New Bolton Center Kennett Square, PA
Emergencies & Appointments:
Ryan Hospital Philadelphia, PA

E&CC | Intensive Care Unit

Penn Vet's Intensive Care Unit at Ryan Hospital functions as an advanced trauma/intensive care treatment and diagnostic center, akin to our counterparts in human hospitals.

Our Intensive Care Unit is always open and staffed to provide care for the most critically ill small animal patients, either from within our hospital or by referral from other hospitals.    

ICU After First Surgery_tp

Who We Are

Pets admitted to the Intensive Care Unit are treated by our world-renowned team to provide round-the-clock care. Our ICU is staffed by four full-time attending veterinarians who are board-certified specialists in emergency and critical care (Diplomates of ACVECC), 12 licensed veterinary technicians who specialize in intensive care nursing, many of whom have specialty certification (AVECCT), as well as residents training to become emergency and critical care specialists, and interns seeking advanced training after graduation from veterinary school.

Often working behind the scenes, the ICU staff ensures the best possible outcome for your critically ill pet by providing the most advanced care available.

Now Offering Extracorporeal Therapies

As part of our ECT service, we now offer dialysis and plasma exchange to patients who need these treatment options.

What We Do

We care for the sickest patients in the hospital 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, admitting some 1,200 dogs and cats each year, and our special species caseload is growing. Our ICU can provide care for 8-12 patients at a time.

Many of our patients are referred to us by other veterinarians who realize that these animals may die unless they receive our specialized level of care, resources and expertise. Although these are all high-risk patients, we are proud of our >75% rate of survival to discharge.

Each of our patients is admitted to the ICU because of a life-threatening disease or condition and/or the need for advanced pain management or complex fluid or drug therapy.

Common disease processes treated in our ICU include severe heart disease, kidney failure, complicated diabetes, advanced neurologic disease and cancer. In addition, we provide specialized post-operative care for high-risk surgical and trauma patients.

  • We have specialized equipment to care for our patients including state-of-the-art oxygen cages for patients that require oxygen supplementation, intravenous fluid pumps, syringe pumps, portable ultrasound, mechanical ventilators, and advanced hemodynamic monitoring capabilities including direct arterial blood pressure.
  • The ICU also houses a blood gas analyzer to measure blood gases, electrolytes, lactate, acid-base, and hemoglobin concentration, as well as a colloid osmotic pressure monitor.
  • We can provide long-term mechanical ventilatory support for patients unable to breathe on their own.
  • We routinely provide postoperative care to patients that have undergone major surgical procedures such as renal transplant, thoracic surgery, interventional radiology procedures, and craniotomies (brain surgery).

Each patient’s care and well-being is assessed constantly by several members of the ICU team, We offer a very low ratio of patients to staff, with most doctors and technicians able to focus their efforts exclusively on one to three patients per day.

We often successfully manage patients with complex and multi-systems disease processes such as:

  • Sepsis and systemic inflammatory response syndrome
  • Disseminated intravascular coagulopathy
  • Trauma
  • Acute kidney injury
  • Toxicities
  • Respiratory failure
  • Heart disease and failure
  • Brain and spinal cord disease

What We Provide

The ICU provides state-of-the-art critical care therapy and monitoring. In addition to monitoring changes in physical parameters, we routinely use advanced monitoring modalities such as:

  • Pulse oximetry
  • Arterial and venous blood gas analysis
  • End-tidal capnography and measurement of lung mechanics
  • Urinary output monitoring via closed urinary collection systems
  • Cage side measurement of hematocrit, hemoglobin, electrolytes, lactate and colloid osmotic pressure
  • Continuous electrocardiogram (ECG) monitoring
  • Ultrasound for AFAST/TFAST (monitoring for fluid)
  • Direct and indirect arterial blood pressure and central venous pressure monitoring
  • Intraabdominal pressure monitoring
  • Pulmonary artery catheter placement

Treatment Modalities

We routinely employ advanced therapeutic and supportive modalities such as:

  • Routine fluid and colloid therapy
  • Advanced fluid therapy
  • Blood product transfusion
  • Oxygen supplementation
  • Nutritional support including total parenteral nutrition
  • Tracheostomy and chest tube management
  • Post-surgical critical care
  • Wound care
  • Advanced pain management
  • Anticoagulation treatment
  • Mechanical ventilation
  • Hemodialysis
  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How many animals can the ICU treat at once?

    We can care for up to 12 animals at a time and still provide the high level of care that is our standard.

  • How long does a patient typically stay in the ICU?

    The average stay for a patient in ICU is 2-3 days, although some pets may only need our care for a few hours or others will need to stay for several weeks.

  • Why might your pet need us?

    The ICU has expertise and equipment not available elsewhere in our hospital. Admission to the ICU may be considered if your pet needs:

    • Oxygen to help breathing
    • A constant intravenous infusion of pain medications
    • Intravenous nutrition
    • Special monitoring and constant intravenous infusion of medicines for treatment of low blood pressure 
    • Constant ECG monitoring of the heart
    • A ventilator to take over breathing
    • A tracheostomy or chest tube
    • Monitoring for seizures, following head injuries or any serious neurologic condition
    • Post-operative monitoring for high-risk surgical procedures
    • 24-hour monitoring and hour-to-hour adjustment of treatment protocol
  • Can I visit my pet in the ICU?

    Your primary clinician at Ryan Hospital will call with updates at least 1-2 times a day. When you speak with your clinician you can arrange a time to visit your pet, typically during normal business hours. Visits may be limited in length due to the critical nature of our patients and caseload in the room.

  • Will my primary care veterinarian be updated?

    We will call your primary care veterinarian the day your pet is transferred to the ICU and then will provide regular updates throughout their stay. A copy of their discharge instructions will be sent to your veterinarian when your pet goes home. It is important to keep all members of your pet’s healthcare team up to date to optimize outcomes.

  • What is the technician-to-patient ratio?

    Our ICU veterinary technicians provide care for between one and three patients at any given time.

  • Is there a veterinarian in the ICU all night long?

    There is a veterinarian in the hospital at all times. Our ICU veterinary technicians are always in the ICU. The ICU residents and faculty are in the ICU 7 days a week, and are on call to provide patient care 24 hours a day. Whenever there is a critical patient in the ICU, a doctor from our team is in ICU 24 hours a day.

  • What is an ACVECC Diplomate?

    A Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care (ACVECC) is a veterinarian who specializes in the treatment of life-threatening conditions. ACVECC Diplomates have additional training beyond veterinary school, including three years of intense training in which they complete a residency program. Residents learn the most up-to-date techniques for diagnosis and treatment of life-threatening emergencies, and study the common and rare complications that occur during the critical recovery period. Following specialty training, the individual must pass a difficult certification examination administered by the ACVECC. Upon successful completion of the residency and passing of the examination, the veterinarian is a Diplomate of the ACVECC, is termed a "specialist", and is board-certified in veterinary emergency and critical care. To learn more about veterinary Emergency and Critical Care, please visit the website of the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care at

  • What is an AVECCT-certified technician?

    The Academy of Veterinary Emergency & Critical Care Technicians (AVECCT) is the first organization to be recognized by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America as a veterinary technician specialty. Veterinary technicians who successfully meet the credential requirements and pass the AVECCT examination are designated as Veterinary Technician Specialists (Emergency & Critical Care). These are specially trained veterinary technicians who can provide the most advanced and intensive care for critical veterinary patients, and are an extremely vital part of the ICU team.

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