Veterinary professionals in emergency and critical care see the sickest and most unstable patients, and it is understandable that nutrition is not at the forefront of their minds. This article demonstrates why nutrition is important in the most critical patients, and why studies show it is no longer advisable to delay assisted nutrition. Absence of nutrition in the critical patient leads to muscle catabolism, protein deficiencies and increased risk of sepsis. There are options for enteral or parenteral nutrition, and various feeding tubes that can be used depending on the status of the patient. Both underfeeding and overfeeding can be detrimental to the critical patient; requirements should be calculated for each patient on an individual basis, considering the dietary requirements and risks associated with each presentation and disease process. There are also changes that can be made in the hospital to encourage patients to eat voluntarily; it is important not to forget holistic care in the critical patient.
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