& Management / Disease
Investigation & Management / Techniques:
- Ensure all equipment is ready.
- Sedate the rabbit. See: Treatment and Care
- Anaesthesia and Chemical Restraint
- Sedation may not be needed with collapsed, very weak or very
- Choose a stomach tube of appropriate size
- Preferably with a larger diameter than the rabbit's trachea, to
ensure that accidental endotracheal intubation cannot occur.
- An 18 to 22 French round-tip rubber catheter is suggested. (J213.9.w1)
- Measure the distance from the incisors to the last rib on the left
side; mark the tube at this length.
- This indicates how far to pass the tube into the rabbit.
- Have the rabbit restrained in sternal recumbency, with the body and
- Place a gag into the rabbit's mouth (e.g. a pre-made plastic or
wooden gag with a hole in the middle to place the tube through, a suitably-sized avian metal gag, a syringe case, or a roll of
- Apply a small amount of lubricant to the end of the stomach
- Slightly flex the rabbit's neck.
- Slowly advance the tube through/past the speculum or gag (as appropriate), down the
oesophagus and into the stomach.
- Resistance to the tube should be minimal.
- Stop when the tube is advanced so the pre-placed mark has reached
- If at all unsure of the positioning of the tube, inject 5 -
10 mL air into the tube whilst auscultating the cranial abdomen.
- If the tube is in the stomach, characteristic bubbling noises or
turbulent air flow should be audible.
- If the tube is in the trachea, usually the rabbit coughs and/or
condensation is visible in the lumen of the tube.
- If the tube is backed into the oesophagus, negative pressure
should develop. (J213.9.w1)
- If still unsure or if the rabbit seems distressed, remove
the tube, wait, and try again.
- NOTE: if the rabbit has gastric dilatation, fluid and gas
flow from the tube once it enters the stomach.
- To give medication:
- Instil the appropriate drugs down the tube.
- Flush with a small amount of water to ensure all the drug is
delivered to the stomach.
- To feed
- Attach a syringe of prepared feed (e.g. Critical Care for
Herbivores, Oxbow Pet Products)
- Administer the food down the tube.
- To empty the stomach
- To withdraw the tube
- Leave a syringe attached to the end of the tube (this prevents
material leaking from the tube as it is withdrawn and possibly
- Or crimp the tube. (P113.2005.w3)
- Withdraw the tube.
- Remove the speculum or gag.
B554.22.w22, J213.9.w1, P113.2005.w2,
|Appropriate Use (?)
- For removing fluid and gas from the stomach of a rabbit with gastric
- For administration of oral medication or food when other methods are
not appropriate (e.g. the rabbit will not accept syringe feeding).
- For gastric lavage in cases of recent ingestion of toxic substances. (J213.11.w1)
- For administration of activated charcoal in cases of recent
ingestion of toxic substances. (J213.11.w1)
- For feeding on a single occasion. (J213.9.w1)
- A large diameter tube, too large to fit into the trachea, ensures
that accidental endotracheal intubation cannot occur.
|Complications/ Limitations / Risk
- Not suitable for repeated feeding. (J213.9.w1)
- Repeated orogastric tubing is stressful for the rabbit. (J213.1.w1)
|Equipment / Chemicals required and Suppliers
|Expertise level / Ease of Use
- This procedure should only be
carried out by an individual with appropriate clinical training and practical
|Legal and Ethical Considerations
In some countries there may be
legislation restricting the use of this type of technique to licensed veterinarians. For
example in the UK: "The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 (Section 19) provides,
subject to a number of exceptions, that only registered members of the Royal College of
Veterinary Surgeons may practice veterinary surgery." (See: LCofC1
- RCVS Guide to Professional Conduct 2000 - Treatment of
Animals by Non-Veterinary Surgeons).
||Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD
|| Tiffany Blackett BVetMed MRCVS (V.w44)