THE rational selection of drugs to treat gastrointestinal disease depends on making an accurate diagnosis. A number of products are available for the treatment of specific conditions and others for the control of associated clinical signs such as vomiting and diarrhoea. However, the need for, and efficacy of, some of these symptomatic remedies is questionable as most gastrointestinal disturbances are acute and selflimiting; ideally, therefore, they should only be used after conditions for which there is specific treatment available have been excluded. If a definitive diagnosis is not possible, symptomatic therapies should only be used for a short period (up to a maximum of 72 hours) so that definitive treatment is not dangerously delayed. For example, masking the signs of an intestinal obstruction by using antiemetics will only delay surgery while the viability of the gastrointestinal tract (and the patient) deteriorates. This article describes the mode of action of the various drugs available for the management of gastrointestinal disease in cats and dogs, and provides practical advice on when - and when not - to use them.
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