Critical care

Primary care veterinarians routinely treat emergencies, sometimes on a daily – even hourly – basis. There are times, however, when offices are closed, conditions are critical, or special equipment is needed to best diagnose and treat the problem. In such cases, the Critical Care department at Southern California Veterinary Specialty Hospital is ready and able to assist pet owners and referring vets with severely injured pets.

In an emergency, follow the guidelines below to protect your pet and yourself. Remember, even docile and affectionate dogs and cats can be dangerous if they are in pain.

  • Assess the situation to ensure there are no other animals (and cars, if outdoors) in the vicinity
  • Approach slowly and cautiously, and speak in a quiet, calm voice
  • Listen for breathing and any unusual noises
  • If a muzzle is available, apply it if possible
  • Do your best to keep the pet calm and warm, and use a flat board, cardboard box, or large blanket as a stretcher during transportation to the closest veterinary hospital
Have the pet evaluated by a veterinarian as quickly as possible. As one of nine Veterinary Trauma Centers in the U.S. and the only one in Orange County, SCVSH offers comprehensive care for small animal trauma patients 24/7/365.

SCVSH’s board-certified Critical Care specialists manage a dedicated team of intensive care diagnosticians and nurses. ICU services include abdominal and cardiac ultrasounds; hematology, chemistry and blood gas analyses; MRI and other imaging procedures.

Oxygen, respiratory and nutritional supports are available, as are a range of additional intensive care treatments, including:

  • Mechanical ventilation
  • Albumin replacement
  • Blood transfusions
  • Thoracocentesis, abdominocentesis, and pericardiocentesis
  • Infectious disease isolation
  • Endoscopic foreign body retrieval
  • Snake bite antivenin therapy
  • Acute poisoning treatment


Loving pet owners never know when an emergency will arise, so it’s always best to be prepared. Knowing the right information and having access to useful tools can save time – and perhaps a pet’s life – in an emergency situation.

  • Save the telephone number for your primary care veterinarian in your mobile phone, and keep it near all home phones
  • Know where the nearest 24-hour emergency veterinary hospital is located, and also have that telephone number handy
  • Know the phone number for Poison Control
  • Make sure your pet is wearing an ID tag at all times, and microchip if possible
  • Keep a pet first aid kit in your home