burden of a feeding tube for your cat.

When a Feeding Tube May Be Necessary

There are several situations where a veterinarian may recommend a feeding tube for a cat:

Cats who are not eating enough or have lost their appetite due to illness or injury. Feeding tubes allow the cat to receive adequate nutrition during recovery (

Cats who have esophageal disorders or obstructions that prevent them from swallowing food normally. A feeding tube can bypass the obstruction to deliver food directly to the stomach (

Cats who need assisted feeding for a prolonged period. Feeding tubes allow easier delivery of nutrition over weeks or months compared to other feeding techniques (

Cats recovering from major surgeries, dental procedures, injuries or illnesses where eating may be difficult or painful during healing.

Cats with chronic kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, cancer or other conditions causing poor appetite, weight loss or difficulty eating.

Cats who need their calories precisely managed for health conditions like obesity or diabetes.

Kittens who are orphaned, rejected by the mother or unable to nurse normally.

Risks and Complications

Feeding tubes in cats do carry some risks and potential complications that pet owners should be aware of. According to the VCA Animal Hospitals, the most common complications include infection at the tube insertion site and the tube becoming dislodged (source). Signs of infection can include redness, swelling, discharge, and pain around the tube. Tubes can become dislodged if the cat scratches, pulls, or chews at the tube, requiring replacement surgery.

Additional risks and complications outlined in a study published by the National Library of Medicine include tube obstruction, persistent vomiting or regurgitation of food, diarrhea, aspiration pneumonia, and strictures or scar tissue forming around the tube over time, which may require further intervention (source). Proper aftercare and monitoring by a veterinarian can help minimize these risks.

While uncommon, esophagostomy tubes also pose a small risk of perforating or eroding through the esophagus if improper tube placement, size, or material is used. Some cats may be bothered by the presence of the tube and require an Elizabethan collar to prevent scratching and interference.

Overall, risks and complications appear higher with nasoesophageal and gastronomy tubes compared to esophagostomy tubes. Following veterinary recommendations for care and monitoring can help reduce the chances of complications developing.

Caring for a Cat With a Feeding Tube

Caring for a cat at home with a feeding tube requires dedication and diligence to provide proper nutrition while avoiding complications. Here are some key tips for at-home feeding tube management:

Feed the cat the veterinarian-recommended diet through the tube as directed, usually 4-6 times per day. Offer highly palatable, high protein and fat foods like canned kitten food or prescription recovery diets (VCA Animal Hospitals).

Always follow safe, sterile procedures when handling the feeding tube to avoid infection. Wash hands thoroughly before handling and wear disposable gloves. Disconnect syringes and feeding bags after each use and clean the entry port with water (ICATCare).

Flush the tube with water before and after all feedings. Check for proper tube placement daily by marking the tube at the skin entry point to ensure it does not move. Monitor the skin at the tube entry site for irritation. Contact the vet if any swelling, discharge or bleeding occurs.

Prevent the cat from pulling at, biting or dislodging the tube. Use an Elizabethan collar if needed. Watch for decreased appetite, lethargy or other signs of complication and contact the vet promptly if they occur.

With dedicated at-home care and monitoring, cats can receive life-sustaining nutrition through feeding tubes and maintain a good quality of life.

Alternatives to Feeding Tubes

While feeding tubes are helpful in some situations, they may not be the best option for every cat owner. Here are some alternative feeding methods that can be considered if a feeding tube is not recommended or desired:

Syringe/Force Feeding – Using an oral syringe to slowly administer gruel or liquid food directly into the mouth and down the throat. This requires patience and care to avoid aspiration. It may only be a short-term solution. According to VCA Hospitals, “Most cats tolerate syringe feeding for several weeks.”

Stomach Tube/Nasogastric Tube – A less invasive option that goes through the nose and down the esophagus into the stomach. This type of tube is usually only used short-term. According to Today’s Veterinary Nurse, nasogastric tubes have “an excellent option for supportive feeding of a wide variety of species.”

Assisted Feeding – Hand feeding your cat by putting small amounts of gruel or meat baby food into their mouth for them to swallow. This can help cats with decreased appetite but who can still eat on their own.

Changing Food Texture – Cats with dental issues or trouble chewing may benefit from softened food or gruel/slurry consistency. Adding warm water to dry or canned food can achieve this.

Increasing Feeding Frequency – Feeding smaller, more frequent meals may be easier for some cats to manage. This also helps keep calories up.

Appetite Stimulants – Medications can sometimes help increase appetite and interest in food. Talk to your vet about options like mirtazapine or cyproheptadine.

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