Critical Care

The intensive care unit at the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre aims to provide the highest quality of care to critically ill small animals. The unit is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by critical care technicians.

The ICU is equipped with state-of-the art medical devices that are used in critical care: 

  • Respiratory monitoring: a blood gas analyzer to perform venous/arterial blood gases, pulse oximetry and capnography to provide end-tidal carbon dioxide analysis. Oxygen delivery via an oxygen cage, pediatric incubator and nasal cannulation is available to assist animals that are experiencing respiratory difficulty. Mechanical ventilation is also available to assist or fully support animals in respiratory failure.
  • Cardiac monitoring is available with indirect blood pressure devices and direct blood pressure monitors, continuous electrocardiograms and central venous pressures.
  • Fluid therapy with crystalloids, colloids, parenteral nutrition and blood products are conducted within the ICU.
  • Transfusions of blood products are performed under the vigilant supervision of the ICU staff.
  • A special hospital bed that can be moved to different areas of the hospital and with specialized monitoring devices to provide optimal patient care and diagnostics.
What illnesses do cats and dogs have that require them to stay in the ICU?

WCVM clinicians will move their patients to the small animal ICU for serious conditions that require the highest level of care and monitoring:

  • unstable cardiovascular diseases
  • oxygen dependency
  • extreme pain
  • severe infections or septic states
  • extreme neurologic complications
  • severe metabolic derangement
  • blood transfusions
  • ventilatory support.

Animals that require hospitalization in the small animal ICU include those with severe pancreatitis, respiratory distress, acute congestive heart failure, pneumonia, moderate to severe trauma (from automobile accidents or other traumatic accidents), complicated diabetes, and recent surgeries and surgical complications.

Canine and feline patients from other services such as internal medicine, soft tissue surgery, orthopedic surgery, neurology and the emergency service may be hospitalized in the ICU. The care of these patients is directed by the supervising service and the critical care clinicians are available to provide consultations as needed to these services.

How much does it cost for critically ill patient care?

The cost of hospitalization in the ICU typically varies between $300 and $600 per 24 hours, depending on the level of patient care and monitoring required.

What is the technologist-to-patient ratio in the ICU?

The ratio varies from one to one to one to four, depending on the intensity of care necessary to provide optimal care for the patient.

Why does my pet need to be admitted to the ICU if it only needs fluid therapy?

Currently, the ICU is the only section of the hospital that is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by trained veterinary technologists who can monitor patients on fluids.

The veterinary technologists are trained to monitor the patients for signs of fluid overload and respiratory rate. They can troubleshoot and address any problems that may arise with the IV catheters or fluid pumps.

Can I visit my pet in ICU?

Yes, there is a visiting policy in place for ICU visits:

  • Visiting hours are 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. and 5:00 to 7:00 p.m., seven days a week.
  • All visits to the ICU must to be arranged in advance with the primary clinician on the case. Clients will not be allowed to drop in for unscheduled visits.
  • No more than three persons per pet should visit at any one time.
  • Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult at all times. Children under the age of two, strollers and other family pets are not permitted in the hospital area.
  • Immuno-compromised individuals should not be allowed to visit in the ICU, but concessions can be made with respect to this policy on a case by case basis.
  • In the event of an arrest or the arrival of a life-threatening emergency, clients will be asked to leave the ICU immediately.
  • Unless otherwise approved by the primary clinician, visits are limited to once a day for a maximum of 15 minutes per visit.
  • Clients who are visiting in the ICU must be escorted back to the reception area from the ICU and will not be allowed to wander in the hospital’s hallways.
Can I bring in my pet’s special toys and blankets?

In general, we discourage any personal items with patients in the ICU. These are often lost or misplaced in the laundry and not returned to you.