What is a Gastric Lavage in Dogs?

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Gastric lavage is a term that refers to a procedure for "pumping the stomach".

It consists of a procedure where a tube is placed into the mouth, through the esophagus and into the stomach and the contents are pumped out. Generally water is pumped in and the stomach is "rinsed out" (lavaged).

This test procedure can be used to decompress a stomach distended due to gluttony bloat (over eating) or bloat (from the stomach twisting). It is commonly used to remove the contents of the stomach after a toxin ingestion. Eliminating the toxin from the stomach prevents is absorption and toxic effects.

How Is a Gastric Lavage Done?

After being placed under general anesthesia, an endotracheal (breathing) tube is placed in the trachea. The gastric lavage is generally done by gently passing a flexible plastic tube into the mouth, down the esophagus and into the stomach.

A small hand pump is often used that allows water to be "pumped" into the stomach after which the contents is allow to drain back out of the stomach – through the tube and out of the body. This procedure of "pumping" or "lavaging" the stomach is repeated several times, generally until all food or toxins are removed (when the water runs clear).

Occasionally, analyses can be performed on the fluid removed from the stomach but this is the exception rather than the rule. It can be difficult to determine the contents in many cases and laboratory testing can be time consuming and expensive.

Is a Gastric Lavage Painful?

Since the procedure is performed under anesthesia, there is no pain involved. There is no incision so there is no pain after the procedure. Some discomfort may occur due to the temporary placement of the breathing tube. This varies from individual to individual.

Is Sedation or Anesthesia Needed?

General anesthesia is necessary to perform a gastric lavage. General anesthesia will induce unconsciousness, complete control of pain and muscle relaxation. The pet may receive a pre-anesthetic sedative-analgesic drug to help him relax, a brief intravenous anesthetic to allow placement of a breathing tube in the windpipe, and subsequently inhalation (gas) anesthesia in oxygen during the actual procedure.

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About The Author

debra-primovic Dr. Debra Primovic

Debra A. Primovic, BSN, DVM, Editor-in-Chief, is a graduate of the Ohio State University School of Nursing and the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine. Following her veterinary medical training, Dr. Primovic practiced in general small animal practices as well as veterinary emergency practices. She was staff veterinarian at the Animal Emergency Clinic of St. Louis, Missouri, one of the busiest emergency/critical care practices in the United States as well as MedVet Columbus, winner of the AAHA Hospital of the year in 2014. She also spends time in general practice at the Granville Veterinary Clinic. Dr. Primovic divides her time among veterinary emergency and general practice, editing, writing, and updating articles for PetPlace.com, and editing and indexing for veterinary publications. She loves both dogs and cats but has had extraordinary cats in her life, all of which have died over the past couple years. Special cats in her life were Kali, Sammy, Pepper and Beanie.