Incorporating enteral nutrition into your practice - Veterinary Medicine
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Incorporating enteral nutrition into your practice
Since it's critical that ill animals receive adequate calories, if these patients aren't voluntarily consuming enough it is your responsibility to provide assistance. So read on for the why, when, what, and how of enteral nutrition.



Once an animal is discharged, body weight, BCS, and MCS should be evaluated every one or two weeks initially to ensure adequate caloric intake. The amount fed may need to be adjusted to achieve and maintain ideal body weight, BCS, and MCS. Tube monitoring should be continued at home, and bandages should be changed once a week or sooner if needed. Owners should be instructed to bring the animal in for evaluation if they have any concerns about the placement of the tube or have difficulty feeding the animal. Superficial skin infections at tube sites are not uncommon and can be treated with either topical or systemic antibiotics.


When the animal is voluntarily consuming at least 60% of its RER orally, enteral feedings can be gradually decreased. It is imperative to not remove enteral feeding tubes too early. Animals should be eating their full RER voluntarily and maintaining their body weight for at least a week before tubes are removed. If an animal is eating without assistance, the tube should be flushed with 3 to 10 ml water four times daily to maintain patency. Once tubes are removed, E and G tube sites typically heal within 24 to 48 hours by second intention.


Nutritional support can be provided to ill or injured animals in many ways. The key is to perform a thorough nutritional assessment of every animal and to initiate nutrition early. Once it is determined that a patient requires a feeding tube, its nutritional needs can be determined and the appropriate tube can be placed. Early institution of an individualized nutritional plan allows enhanced nutritional management, reduced risk of malnutrition, and ultimately, improved patient outcome.

Editors' note: Dr. Parker's nutrition communication residency is funded by P&G Pet Care.

Also read about the perks of proactive feeding in your patients and how to get clients to comply here.

Valerie J. Parker, DVM, DACVIM*
Lisa M. Freeman, DVM, PhD, DACVN
Department of Clinical Sciences
Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine
Tufts University
North Grafton, MA 01536

*Current address: Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences
College of Veterinary Medicine
The Ohio State University
Columbus, OH 43210


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