Tube feeding



There are times when the llama breeder will have reason to tube feed a baby llama. A reluctant mother, lack of initial milk production, a weak or orphaned baby are all reasons why you should have at least some familiarity with this procedure. The newborn must have nourishment within a short time after birth and needs to receive the all-important colostrum during the first few hours of life.

Here is a step-by-step method of safely intubating the young llama.

The required materials : tube, syringe or equivalent container and the fluids to be given.

1. Adequate tubing: There is no specific tube required but the size should be relative to the size of the baby. The smallest tube would be of 4.0mm or approximately 3/16" in diameter. The largest would be 8.7mm or approximately 1/4" in diameter (pencil size).

Rubber tubing is more flexible and easier to insert than plastic, and easier to pass. A 18 french red rubber feeding tube which is 16" long works well in crias.

If only a longer tube is available, measure it against the the neck, from the tip of the nose to the last rib and mark the tube with a felt point pen at the lip line at the front of the mouth..

2. Syringes: To administer the fluids a squeeze type of container or a 60cc syringe will work.

3. Fluids: This may be colostrum, milk or other fluids. The amount to administer will vary. The warmth of the fluid should be at least room temperature and preferably warm the fluids to 100 degrees prior to administration. It is important not to administer it to a weak newborn at a cold temperature.

4. Method: Restraint is most easily accomplished by having the baby kush and the person doing the tubing kneeling astraddle of the baby's back, with little or no pressure on the baby. Keep the baby's head level, not up.

Getting the tube into the wrong place is somewhat difficult. With a bit of patience the baby will help get the tube in the right place by swallowing the tube. It is helpful to lubricate the tube slightly with either a small amount of honey, syrup or a little KY jelly, applied to the first four inches of the tube.

Bend over and hold the baby's head in your left hand . Squeeze the sides of the lips from side to side about halfway back on the mouth; this causes the mouth to open slightly; be gentle. Insert the tube (unattached) into the mouth, over the top of the tongue and slowly feed the tube in, allowing the baby to swallow the tube as you feed it in.

After you have fed in about 10 to 12 inches of tubing you should be able to feel and probably see the tube passing down the throat. Firmly apply "four finger" pressure on the throat just to the left of center, on the front of the neck, just to the left of the hard-tube-like structure of the trachea or windpipe.

If you are able to feel the rubber tubing sliding down (move it up and down to be certain), you are in the correct location. If you are not certain of placement, do not hesitate to withdraw the tube and begin again. If a cough is stimulated, it possibly means you are in the trachea ; withdraw and start again.

After the tube has been inserted in the right place, then attach the bottle or syringe.

If you are using a shorter length of tubing you should administer the fluids more slowly allowing them to flow down the remainder of the esophagus into the stomach. If you are using a previously marked stomach length tube, feed the length in to the lip mark. With a tube into the stomach, the fluids can be administered rather rapidly.

Removal of the tube is an important step. Kink the end of the tube or, if a larger-bore tube, hold your finger or thumb over the end during removal to prevent leakage of milk or other fluids as the tube is removed. This "leakage" could possibly get into the trachea. Keep the tube "plugged" this way until it is completely out of the mouth.

All of the items used in tubing do not need to be sterile but should be cleaned thoroughly with soap and water and rinsed well, before and after each use.



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Liliane Grant - Llamas of Atlanta -- Dallas, GA 30132 - USA