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Intensive care in companion animals
  1. Karen Humm
  1. Royal Veterinary College, Hawkshead Lane, North Mymms, Hertfordshire AL9 7TA, UK; e-mail: khumm{at}

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THE first intensive care units (ICUs) in human hospitals were founded in the 1960s and 1970s and although human medicine has undergone marked development since that time, the aim of the ICU today is as it was then: to provide treatment for patients with life-threatening illnesses who require constant monitoring and often support from specialist equipment. ICUs have a high level of staffing, and these staff are specially trained to deal with severely ill patients. Veterinary ICU care has followed this human medical model and has developed hugely over the past 30 years, with the foundation of the Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society in 1984 (with a European arm in 2002) and the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care in 1989 being important steps. The foundation of the European College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care in 2014 shows that veterinary critical care is still progressing today.

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The articles in this In Practice Focus help explain how veterinary ICU care can be provided. Identification of animals requiring ICU care are described in the ‘Triage of the veterinary patient’ and ‘Monitoring small animal patients in the intensive care unit’ articles. The ‘Planning, managing and equipping an intensive care unit within a veterinary facility’ article describes the ideal ICU and what is practical to achieve in practice. Monitoring, effective nursing and nutrition are vital aspects of management of the ICU patient and are covered in the ‘Monitoring small animal patients in the intensive care unit’, ‘Nursing critically ill patients in the intensive care unit’ and ‘Nutritional support in the intensive care unit’ articles, respectively. This In Practice Focus aims to demonstrate what is possible in the veterinary world today for some of our sickest, yet often most rewarding, patients. We hope it is both inspiring and useful.

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