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J Vet Intern Med. 2003 Sep-Oct;17(5):609-21.

A review of methods for assessment of the rate of gastric emptying in the dog and cat: 1898-2002.

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  • 1Institute of Comparative Medicine, University of Glasgow VeterinarySchool, Bearsden, Scotland.


Gastric emptying is the process by which food is delivered to the small intestine at a rate and in a form that optimizes intestinal absorption of nutrients. The rate of gastric emptying is subject to alteration by physiological, pharmacological, and pathological conditions. Gastric emptying of solids is of greater clinical significance because disordered gastric emptying rarely is detectable in the liquid phase. Imaging techniques have the disadvantage of requiring restraint of the animal and access to expensive equipment. Radiographic methods require administration of test meals that are not similar to food. Scintigraphy is the gold standard method for assessment of gastric emptying but requires administration of a radioisotope. Magnetic resonance imaging has not yet been applied for assessment of gastric emptying in small animals. Ultrasonography is a potentially useful, but subjective, method for assessment of gastric emptying in dogs. Gastric tracer methods require insertion of gastric or intestinal cannulae and are rarely applied outside of the research laboratory. The paracetamol absorption test has been applied for assessment of liquid phase gastric emptying in the dog, but requires IV cannulation. The gastric emptying breath test is a noninvasive method for assessment of gastric emptying that has been applied in dogs and cats. This method can be carried out away from the veterinary hospital, but the effects of physiological and pathological abnormalities on the test are not known. Advances in technology will facilitate the development of reliable methods for assessment of gastric emptying in small animals.

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