The Ruminant Digestive System

The parts of the ruminant GI tract are alike to those of monogastric mammals except the forestomachs that are rumen, reticulum, and omasum.

The use of pharmacologic agents to treat diseases of the glandular stomach (abomasum) and intestine follows principles common to both monogastric and ruminant species.

In Ruminants feed undergoes microbial predigestion in the forestomachs, chiefly in the rumen and reticulum.

Ruminoreticular motility or fermentation is depressed in numerous conditions

That is:

  • improper feeding (overload or deficiency of specific nutrients),
  • lack of water,
  • infectious diseases,
  • intoxications,
  • lesions of any part of the upper GI tract
  • , metabolic states (eg, hypocalcemia),
  • reduced flow of alkaline saliva that allows pH to fall and the microbial population to be altered to an unsafe extent to the animal.


The primary objectives of pharmacotherapy are to remove the cause and to help the return of normal digestive function by meeting or restoring the requirements for optimal ruminoreticular function

This may include any of the following:

  • Ensuring an appropriate substrate for microbial fermentation;
  • Supplying any cofactors (eg, phosphorus, sulfur) necessary for microbial fermentative processes;
  • Removing any soluble end-products, undigested solid residues, and gas;
  • Maintaining continual flow culture of ruminal microorganisms;
  • Ensuring that the contents of the ruminoreticulum are fluid;
  • Maintaining optimal intraluminal pH (generally between 6 and 7); and
  • Promoting active ruminoreticular activity.

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