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Emergency and Critical Care Services

ICUteam_bersenas_steele_donohoeThe Critical Care Service offers state-of-the-art intensive care to critically ill dogs, cats, and some exotic pets. We are composed of a team of two faculty board-certified emergency and critical care specialists and three residents who are specialists-in-training. With our team of experienced technicians, we provide specialized monitoring and intensive treatment for critically ill or injured pets. Examples of conditions that might cause your pet to require intensive care include trauma, severe infection, heart, liver, respiratory or kidney failure, toxin ingestion, urinary tract obstruction, seizures, or heat stroke. We work closely with your referring veterinarian to provide the best possible diagnostic and intensive treatment plan for your pet.

What to Expect

Our emergency service is overseen by two Emergency and Critical Care veterinary specialists, along with residents and interns, who are veterinarians pursuing higher education. We also have 3 veterinary technicians dedicated to oversee the Emergency Service who may be your first point of contact. The Emergency Service is supported by all of the specialties in the Ontario Veterinary College Small Animal Hospital (internal medicine, surgery, neurology, ophthalmology, oncology, etc).

When you first arrive you will be greeted by one of our specialized emergency technicians or the Veterinary Intern directly, who will make an initial assessment of your pet. Thereafter, your pet’s full examination will be as soon as possible, however emergencies are ‘triaged’ meaning that the sickest patients must be seen first.

The veterinary Intern will be your veterinarian during your pet’s emergency admission. Based on your pet’s presenting medical findings, the intern will consult with the specialist most appropriate for your pet’s condition. The specialist may not be able to see your pet directly at the emergency appointment, but consultation will be made with the specialty service in order to deliver to you the best information possible. Your pet will be transferred to the specialty service as needed and as expeditiously as possible.

As we are a teaching hospital, veterinary students in their final year are often assigned to patients on arrival. This student will introduce themselves to you and partake in gaining a medical history and assessing your pet. Thereafter a Veterinarian will join the appointment and oversee the care of your patient. The student assigned to your pet, will be an excellent, consistent point of contact for you while your pet may be transferred to the appropriate medical service. Our students are incredibly vested and dedicated to your pet and offer an additional level of care.

If your pet is experiencing a critical or life-threatening emergency, your pet will be immediately taken to the Intensive Care Unit for stabilization and assessment. Although this is a very difficult time for you, know that your pet is being assessed and emergency stabilization (oxygen, pain management) initiated by a trained veterinary team.  The veterinarian will discuss the findings and offer options for further care for your pet as soon as possible. All decisions about your pet’s medical treatment are made in collaboration with you and the veterinarian.

Our intensive care unit is run by 2 critical care veterinary specialists, in conjunction with residents, veterinarians specializing in critical care medicine. Experienced technicians, specialized in emergency & critical care, staff the ICU around the clock. As we are a teaching hospital, veterinary students in their final year also play a major role in the management and care of our patients. These students provide an extra level commitment and care to your pet. These students are always closely supervised by our senior clinicians and experienced technical staff.

Treatments and Services

  • Advanced intravenous fluid therapy
  • Oxygen supplementation
  • Thoracocentesis and chest tube placement for respiratory distress
  • Blood transfusions and blood component therapy
  • Nutritional support (feeding tube placement and intravenous nutrition)
  • Expert nursing care and multimodal analgesia
  • Cardiopulmonary cerebral resuscitation (CPR) and post-resuscitation life support
  • Peritoneal dialysis for the treatment of kidney failure
  • Mechanical ventilation for the treatment of respiratory failure
  • Indirect blood pressure and ECG monitoring
  • Invasive blood pressure and central venous pressure monitoring
  • Isolation for contagious respiratory or parvoviral enteritis patients
  • Pulse oximetry and capnography
  • Blood gas analysis
  • In-house coagulation testing and blood typing
  • Abbreviated ultrasound examination

Specialized Equipment

  • Large selection of intravenous fluids (crystalloids and colloids)
  • Blood component therapy (whole blood, packed red blood cells, plasma, platelets)
  • Fluid pumps and syringe pumps for accurate fluid and drug delivery
  • Cribs and hydraulic cage for easy and continuous access to critical patients
  • Oxygen availability to all cages in the ICU
  • Oxygen cage (temperature and humidity controlled)
  • Indirect blood pressure monitors (Doppler, oscillometric)
  • Multi-parameter monitors (ECG, blood pressure, pulse oximetry)
  • Capnograph (end-tidal CO2 monitoring)
  • Blood gas analyser (Radiometer®)
  • Handheld lactate and glucose meters
  • Interstitial glucose monitoring system (Guardian®)
  • Osmometer
  • Blood ammonia testing (Arkray PocketChem BA®)
  • Coagulation testing (IDEXX CoagDx®)
  • Portable ultrasound
  • Defibrillator
  • Critical care mechanical ventilators (Drager®)
  • Continuous suction (for chest tubes, wound management)

The ICU can be a busy noisy environment. There are many monitors, devices and associated alarms. You may have feelings of helplessness or a loss of control when your beloved pet becomes sick and is being cared for in the ICU. Know that a trained veterinary team is caring for, and closely monitoring, your pet. Questions are welcome and expected.

All decisions about your pet’s medical treatment are made in collaboration with you and the veterinarian.

You will receive updates on your pet’s condition at least once a day from the veterinarian, or student, on the case. You should expect your update by midmorning, unless you have arranged a different time with your veterinarian / student. Please know that if your pet is experiencing any complication or unexpected medical finding you will be contacted immediately – day or night. If your contact is delayed, please know that this is due to medical demands / emergencies that have unexpectedly arisen unrelated to your pet.  You are always welcome to contact our front desk to solicit information; as much information will be transmitted to you as possible at that time, until full discussion with your pet’s veterinarian is possible.

Visits are welcome and most patients respond very favourably to visits. However, arrangements for your visit must be organized through your pet’s veterinarian or student, as they need to be available during your visit. Whenever possible we will try to move your pet to a private room away from the activity of the unit. Alternatively, you will be able to visit cage/bed side for short periods. We kindly ask you to keep visits short. This helps with the routine provision of care to your pet and all pets hospitalized in the intensive care unit.  Please be prepared to be asked to step out quickly as our emergency room is connected with the ICU and emergencies may occur during your visit that require our full attention.

Clients can have the utmost confidence that our students and technicians practice to the highest professional standards and excel at the nursing care of critically ill patients, under the direct supervision of the emergency and critical care specialists and residents.

Please speak with your Critical Care Service team if you have any questions or concerns during your pet’s stay in the ICU.

Click here for Clinical Trials in Emergency and Critical Care currently recruiting patients

Members of the Emergency and Critical Care Service

Dr. Alexa Bersenas, DVM, MSc, Dip ACVECC
Dr. Shane Bateman, DVM, DVSc, Dip ACVECC