Life-Threatening Medical Emergencies

By Dr. Golden

Whether at home, or during hospitalization for a medical or surgical disorder, life-threatening medical emergencies can develop at any time in our animal companions.   At AHNA, we recognize the need to be prepared for such events and take pride in being ready to intervene in a prompt and professional matter should such a need arise.

Life-threatening emergencies can arise from numerous and varied types of accidents, traumas, exposure to toxins, and the onset or progression of a multitude of medical and surgical diseases.  When they occur, the most important first step is to remain calm.  Every effort should be made to provide any first-aid care that is appropriate.  After that, you should seek veterinary care as soon as is reasonably possible.  While it can be difficult to try and think ahead during these events, there are some things that should be done prior to leaving the site where the emergency event occurred.  If there is any possibility for an exposure to a toxin or drug, then bringing the containers that these products were stored in is very important.  Collecting and bringing any medications that the patient is receiving is also important if the emergency is likely to be due to progression of an existing disease process or possible drug interaction.  Such information can be valuable in the subsequent care of your dog or cat.  However, in most cases of trauma, the best thing to do is to provide first-aid and then transport the dog or cat as soon as possible.

At AHNA, we have established protocols that allow us to quickly and efficiently evaluate emergencies to determine the seriousness of the situation, initiate immediate life support measures if needed, and to expedite the diagnostic and therapeutic measures necessary to handle the medical and/or surgical needs of the patient.  In addition, our extended hours also allow us to be available to our clients for emergency situations outside of routine business hours.  A veterinarian and certified veterinary technician are always present on-site from 8:00am to 8:30pm Monday through Friday and from 8:00am to 5:00pm on Saturdays.  During these hours, emergencies are always welcome, even during those times when the office is not open for routine appointments due to staff training.

Upon arrival, emergency patients are initially assessed by a certified veterinary technician to determine the extent of the injury or illness.  One of our staff veterinarians will then perform an examination to determine which diagnostic and/or treatment interventions are indicated.  During this time, every effort is made to allow the owner to be present with the pet if possible.  During this period the owner may be called upon to provide information that can be useful in the management of the current situation.  Throughout this process, we strive to keep our clients updated on the status of their pet as well as involving them in decisions regarding which diagnostic and treatment options best fulfill their wishes in how their dog or cat should be treated.

At AHNA, we maintain and offer a wide array of diagnostic equipment, therapeutic interventions, and surgical facilities that can provide on-site and expeditious intervention when needed for emergency situations.  Our in-house laboratory allows us to rapidly perform blood tests that can give us important information in an emergency situation.  In addition, we also have available many forms of advanced equipment which allow us to perform numerous diagnostic procedures quickly.  This includes equipment which allows for the ability to obtain digital radiographs (x-rays), perform ultrasound and echocardiography, monitor blood pressure, assess oxygenation in the blood, and monitor the effectiveness of a patient’s ability to breathe.   We also maintain a wide array of specialty medications, intravenous fluid and support products, and ready access to transfusion products in order to extend our ability to manage many life-threatening situations.   When necessary, we are prepared to provide surgical intervention if needed in the management of an emergency situation by maintaining a surgical suite and equipment necessary to handle most emergency needs.  Of equal importance to us and AHNA, we strive to complement these emergency measures by having our technicians provide direct supervision and monitoring of our patients while also focusing on the patient’s comfort and care during this stressful time.

To further support our desire to provide the best emergency care possible, the veterinarians and staff at AHNA routinely undergo training to further improve our ability to intervene rapidly when a life-threatening emergency arises.  As an example, all veterinarians and technicians undergo annual training on CPCR (cardiopulmonary cerebral resuscitation).  These training events have resulted in the development of AHNA protocols that coordinate the activities of all individuals during a CPCR event and help improve outcome in these critical situations.  In addition, the veterinarians and staff of AHNA will undergo hundreds of hours of continuing education each year in order to remain informed of recent advances and techniques that are often needed in the management of life-threatening emergencies.

We all know that life-threatening medical emergencies are rarely predictable, but when they arise, the best possibility for a positive outcome is to be prepared.  At AHNA we take this approach to heart and remain ready to assist you and your animal companion if such a need should arise.


I so appreciate the knowledge that we could bring Tucker in for emergencies with your expanded hours. He is so precious to us and it is such a comfort knowing that the best vet office is likely open. THANK YOU!