Nutritional needs often play a secondary role to medical and surgical intervention. Critically ill veterinary patients are at high risk for malnutrition because of physical impediments, as well as physiologic and metabolic abnormalities. Protein and/or calorie malnutrition results in decreased immune competence, decreased tissue synthesis, increased protein degradation (especially that of the lymphatic system), altered drug metabolism and is known to increase morbidity and mortality in human patients. Although veterinary studies are lacking, it is generally accepted that early enteral nutrition decreases complications from malnutrition.
Once life-threatening hypovolemia and electrolyte problems have been corrected or if they were not judged to be present in the first place, the remaining fluid and electrolyte abnormalities can be dealt with.