MALNUTRITION can be described as a disorder of inadequate or unbalanced nutrition resulting from either nutritional deficiencies or excessive nutrient intakes. Malnutrition seen in veterinary practice is often due to decreased total food intake. There are many reasons why it is important for nutrition to be maintained, particularly in the sick animal. Studies have shown that malnutrition causes decreased immunocompetence, reduced tissue synthesis and repair, and altered drug metabolism. In humans, malnutrition has also been demonstrated to be associated with increased morbidity and mortality. Although anorexia has been considered a secondary problem, occurring as a result of other disease processes, animals are likely to have a more favourable outcome if nutritional support, such as enteral or parenteral nutrition, is provided. This article outlines how to identify those animals in need of nutritional support, describes the various methods by which enteral nutrition can be delivered and highlights some potential complications which might arise.
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