Texas A&M VMTH Earns High-Ranking Emergency Hospital Designation

Front entrance of the Texas A&M Small Animal Hospital
The Texas A&M Small Animal Hospital

Story by Megan Myers

The Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVM) Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) has been recertified as a level II emergency and critical care facility by the Veterinary Emergency & Critical Care Society (VECCS) for its dedication to providing the best care possible for emergency patients.

By recognizing hospitals that meet and exceed the minimum standards and guidelines published, the VECCS hopes to raise the standard of care while also increasing public and professional awareness in the area of veterinary emergency and critical patient care.

The VMTH’s Emergency & Critical Care (ECC) Service was designated as level II for exceeding the minimum requirements for certification under VECCS and being open to patients 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

“This is a nice way to display the dedication and level of training that we provide through the emergency service here at TAMU,” said Dr. Christine Rutter, a CVM clinical assistant professor and head of the Small Animal Hospital (SAH) Intensive Care Unit (ICU). “It acknowledges that our team is in a category with some of the best hospitals in the country.”

Level II facilities are required to have a dedicated surgical preparation area and keep in stock items such as canine and feline packed red blood cells, central venous catheters, and several medications used in emergency situations.

In addition, the facility must be able to provide nutritional support, both directly to the gut and through the blood stream, and consult with a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Radiology for the review of diagnostic images when necessary.

By meeting all these requirements, the VMTH ensures that the Emergency Service and ICU have all supplies and staff necessary to give patients every chance at recovery. The certification also represents the VMTH’s commitment to a positive environment and team approach.

“I think the best part about bringing your pet to the Texas A&M Emergency & Critical Care Service is that we use a team approach to health care,” Rutter said. “You aren’t just getting the experience and care of the doctor you see; you are getting the care and expertise of a huge technician team and access to a wide variety of specialists who provide the most complete care possible for your pet.”

The VECCS certified facility logo
The VECCS certified facility logo

The VMTH will display the VECCS certified facility logo for the next two years, after which recertification will be necessary to remain a level II facility.

“I think it’s great that VECCS has found a way to identify practices based on the service and care they are able to provide,” Rutter said. “Our ECC team worked very hard to get the application and certification materials together. It’s a huge effort, but it’s worth it to be able to show people who we are.”

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For more information about the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, please visit our website at vetmed.tamu.edu or join us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Contact Information: Jennifer Gauntt, Director of Communications, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences; jgauntt@cvm.tamu.edu; 979-862-4216

CVM Student Organization Hosts Unique CPR Training for Students, Faculty

A group of students and faculty hold a Texas A&M flag
Students and faculty who attended the RECOVER CPR training in January

Story by Megan Myers

The Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) has become one of the first colleges in the country to provide students and faculty with both basic and advanced CPR training under the Reassessment Campaign on Veterinary Resuscitation (RECOVER) initiative.

The RECOVER initiative, the first standardized CPR training to offer certification through the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care (ACVECC), was created in 2010 with the goal of developing and disseminating the first true evidence-based veterinary cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) guidelines.

The CVM chapter of the Student Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society (SVECCS) hosted a RECOVER CPR certification training on Jan. 18 to provide an opportunity for veterinarians and veterinary students to further their training on CPR techniques.

“Here at A&M, we offer both CPR certification levels, which is a really unique opportunity,” said Dr. Christine Rutter, a clinical assistant professor and SVECCS faculty adviser. “We’re one of only a few places in the country that are able to use interactive simulators for the advanced class.”

The RECOVER CPR training consists of online modules, videos, and quizzes, followed by a six-hour day of hands-on practice with CPR simulators known as “Jerry” dogs.

“You really learn the physiology behind CPR, as well as how you can use that physiology to better adapt your technique or your strategies (for resuscitating an animal),” said Katie Freeman, a second-year veterinary student and SVECCS treasurer. “It was very one-on-one. The instructors were always there giving critiques or feedback.”

Besides the physical motions of CPR, the training also focused on the communication skills that are necessary to help maintain order in emergency situations.

“As a student, being able to lead a team and learn how to actually walk through the steps and come across as appropriate and professional, but also get done what needs to get done, was one of the coolest things that I learned and why I think this course was so vital,” Freeman said.

Students and faculty pose with CPR simulators known as "Jerry" dogs
Students and faculty pose with CPR simulators known as “Jerry” dogs

Two veterinarians from the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) and 22 veterinary students attended the training, which will be offered again at multiple conferences at the CVM this year.

While the RECOVER CPR training is not yet offered to the general public, Rutter hopes that it will become an option in the future.

“The hospital members who learn can teach everybody at the Small Animal Hospital, and then when we go off as veterinarians, we can teach our technicians,” said Alyssa Gentry, a third-year veterinary student and SVECCS president. “It really spreads all the knowledge and raises the standard of care, as far as CPR goes.”

Though CPR is often portrayed in movies and TV shows as being successful nearly every time, it is typically only effective 50 percent of the time for animal patients under anesthesia and 5 percent or less for patients not under anesthesia.

“With these techniques we’ve been learning, our hope is to raise those numbers,” Freeman said. “Across the board, everybody is going to experience an emergency case and should be equipped to perform CPR. Emergencies can happen at any time of the day, at any point in your career. It’s better to be prepared.”

“There’s so much of veterinary medicine that’s hard for practitioners, for owners, and for the animals,” said Lauren Minner, a second-year veterinary student and SVECCS education coordinator. “CPR really is a thing where you can perform a miracle if you have your stuff together.”

The RECOVER training also gives veterinary students the opportunity to build upon and practice the CPR training they receive as part of the CVM’s Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) curriculum before they enter the VMTH for their fourth-year clinical rotations.

