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Animal Critical Care

Animal Critical Care

Much like critical care for people, emergency pet hospitals provide critically ill or injured cats and dogs with urgent veterinary care. In this post, our Poway emergency vets discuss critical veterinary care for animals and how we can help your pet.

Emergency & Critical Care

Although the terms critical care and emergency care are often used interchangeably, in veterinary medicine there are some key differences between the two.

Emergency veterinary care  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.

When Pets May Require Critical Care

When seriously ill or injured pets arrive at the emergency clinic 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.

Intensive Care Units

Not every veterinary clinic is equipped or staffed to handle critical care cases. 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

Elements of Critical Care

Because pets 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 it will be under the watchful eye of highly skilled professionals that may include veterinary specialists as well as experienced vets, technicians, and veterinary assistants.

When in need of critical care, your pet's treatment may include the:

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

Veterinary Critical Care at Animal Emergency Clinic of San Diego

Our team understands how stressful it can be if your pet requires critical care, but our Poway emergency vets 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.

Has your pet experienced a veterinary emergency? Contact our Poway vets as soon as possible. If there's no time to call, bring them to our office immediately.

Experienced Emergency Vet Care in Poway

Animal Emergency Clinic of San Diego is a family-run after-hours and critical care hospital, providing veterinary emergency care since 1985. If your pet is experiencing an emergency, contact us to get the help your pet needs.

Contact Us

(858) 748-7387