A Guide to Esophagostomy Tube Placement in Chelonians

Key Points

  • The management of ill or anorectic chelonians often requires oral medications and tube feeding in order to deliver effective treatment, maintain energy balance, boost nutritional status and replace fluid losses.
  • It can be extremely difficult to administer oral medications to chelonians. The repeated use of rigid feeding tubes can result in damage to the oropharynx and esophagus, as well as being highly stressful for debilitated patients.
  • Surgical placement of an esophagostomy tube is an effective tool in the treatment and rehabilitation of chelonians suffering from anorexia and chronic illness, allowing veterinary staff and owners alike the ability to administer oral medications and liquid diets with minimal intervention.
  • Esophagostomy tubes can remain in place until the animal resumes feeding on its own accord or no longer needs oral medications.

The use of esophagostomy tubes (e-tubes) allows administration of oral medications and critical care nutrition to turtles and tortoises while minimizing stress and the risk of esophageal trauma associated with repeated rigid gavage tube feeding. Esophagostomy tubes are very well tolerated in chelonians and the patient can even eat normally with the tube in place. Patients can be medicated and fed on an outpatient basis, and once fully recovered, the e-tube is easily removed in the veterinary clinic . . .

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da Silva RSM, Migliortni RH. Effects of starvation and refeeding on energy-linked metabolic processes in the turtle (Phrynops hilarii). Comp Biochem Physiol 96A:415-419, 1990.

Eatwell K. Options for analgesia and anaesthesia in reptiles. In Practice 32 (7): 306-311, 2010.

Mader DR. Reptile Medicine and Surgery, 2nd ed. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Publishing; 2006.

Stahl SJ. Reptile Emergency Care. Proc Annu Conf NAVC; 2006: 1677-1679.

Wright K. Diagnostic sampling and other procedures with turtles and tortoises. Proc Annu Conf NAVC; 2008: 1801-1803.


Further reading

Alworth LC, Hernandez SM, Divers SJ. Laboratory Reptile Surgery: Principles and Techniques. J Am Assoc Lab Anim Sci 50 (1): 11-26, 2011.

Chitty J. Oesophagostomy tubes in tortoises. UK Vet Companion Animal 14 (2): 80-82. 2010.

Johnson JD. Oesophagostomy tube deficiency in the management of ill reptiles. Proc Annu Conf Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians; 2002: 137 – 139.

Stahl S, Donoghue S. Pharyngostomy tube placement, management and use for nutritional support in the chelonian patient. Proc Annu Conf Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians; 1997: 93–97.

To cite this page:

McCormack S. A guide to esophagostomy tube placement in chelonians. February 7, 2015. LafeberVet Web site. Available at https://lafeber.com/vet/a-guide-to-esophagostomy-tube-placement-in-chelonians/