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What is animal critical care?

Pets can sometimes experience sudden and severe trauma, injuries or illnesses that require intensive care and the help of specialized veterinarians. Here, our Lacey emergency veterinarians share some information about animal critical care, what to expect in an ICU and how they can help your pet in serious emergencies.

Emergency & Critical Care for Pets

While the terms emergency care and critical care are often used interchangeably and can be offered in the same department, there is a distinct difference between them.

Emergency veterinary medicine focuses on helping animals suffering from acute illnesses or injuries that require urgent medical attention. While many pets receive emergency veterinary care and head home on the same day, others in need of more long-term veterinary attention may be sent to a pet ICU or critical care unit.

Critical care (or intensive care) involves the intensive ongoing care and monitoring of animals suffering from serious illnesses or injuries from which they can potentially recover. When in critical care pets receive a variety of treatments aimed at giving them their very best chance at survival.

What types of cases require critical care?

When seriously ill or injured pets arrive at the emergency veterinary hospital, staff and emergency vets work to stabilize the pet's condition, they will typically run a series of diagnostics to determine the overall condition of the pet and provide a diagnosis. At that point, a treatment plan is created. 

Pets that arrive at emergency veterinary hospitals suffering from severe health conditions such as poisoning or multiple serious injuries sustained in a car accident may not be well enough to head home once stabilized. These dogs and cats will be transferred to an intensive care unit (ICU) for ongoing observation, treatment, and 24-hour care from trained veterinary professionals.

Other animals are transferred to critical care following complex surgeries, or if they are at high risk of complications following surgery such as very young pets, senior pets, or those with other health concerns.

Another example of pets that benefit from the intensive medical care provided in a veterinary critical care unit are those being cared for at home but suffering from chronic terminal illnesses such as cancer. If the pet's condition suddenly deteriorates hospitalization may be required.

Who can offer specialized services for pets requiring critical care?

When a pet becomes critically ill, they may require special care and life-saving measures which often occur in the emergency department. If necessary, your pet will be moved to the ICU where they will be treated by critical care veterinarians or veterinary emergency clinicians who specialize in the field of critical and emergency care.

These veterinarians tend to companion animals in the ER and/or Intensive Care Unit (ICU), providing specialized care and monitoring them closely to ensure their recovery.

Intensive Care Units (ICU)

Critical care cases can't be managed at every veterinary hospital. Veterinary ICUs require specialized life-support technology and equipment, as well as a team of specially trained scheduled to work around the clock.

Temperature-controlled, sterile, isolation areas are also a key component of veterinary ICUs since seriously ill animals need to be kept comfortable and away from other pets. Some of the equipment you might find in a veterinary ICU includes:

  • Critical care mechanical ventilators
  • Defibrillator
  • Multi-parameter monitors (ECG, blood pressure, pulse oximetry)
  • Fluid pumps
  • Oxygen cages
  • Portable ultrasound

What types of care are provided in ICUs?

Because companion animals in critical care face reduced odds of survival, staff working with these animals require specialized training in critical care. If your pet is in critical care they will be under the watchful eye of highly skilled professionals that may include veterinary specialists as well as experienced vets, technicians and veterinary assistants.

While in ICU your pet's treatment may include:

  • Regular blood pressure monitoring
  • Intravenous fluid therapy
  • Blood transfusion
  • Medications to improve circulation, manage pain or fight infection
  • Oxygen support
  • Mechanical ventilation
  • Dialysis
  • ECG
  • Chest tube
  • Catheterization
  • Nutritional support

Veterinary Emergency Care at Olympia Pet Emergency

Our team understands how stressful it can be if your pet requires critical care, but our Lacey veterinary emergency clinicians want you to know that we always have your pet's best interests at heart. We will do all we can to help your pet recover from whatever condition brought them into our care.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Our veterinary emergency clinicians are experienced in managing critical conditions affecting pets. Contact Olympia Pet Emergency right away if your pet is experiencing an emergency.

Walk-in Patients Welcome

At Olympia Pet Emergency, you can always access our full complement of emergency services without an appointment. We treat both walk-in patients and referrals for urgent veterinary care.

Contact Us

Contact (360) 455-5155