Merck Manual

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Principles of Therapy of GI Disease in Animals


Alex Gallagher

, DVM, MS, DACVIM (SAIM), University of Florida

Last full review/revision Oct 2020 | Content last modified Oct 2020

If a known cause for the GI disease is identified, specific therapy, if available, should be performed to treat the underlying disease process. Specific therapy may include:

  • antimicrobials

  • anthelmintics

  • antifungals

  • toxin antidotes

  • immunosuppressive or anti-inflammatory drugs

  • diet therapy

  • surgical correction

In cases where an underlying cause is not identified or a specific treatment is not available, therapy is centered on supportive care. This is most often the case in acute GI diseases that may be self-limiting. Supportive care may include:

  • fluid and electrolyte replacement therapy

  • antiemetics

  • prokinetics

  • gastric decompression by orogastric or nasogastric intubation

  • analgesics

  • antimicrobials for secondary bacterial translocation

Abnormalities of the GI microbiome may occur as a primary cause of GI disease or secondary to another disease process. Re-establishing a normal microbiome may help resolve GI disease. Reconstitution of the ruminal microbiome should be done in situations in which the ruminal microbiome may be seriously depleted (eg, in prolonged anorexia or acute indigestion). Transfaunation (ruminal fluid transfer) involves oral administration of ruminal contents from a healthy animal that contains normal microbiota and volatile fatty acids. In cats and dogs, manipulation of the microbiome using prebiotics, probiotics, or symbiotics may be of benefit in acute and chronic diseases. Fecal microbiome transplantation from a healthy donor via oral or transrectal routes can be beneficial in some acute and chronic diseases in cats and dogs, including parvovirus infections, nonantibiotic responsive Clostridium perfringens infections, and chronic enteropathies.

For More Information

  • Also see pet health content regarding digestive disorders of cats, dogs, and horses.

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