Mechanical Ventilation

Mechanical ventilation is a way of providing respiratory support for animals who are unable to maintain ventilation or oxygenation on their own. It is used for a wide variety of conditions.

Conditions managed with mechanical ventilation:

  • Respiratory muscle paralysis or reduced ventilation
  • Coral snake envenomation
  • Drug toxicities
  • Coonhound paralysis
  • Tick paralysis
  • Myasthenia Gravis
  • Cervical disc disease (slipped disk)
  • Severe brain disease or head trauma
  • During recovery from a difficult anesthesia or certain surgical procedures
  • During recovery from a cardiac arrest
  • Lung disease:
    • Pneumonia
    • Acute respiratory distress syndrome
    • Pulmonary contusions following trauma
    • Congestive heart failure
    • Pulmonary edema

Mechanical ventilation does not cure any disease, but it does support lung function to allow time to treat the underlying problem. Ventilation does require intensive care and continuous monitoring. For this reason, emergency veterinarians and intensive care unit technicians are with any patients on the ventilator 24 hours/day.

Treating a pet using mechanical ventilation is a big emotional and financial commitment. Your UF emergency veterinarian can help you decide whether it is the right thing for you and your pet.

What is the prognosis for patients receiving mechanical ventilation?

It depends on the disease that the patient has, for example about 30 percent of dogs who are being ventilated for pneumonia will be successfully taken off ventilator, for dogs who are being ventilated due to respiratory muscle paralysis, the prognosis is much better with around 75 percent of dogs being successfully weaned from ventilation.

Is the patient aware of what is going on during ventilation?

No, usually animals are kept very sedated or completely anesthetized during mechanical ventilation. One of the major advantages of using mechanical ventilation in patients with severe lung disease is it prevents them from having to work hard to breathe and allows them to rest.

Can I visit my pet on the ventilator?

Yes! We encourage pet owners to come back to the intensive care unit and visit with their pet while he or she is on the ventilator. It is important for you as an owner to see what is going on and sometimes even sedated pets will respond to their owner’s voice. The veterinary intensive care unit can sometimes be busy and we may ask you to step out for a time if there is an veterinary emergency in the room.

What is the cost of mechanical ventilation?

It is a big financial commitment. The cost varies considerably on how sick the pet is and what other treatment is required e.g. surgery or drug therapy. Your UF emergency veterinarian will provide you with a detailed estimate of costs at the beginning of treatment and will keep you regulary updated during your pet’s hospital stay.

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