What is Gastric Lavage?
Gastric lavage is the term used when referring to a procedure that involves removing contents from the stomach. Gastric lavage in dogs is commonly called “pumping the stomach,” as the fluids are taken upward from the stomach organ. A gastric lavage procedure is commonly used in situations when the option of inducing emesis (vomiting) in unobtainable. Unconscious patients, ingestion of a large quantity of a toxic agent, or sometimes, in the case of gastric dilation volvulus syndrome (twisted stomach), a gastric lavage procedure is helpful. Gastric lavage procedures are often performed an emergency situation and are commonly performed in a veterinary emergency center, but can also be performed in a local veterinary clinic.
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Gastric Lavage Procedure in Dogs
The veterinarian will first perform a routine diagnostic examination of the canine. Routine testing will include a physical exam, blood work, a urinalysis and possibly a fecal examination. Radiographs and/or an ultrasound of the abdomen may also be taken to establish the presence of gastrointestinal obstruction or abnormality prior to conducting the gastric lavage procedure.
- An IV catheter will be placed, preferably in either the right or left front limbs of the dog. An intravenous catheter will allow easy access for fluid therapy and intravenously administered drugs.
- The canine will be given a sedative injection and will be intubated with an endotracheal tube, which will allow the veterinary team to provide the dog with oxygen and an anesthetic gas. The cuff of the endotracheal tube will be inflated to prevent gastrointestinal fluids that will be aspirated from the stomach, from entering the lungs.
- The patient’s vital signs will be checked and monitored throughout the procedure.
- An anti-emetic drug may be administered intravenously at this time to prevent the dog from retching while the tube has been placed.
- The dog will be placed in sternal (on the belly) or right lateral (on the side) recumbency, depending on the size of the dog and the vet’s preference.
- The orogastric tube will be pre-measured to an appropriate size. The veterinary technician or doctor will place the tube alongside the dog’s body, placing the end of the tube at the last rib. The other end of the tube will then be marked with tape to ensure once the tube is inserted, it will not pass deeper into the digestive system.
- The tube will be lubricated and inserted into the dog’s mouth, passing down the esophagus, then into the stomach.
- The doctor will confirm that the orogastric tube is properly placed through palpation or simultaneous auscultation.
- Warm water will be infused down a funnel and into the orogastric tube.
- Using the force of gravity, the exposed end of the orogastric tube will be directed toward a bucket on the floor for the stomach fluids to pour into.
- More fluids will be administered and allowed to pour out until the veterinarian feels that stomach has been lavaged. (Usually no more than ten times.)
- Before the tube is removed, activated charcoal will be passed through the tube. The activated charcoal will bind and “trap” any toxic substance left behind. The lavage process will once again take place to remove the captured toxins and charcoal.
- The orogastric tube will be kinked and removed from the dog’s stomach.
- The patient will be extubated (removal of endotracheal tube) when the gag reflex returns and allowed to awaken in the recovery area.
Efficacy of Gastric Lavage in Dogs
Gastric lavage for dogs is a highly effective way to remove a toxin from the stomach before the body ingests the element.
Gastric Lavage Recovery in Dogs
After the gastric lavage procedure has been completed, the dog should show signs of improvement in the following hours. Additional motorization may be required.
Cost of Gastric Lavage in Dogs
The cost to have a gastric lavage procedure performed will include routine diagnostic tests including blood work, a urinalysis and x-rays. The use of an anesthetic and oxygen therapy should also be included into the total price. Dog owners should expect to pay roughly $250 for the procedure.
Dog Gastric Lavage Considerations
The tracheal wash procedure does require the patient to undergo a brief period of anesthesia, which is the primary concern for most dog owners. Gastric lavage also poses the risk for respiratory effects (hypoxemia), mechanical injuries (mouth, throat, stomach irritation) and aspiration pneumonia if the endotracheal cuff was not properly inflated.
Gastric Lavage Prevention in Dogs
Prevent the need for a gastric lavage procedure by always follow drug instructions correctly to prevent accidental overdose. Dog owners should also keep hazardous chemicals and toxic agents out of their pet’s environment.
Gastric Lavage Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
A 10kg dog comes to you 5% dehydrated. Your veterinarian decides to replace the deficit over 24 hours and there are no ongoing losses. What fluid rate should you use?
How would you monitor the response of the dog to the fluid therapy?
If you did not have a fluid pump, how would you calculate the number of drops per second to be given?
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