In recent years there has been a marked interest in identifying the causes of gastrointestinal disease in companion animals; the path to diagnosis has progressed with the identification of serological biomarkers and more access to endoscopy within general practice. Novel protein diets have been developed by veterinary food companies resulting in a positive effect on outcome in combination with pharmaceuticals for some animals.

The veterinary nurse plays a key role investigation, treatment and client support for these often, chronic cases. Having an enhanced level of knowledge on the pathophysiology and treatment options, together with a firm understanding of the diagnostic process is paramount to patient recovery.

After completing this 6 week online course, the participants will have a greater knowledge and understanding of the basic principles of gastrointestinal disease which they can apply regularly in practice.

Week 1
Diseases of the upper gastrointestinal tract

  • Upper gastrointestinal tract (UGIT) anatomy refresher
  • UGIT hereditary and acquired abnormalities
  • Investigation of vomiting and regurgitation
  • Sedation and general anaesthesia considerations

Learning objectives
After completion of this week, participants should be able to:

  • List the main structures of the UGIT
  • Describe the normal function and processes of the UGIT
  • Identify the difference between vomiting and regurgitation and the common causes
  • Understand the diagnostic approach to patients with UGIT symptoms
  • Explain the reasons why patients with UGIT disease are higher risk for investigative procedures
  • Evaluate current methods used in practice to sedate patients with UGIT disease and analyse if modifications to practice would be beneficial.

Week 2
Diseases of the lower gastrointestinal tract

  • Lower gastrointestinal tract (LGIT) anatomy refresher
  • LGIT pathophysiology
  • Mechanisms and classification of diarrhoea
  • Investigative process for LGIT symptoms
  • Patient preparation for GI Endoscopy
  • Supportive treatment for patients with LGIT

Learning objectives
After completion of this week, participants should be able to:

  • List the main structures of the LGIT
  • Describe the normal function and processes of the LGIT
  • Differentiate diarrhoea types and common causes
  • Understand the diagnostic approach to patients with LGIT symptoms
  • Evaluate current care plans used in practice to prepare patients for endoscopy and analyse if modifications to practice would be beneficial.
  • Summarise the key therapeutic treatments for patients with LGIT

Week 3
Gastrointestinal endoscopy

  • Anatomy and functions of the gastroscope
  • Cleaning and sterilising procedure
  • Endoscopy sourcing, storage, and auditing

Learning objectives
After completion of this week, participants should be able to:

  • Label the main components and list the functions of a gastroscope
  • Explain the bedside procedure for cleaning and then sterilising the gastroscope
  • Select the correct biopsy tools and materials for optimal sampling and histological value
  • Evaluate practice protocols to standardise in line with current best practice

Week 4
Interventional endoscopy

  • Foreign body removal
  • Balloon dilatation
  • Injection of steroids and antinflammatory medications
  • Endoscopically-placed feeding tubes

Learning objectives
After completion of this week, participants should be able to:

  • List the various interventional uses of gastrointestinal endoscopy
  • Select the correct forcep tool for foreign body retrieval
  • Describe the ballooning technique use for oesophageal strictures
  • Explain the indications, risks and technique for placing a PEG tube

Week 5
Nursing patients with gastrointestinal disease

  • Nursing basics and care plans
  • Pain and emesis management
  • Oesophageal tube placement
  • Assisted feeding methods

Learning objectives
After completion of this week, participants should be able to:

  • List the essential care requirements for nursing patients with GI disease
  • Identify symptoms of pain and nausea
  • Compare patient assessment tools to monitor status and benchmark interventional treatment
  • Calculate energy requirements and feeding volumes for tube feeds

Week 6
Enteropathy therapeutics and nutrition

  • Terminology of diseases
  • Pathways and mechanisms of enteropathies
  • Medications and therapies
  • EBVM current information
  • Dietary needs

Learning objectives
After completion of this week, participants should be able to:

  • Differentiate between terms associated with chronic enteropathies
  • Analyse the treatments allocated to different types of enteropathy
  • Refer to updated resources and guidelines to further inform their knowledge and subsequently refer to it at a later date
  • Explain what a diet trial is
  • List the types of dietary allergen there are

The course will be fully tutored by Nicola Read and Gina Parkes and will consist of 15 hours of CPD given in various formats, including tutorials, tasks, case scenarios, forum discussions and quizzes.