Mechanical ventilation gives respiratory support to animals who are not able to breathe on their own, or have trouble breathing. This life support equipment allows us to assist the patient’s lung function while their illness is treated. Pets receiving mechanical ventilation require very intensive care and continuous monitoring by experienced veterinarians and nurses trained in management of ventilation patients 24 hours/day.
What happens during ventilation?
Patients are usually anesthetized during mechanical ventilation to avoid causing them distress. A tube is inserted in to the pet’s airway and connected to a ventilation machine which breathes for the patient. The patient is resting comfortably and not aware of the mechanical ventilation giving them the opportunity to rest while they’re receiving treatment.
The pet is monitored closely while being ventilated to ensure their oxygen levels and other vital signs are satisfactory. They’re medicated and fed via an IV or specially placed feeding tube, with nursing staff ensuring they are clean and comfortable throughout the process as the patient is not able to move themselves.
Once the patient’s ailment has been treated, or their lungs are proving strong enough to work on their own, the ventilation is reduced in an effort to wean them from the life support.
Illnesses requiring mechanical ventilation
Respiratory paralysis can be caused by a number of conditions. Some include tick paralysis (only seen in Perth in pets that have travelled from the Eastern States of Australia), snake envenomation, drug toxicities, brain disease or head traumas, recovery from cardiac arrest or those struggling after surgery due to a reaction to anaesthesia to name a few.
Lung disease is another condition causing patients to need mechanical ventilation – examples of this can include pneumonia, severe heart failure, electrocutions and near drownings.
Can I visit my pet on the ventilator?
It is possible to visit your pet while they are on the ventilator. Discuss this with your critical care veterinarian so they can allocate a time when your pet isn’t receiving treatment or undergoing procedures. The intensive care team can be busy and you may be asked to step out during your visit but we will do everything possible to allow adequate time for you with your pet. Your pet won’t be awake during your visit and won’t respond but we feel they still find strength in loving pets and cuddles, helping them have a speedy recovery.
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