Emergency and critical care is a life-saving veterinary specialty. Seriously injured pets or those suffering from life-threatening illnesses require emergency care. Along with emergency treatment, it may take a long time for the disease to run its course, and for recovery to begin. During this process, close monitoring of your pet’s condition or life support measures may be needed in the intensive care unit (ICU). A specially trained team, led by the emergency and critical care veterinarian will make sure your pet receives the critical care needed during this crucial time.

Does my pet need emergency and critical care?

Your general veterinarian will determine the appropriate care for your pet. Typically, any seriously ill or injured animal might benefit from emergency and critical care. Obvious examples are pets with bite wounds or those who have sustained trauma.

However, many other concerns are commonly treated, such as:

  • Animals that have been hit by cars or bullets, knife or burn injuries
  • Pets with breathing issues
  • Animals in need of a blood transfusion
  • Patients displaying signs of shock which include abnormal heart rate, weakness, pale mucous membranes in their mouth and cold extremities
  • Animals who are not producing urine or are having difficulty urinating
  • Pets in need of specialized nutritional support because they are not able or willing to eat normally
  • Patients with an abnormal heart rhythm that is causing problems
  • Animals with a neurologic disease like severe seizures or coma that is not responding to medical treatment
  • Postoperative pets that are not recovering well from anesthesia or not progressing well in the days following surgery

What is the difference between a veterinarian and a specialist in emergency and critical care?

An emergency and critical care physician is a specially trained veterinarian committed to treating animals with serious, or life-threatening conditions. After graduating from veterinary school, they are required to complete an additional three years (residency) of intense training focusing on emergency, surgery and critical care. Once the residency is completed, the candidate is required to pass a difficult board certification exam administered by the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care (ACVECC). Upon successful completion, the veterinarian is granted board certification and is termed a specialist in veterinary emergency and critical care.

Routine duties include evaluating traumatic injuries, performing surgical procedures, administering and evaluating diagnostic tests, creating detailed case reports, supervising ICUs, and overseeing veterinary support staff.