Intensive Care Unit (ICU)

The intensive care unit at the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre aims to provide the highest quality of care to critically ill small animals. The unit is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by critical care technicians.

The ICU is equipped with state-of-the art medical devices that are used in critical care: 

  • Respiratory monitoring: a blood gas analyzer to perform venous/arterial blood gases, pulse oximetry, and capnography to provide end-tidal carbon dioxide analysis. Oxygen delivery via an oxygen cage, pediatric incubator and nasal cannulation is available to assist animals that are experiencing respiratory difficulty. Mechanical ventilation is also available to assist or fully support animals in respiratory failure.

  • Cardiac monitoring is available with indirect blood pressure devices and direct blood pressure monitors, continuous electrocardiograms and central venous pressures.

  • Fluid therapy with crystalloids, colloids, parenteral nutrition and blood products are conducted within the ICU.

  • Transfusions of blood products are performed under the vigilant supervision of the ICU staff.

  • A special hospital bed that can be moved to different areas of the hospital and with specialized monitoring devices to provide optimal patient care and diagnostics.

Our technologist-to-patient ratio in the ICU varies from one to one to one to four, depending on the intensity of care necessary to provide optimal care for the patient.

Conditions requiring ICU

WCVM clinicians will move their patients to the small animal ICU for serious conditions that require the highest level of care and monitoring:

  • unstable cardiovascular diseases
  • oxygen dependency
  • extreme pain
  • severe infections or septic states
  • extreme neurologic complications
  • severe metabolic derangement
  • blood transfusions
  • ventilatory support

Animals that require hospitalization in the small animal ICU include those with severe pancreatitis, respiratory distress, acute congestive heart failure, pneumonia, moderate to severe trauma (from automobile accidents or other traumatic accidents), complicated diabetes, and recent surgeries and surgical complications.

Canine and feline patients from other services such as internal medicine, soft tissue surgery, orthopedic surgery, neurology and the emergency service may be hospitalized in the ICU. The care of these patients is directed by the supervising service and the critical care clinicians are available to provide consultations as needed to these services.

Fluid Therapy

Why does my pet need to be admitted to the ICU if it only needs fluid therapy?

Currently, the ICU is the only section of the hospital that is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by trained veterinary technologists who can monitor patients on fluids.

The veterinary technologists are trained to monitor the patients for signs of fluid overload and respiratory rate. They can troubleshoot and address any problems that may arise with the IV catheters or fluid pumps.

What to Expect

Bringing a pet to the emergency and critical care service at the WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre can be a stressful experience. To help you prepare for the experience, the veterinary teaching hospital offers a couple of resources for you: 

  • "What to expect" emergency and critical care video (below)
  • "What to expect" fact sheet (emergency and critical care)

Visiting Information

Due to current COVID-19 protocols, the VMC allows a maximum of one named visitor per patient. Patient visits must be scheduled in advance at the clinician's discretion. 

All VMC clients must wear disposable, medical grade, three-layer masks while in the hospital. Masks will be provided for anyone who does not have one.


Information about cost estimates and payment options is available.

Our Team

The WCVM Veterinary Medical Centre's clinical team members are dedicated, compassionate people with specialized training and a diverse range of experiences. In addition to providing our patients with high-quality care and support, we are helping to train Western Canada's next generation of veterinary professionals.

Appointments and Referrals

Animal Owners

Contact us to make an appointment. If you are a new client, please click below to find information about our location, parking and what to expect during your animal's appointment.

Referring Veterinarians

Submit an online referral form.

 Emergency services available 24/7

Emergency services are available for acutely ill or seriously injured animals.