At AllThingsNature, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.

Learn more...

What Is Involved in Animal Critical Care?

Angela Colley
Angela Colley

Animal critical care delivers crucial veterinary services often during an emergency or after regular business hours. Typically, pets receive critical care after they become suddenly ill or experience a serious accident and need immediate medical attention. To obtain this care, pet owners often take their animals to a critical care hospital. These hospitals have veterinarians on staff who have completed specialized training in animal critical care. A specialist may conduct tests, perform surgery, or prescribe medications for the animal.

Pets usually receive animal critical care attention in emergency situations. For example, a dog may become suddenly ill and display signs of distress such as shaking, trouble breathing, vomiting or bleeding. In this case, an animal critical care specialist would be needed. Other common reasons to seek critical care include accidents, such as when an animal is hit by a car, and fights, which can lead to severe wounds or broken limbs.

Animal critical care hospitals keep veterinarians on staff who specialize in animal critical care.
Animal critical care hospitals keep veterinarians on staff who specialize in animal critical care.

In many cases, pet owners use animal critical care services after regular business hours or on weekends and holidays when their regular veterinarian is closed. Occasionally, the pet is referred to an animal critical care treatment facility by its regular veterinarian. Typically a veterinarian refers an animal to these facilities if he or she is not equipped to diagnose or treat a critical illness or injury.

An animal involved in an accident may require surgery.
An animal involved in an accident may require surgery.

To treat patients in need of animal critical care, a veterinarian receives several years of specialized training and must pass an examination. First, the veterinarian completes veterinary school from a recognized institution. After graduation, he or she completes three years of training in critical care through a program approved by the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care (ACVECC). To become certified, the veterinarian must pass an examination given by the ACVECC.

Certified animal critical care veterinarians use a variety of medications and medical equipment to treat animals in need of critical care. Generally, the veterinarian starts by diagnosing the problem, which often involves taking blood samples, performing x-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and conducting a full examination of the animal. After diagnosis the veterinarian treats the animal.

Treatment of a pet needing critical care can be either short term or long term. For example, an animal involved in an accident may simply need surgery to repair a broken bone. An animal with a serious illness may need several or even regular visits with the veterinarian. In these cases, the animal care specialist may refer the animal to a regular veterinarian after the initial diagnosis.

Frequently Asked Questions

What types of conditions typically require animal critical care?

Animal critical care is often necessary for life-threatening conditions such as severe trauma, acute organ failure, serious infections, or complications from surgery. Conditions like heatstroke, poisoning, or severe allergic reactions also warrant immediate critical care to stabilize the animal's vital functions and prevent further deterioration.

What kind of treatments are administered in animal critical care?

In animal critical care, treatments may include intravenous fluids to manage dehydration, blood transfusions for animals with severe anemia or blood loss, medications to support heart function or treat infections, oxygen therapy for respiratory distress, and advanced monitoring of vital signs to guide treatment decisions.

How are pain and discomfort managed in critically ill animals?

Pain management is a crucial aspect of animal critical care. Veterinarians use a combination of analgesics, including opioids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and local anesthetics, to alleviate pain. Comfort is also enhanced through soft bedding, a quiet environment, and gentle handling to reduce stress and promote healing.

What role do veterinary specialists play in animal critical care?

Veterinary specialists, such as critical care specialists (veterinary intensivists), surgeons, and internal medicine experts, play a pivotal role in managing complex cases. They bring advanced knowledge and skills to diagnose and treat severe conditions, often collaborating to provide comprehensive, multidisciplinary care for critically ill animals.

How can pet owners prepare for potential critical care situations?

Pet owners can prepare by knowing the location of the nearest 24-hour veterinary emergency clinic and having a financial plan, such as pet insurance or a dedicated savings account. Keeping a list of emergency contact numbers and being aware of their pet's normal behavior for early detection of issues is also beneficial.

What is the success rate of animal critical care?

The success rate of animal critical care varies widely depending on the condition being treated, the animal's overall health, and how quickly treatment is initiated. While specific statistics are not universally available, timely and advanced medical intervention can significantly improve the chances of recovery for critically ill animals.

Discuss this Article

Post your comments
Forgot password?
    • Animal critical care hospitals keep veterinarians on staff who specialize in animal critical care.
      By: Gabriel Blaj
      Animal critical care hospitals keep veterinarians on staff who specialize in animal critical care.
    • An animal involved in an accident may require surgery.
      By: Scott Griessel
      An animal involved in an accident may require surgery.