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N Z Vet J. 2003 Dec;51(6):284-91.

The nutritional management of gastrointestinal tract disorders in companion animals.

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Institute of Veterinary Animal and Biomedical Sciences, Massey University, Private Bag 11222, Palmerston North, New Zealand.


Dietary protein, carbohydrates, fats and fibre have marked influences on gastrointestinal tract function and dysfunction. This article reviews the nutritional management of common gastrointestinal disorders in companion animals and introduces some of the current areas of research including probiotics, prebiotics, protein-hydrolysate diets, immunonutrition and dietary fibre. Nutritional management of oesophageal disease revolves around varying the consistency of the diet and feeding the animal from an elevated container. Provision of bowel rest remains the mainstay of the management of acute gastroenteritis but food-based oral rehydration solutions are a useful adjunct. The recommended diet for chronic small bowel diarrhoea is a highly digestible, hypoallergenic, gluten-free, low-lactose and low-fat diet with modest amounts of fermentable fibre. The use of probiotics in the management of diarrhoea in companion animals has not yet been shown to be beneficial. It is likely that prebiotics will prove more effective than probiotics in the prevention of enteropathogenic infections. Approximately 50% of cats in New Zealand that suffer from chronic idiopathic vomiting or diarrhoea will respond to a novel-protein-elimination diet and approximately 30% meet the diagnostic criteria for food sensitivity. Growing evidence supports the use of protein-hydrolysate diets in the management of inflammatory bowel disease and further advances in immunonutrition are expected. The dietary management of colitis should include a hypoallergenic diet with a fermentable fibre source. Manipulation of the diet provides clinicians a powerful therapeutic strategy to be used alone or concurrently with drug therapy in the management of gastrointestinal disorders.

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