Information for the Family and Friends of Pets in the Critical Care Unit at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital of Colorado State University

Sandy Huber, a veterinary critical care nurse, measuring the central venous pressure on "Laddy"

Mission Statement:

Critical Care and Emergency Medicine at Colorado State University serves as center of excellence for patient care, teaching, service, and clinical investigations to state, regional, and international veterinary medicine. Emergency and critical care medicine is a specialty in veterinary medicine and is organized in similar ways to our counterparts in human medicine.

On first impression, the CCU may seem like a scary place for your animal to be hospitalized -- there are doctors, nurses, students, bright lights, fancy equipment, and other animals, all affording very little privacy. The critical care unit is planned that way so that a few highly trained people, along with our students, can constantly care for the very sick or injured pet. Another impression visitors to CCU offen have is one of many strange noises. These are produced by the high-tech equipment that constantly monitors vital signs and intravenous fluid rates in order to help us save the lives of of these pets.

Although the CCU is a very busy place, you should not worry about the care your pet is receiving. Be assured, it is the very best of care. In fact, there are many times when you will be encouraged to visit your pet and asked to bring something from home, such as a special toy or diet. Your visits are big assets to the comfort or well-being of your pet.

You will need progress reports on the condition of your pet. These reports are best provided by the veterinarian in charge of your pet. Although CCU personnel and students are sometimes available to give you an update, we hope you will ask the doctor in charge of your case to give you progress reports. If changes occur which you need to be advised of, we will notify you at anytime, day or night. Although we are busy 24 hours each day, it is best to expect phone calls from your veterinarian during normal working hours and from 8 until noon on weekends and holidays.

It is sometimes frustrating if the doctor isn't always available. When doctors and students aren't seeing patients individually, they spend a good deal of their available time in "rounds" to reevaluate every patient's treatment. It is important for them to confer with their collegues to insure the best treatment for each patient.

When you come to visit, CCU personnel will generally bring your animal to an examination room in the front part of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Occasionally, this means disconnecting intravenous fluids or monitoring instruments so we will be checking on you periodically to be sure your pet is stable. If you notice any change in the appearance of your animal, please notify the receptionists and we will immediately respond to your pet's needs. There are times when we will advise against moving your pet from the CCU for a visit. In these cases we will make every effort to provide you an opportunity to visit in the CCU. These visits are often not as comforting to you or your pet as we have lots going on and the activity often distracts from your visit. Please don't be alarmed if you are asked to leave the CCU suddenly. Sometimes the arrival of a new, critically-ill pet will cause the nurses to hurry you out. Later, as things calm down, you can return to resume your visit. You are the MOST important person to your pet so please plan to visit if at all possible. When weather permits, we would like you to take your pet outside on the grass for your visit. The fresh air is refreshing and the activity levels around your pet are not as likely to disturb the visit. On the southwestern side of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital is a group of benches where you are welcome to sit and visit.

Pets in the CCU are being monitored with a variety of highly specialized instruments. We have the ability to continuously monitor the electrocardiogram, blood pressure, respiratory and heart rates, ventilatory status, biochemical and hematological changes, and numerous other parameters. Most of our monitoring is done with telemetry and the results are then fed into a computer for trending of changes and reports are printed daily on your pet's progress.

We use the fewest restraints required to provide your pet the fluid therapy and medications required. Occasionally an animal wants to chew out their catheters and we have to place a plastic collar around the neck to prevent licking, chewing, or irritating a catheter or suture line. Pain relief is an important part of our responsibility in CCU. Occasionally your pet may be sedated when you visit but your visit is still important to the personnel and your pet. Feel free to touch and handle your pet. Be alert that your pet may have had surgery and may be a little "tender". Don't be surprised if your animal falls asleep during your visit. This happens often, either because of medications or the fatigue that accompanies serious illness, surgery, or injury.

Some of our doctors look surprisingly young to you, but they are all Doctors of Veterinary Medicine. Usually you can tell our doctors from our students by noting that the student wears a blue-colored jacket or smock while the doctors usually wear white. There is always a senior doctor available.

What doctors know best is how to diagnose and treat ailments that affect pets. What you know best is what makes your pet unique. Through communication with our personnel and your pet, you can reduce the anxiety of "our patient" and aid in the recovery process.

Probably the hardest thing about having your pet in the CCU is the emotional rollercoaster - one day can be full of despair, the next, full of hope. It is important that you share your feelings with the staff, family, friends, or other visitors. Also, the Veterinary Teaching Hospital has a group of trained professionals working in a program called Changes. If you need some emotional support, please don't hesitate to contact these people. Even if you feel anger or other emotions you think are inappropriate, it is better to talk about your feelings than to hold them in. Chances are, many other people have felt the same way you do.

Perhaps the most valuable member of the pet's health care team is......


Take care of yourself and have the confidence we are taking the best care of your pet.

We CARE......

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For more information please contact Wayne E. Wingfield

Revised April 14, 1998