While your general practice veterinarian can diagnose and treat many health problems and handle many routine emergencies, certain situations require the care of a doctor who has had specialized, intensive training in handling emergency and critical care for your pet. An emergency and critical care specialist typically works in tandem with your general practice veterinarian on a referral basis, as well as with any other needed specialists, until the emergency is resolved.
What is an Emergency and Critical Care Specialist?
A residency trained or board certified specialist in emergency and critical care is a veterinarian who has obtained intensive, additional training in treating life-threatening conditions. An emergency and critical care specialist can help in many types of cases, including:
- Traumatic injuries of all kinds
- Respiratory emergencies
- Exposure or ingestion of toxic substances
- Transfusion therapy involving blood products including red blood cells, plasma, albumin and platelets
- Animals in shock
- Coma or severe seizures
- Diabetic crises
- Acute or severe illness
While your general practice veterinarian can diagnose and treat many health problems and handle many routine emergencies, certain situations require the care of a doctor who has had specialized, intensive training in handling emergency and critical care in order to provide the best outcome for your pet. An emergency and critical care specialist typically works in tandem with your general practice veterinarian on a referral basis, as well as with any other needed specialists, until your pet’s emergency is resolved.
How Can I Find a Specialist in Emergency and Critical Care for My Pet?
If your veterinarian does not handle after hours emergencies, then he or she probably already has a referral relationship in place with a local or regional emergency hospital. You can also look for emergency specialists in your area on the ACVECC website. You can be assured that a veterinarian who knows when and where to refer you and your pet for emergency or critical care is one that is caring and committed to ensuring your pet receives the highest standard of care for his or her health problem.
When Does My Pet Need Emergency Care?
Many situations can be considered an emergency, including:
- Difficulty breathing or severe coughing
- Ingestion of a foreign object, drug, poison or unknown substance
- Bleeding or unexplained bruising
- Blood in vomit, feces or urine
- Severe vomiting, retching, or diarrhea
- Swollen, hard or painful abdomen
- Serious wound
- Suspected broken limb
- Any injury to the eye
- Loss of consciousness
- Inability to move or sudden weakness
- Signs of extreme pain
- Straining to urinate (especially a male cat)
- Prolonged or difficult labor
- Prolonged heat exposure, overheating or heat stroke
- Snake bite
What is Critical Care?
While an emergency is unfolding, or throughout recovery from a serious illness or accident, ongoing diagnostic and therapeutic care and constant monitoring of your pet's condition are required. Many emergency and critical care facilities offer 24-hour supervision of critically ill pets and, just as in human hospitals, may have dedicated Intensive Care and Critical Care Units (ICU/CCU). Such facilities are equipped to provide oxygen therapy, cardiac monitoring, blood transfusions, and nutritional support. These facilities also typically have advanced diagnostic capabilities onsite, such as ultrasound and echocardiography.
Will My Regular Veterinarian Still Be Involved?
Many emergency hospitals work on a referral basis with general practitioners. In some cases, your pet will only be referred to the emergency service for after-hours care. In other cases, your pet may be in the care of the emergency and critical care specialist for the duration of the emergency and recovery, then referred back to your general practice veterinarian for follow up and routine care.
Did You Know?
There are more than 125 board-certified veterinary emergency and critical care specialists in the U.S. today and it is the fastest growing specialty in the profession.