Dealing with very young dogs and cats in an emergency room or intensive care unit represents a true challenge, due to their uniquely changing nature and the differences compared with adult patients. The lack of maturation and appropriate function for many of the homeostatic and compensatory mechanisms in these patients warrants very thorough monitoring and precise tailoring of any therapy, while their impressive ability to recover makes treating them a highly rewarding experience. This article, the first in a two-part series, will address the normal findings in paediatric patients and the general principles of emergency medicine and critical care for this population. A second article, to be published in a future issue of In Practice, will focus on how to deal with specific conditions that are particularly frequent in puppies and kittens.
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