Mechanical Ventilation

The ventilator can be scary, but it saves lives

Animal Health Partners is one of the few veterinary hospitals in the Greater Toronto Area that has a critical care ventilator, available for use in very specific situations. Mechanical ventilation is a way of providing respiratory support for animals who have very severe lung disease or are unable to breath on their own.

Dr. Dawn Crandell and the AHP Critical Care team look after a patient using the mechanical ventilator
Dr. Dawn Crandell and the AHP Critical Care team look after a patient using the mechanical ventilator

Conditions that may be managed with mechanical ventilation:

  • Respiratory muscle paralysis or reduced ventilation
  • Drug toxicities
  • 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 the lungs or weakened respiratory muscles, but it does support lung function to allow time to treat the underlying problem. Mechanical ventilation requires intensive care and continuous monitoring. For this reason, AHP veterinarians and intensive care unit technicians are at the bedside of any patient on the ventilator 24 hours per day.

Treating a pet using mechanical ventilation is a big emotional and financial commitment. Your AHP critical care veterinary specialist 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% 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% 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.

Mechanical ventilation is only appropriate under specific situations, making it a rare and expensive piece of equipment in the veterinary world.  At Animal Health Partners, we are glad to have this option when it is needed by our patients.