“The training these students have had is going to really help them when they come to clinics because the biggest thing I see whenever students see their first code (when a patient enters cardiac arrest) is that it’s a traumatic place to be,” Rutter said. “Rather than having a group of students who kind of stand against the wall and watch, these students have already been in these simulated environments.

“If you do a good job in the right situation, there’s a chance you can get that pet home, which is a miracle for that pet and that owner,” Rutter said. “That’s really what we’re all looking for. For the ones you can save, it means everything to that pet and that family.”

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For more information about the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, please visit our website at vetmed.tamu.edu or join us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Contact Information: Jennifer Gauntt, Director of Communications, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences; jgauntt@cvm.tamu.edu; 979-862-4216

Hurricanes, Fires, & Tornadoes: How to Protect Your Pets During an Emergency

When faced with an emergency, everyone needs to know how to protect their family, their home, and, let’s not forget, their pets. Our furry friends rely on us to protect them, especially during times of disaster.

Two Veterinary Emergency Team members scan for a microchip in a black puppy.
Veterinary Emergency Team members scan a puppy to check for a microchip.

Dr. Wesley Bissett, an associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences and director of the Veterinary Emergency Team (VET), advises pet owners to prepare in advance for an emergency situation to provide the best possible outcome, not only for your family, but also for your pets.

During times of disaster—be it a hurricane, wildfire, or tornado—people experience physical, economic, and psychological devastation. The loss of a pet can significantly add to that devastation.

As pet owners prepare for large-scale emergencies, it is critical to include their pets, both large and small, in their family emergency plan and especially for the possibility of evacuation.

“Monitor news channels and public information from governmental entities when risk is heightened,” Bissett said. “Obey evacuation orders and if possible, evacuate early.”

Evacuation is a common occurrence for those in the midst of a natural disaster, so, to prepare for evacuation, pet owners should “have kennels available that are appropriate for travel and make sure your animals are trained to spend time in them,” Bissett said.

Bissett also recommends training pets to come on command and to have leashes and other equipment easily accessible. Pets trained to travel will be less stressed in the event of an emergency evacuation.

If you and your pet are separated, having them microchipped and the information appropriately registered can help ensure their safe return. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) says that microchipped pets are returned to their owners about 52 percent of the time, whereas pets without microchips are returned about 21 percent of the time.

“In addition to being microchipped, owners should make sure to complete the microchip registration process. There are so many animals that are chipped but not registered,” Bissett said. “Also make sure your animals are current on vaccinations.”

Not only should homeowners keep an emergency kit for themselves in the event that evacuation is necessary, but Bissett says pet owners should prepare a kit for their pets, too. He recommends the following items for your pet kit:

    • Five to seven days’ worth of food
    • Three to five days’ worth of water
    • Two-week supply of your pet’s medications
    • Kennel or crate
    • Favorite toy
    • Favorite bed
    • Coggins papers (for horses)
    • Health summary from your local veterinarian

Sudden changes in a pet’s environment can cause them to be anxious and exhibit changes in behavior. It may take some time for pets to adjust to the changes in their environment, but having a plan in place as well as familiar items can help in the transition.

“Recognize that your pets will be just as stressed as you are, so try and provide quiet, stress-free situations for them,” Bissett said. “Pets may react differently for a period of time, so take things slow and allow them to adjust to their new normal.”

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

Emergency Fur-st Aid for Pets

A medical emergency is among the worst nightmares for any pet owner. Even minor injuries can be stressful, especially if they happen far from available medical care or during non-business hours.

White, black, and brown dog hiding under a red blanketThough an owner can’t always prevent every ailment in their four legged friend, they can prepare to handle these situations.

Dr. Igor Yankin, a clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, advises pet owners on what supplies and knowledge they should have to administer basic first aid to their pet in an emergency.

Yankin first advises that pet owners take a basic first aid course geared toward their animal. These courses can be found online or can be taken in-person at certain locations. Your veterinarian may be able to help you find a class that is the best option for you and your animal.

Financial preparation is also important in case of a pet emergency. In addition to an emergency examination fee, owners may also need to finance diagnostic tests and treatments. If your pet must stay the night at a medical facility, prices inflate further.

Yankin said pet owners can purchase health insurance for their pet to ensure that they are able to receive the care they need.

“It is well-known that veterinary care can be cost-prohibitive for owners, and during emergencies, the financial constraints can sometimes affect whether an owner is able to have their pet treated,” he said.

It is also imperative that pet owners have emergency contact information on-hand, so the proper medical authorities can be contacted promptly. Yankin advises owners to have readily available the phone number, clinic name, and address of their primary veterinarian, as well as the contact information of a local veterinary emergency clinic. Owners should also have contact information for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435).

Yankin said pet owners should also keep a pet first-aid kit readily available, containing the following items:

  • Absorbent gauze pads, adhesive tape, cotton balls
  • Fresh, 3 percent hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting in dogs (always check with veterinarian or animal poison control expert before giving to your pet, as this solution cannot be used in cats)
  • Ice pack
  • Disposable gloves
  • Scissors with blunt end
  • Tweezers
  • Oral syringe or turkey baster
  • Liquid dishwashing detergent (for bathing)
  • Towels
  • Small flashlight
  • Alcohol wipes
  • Styptic powder
  • Saline eye solution
  • Artificial tear gel

Owners should check in on their first-aid kit every few months to ensure nothing has expired or needs to be replenished.

As the year draws to a close, pet owners should be particularly cognizant about their pet’s environment and double-check that they are prepared for possible incidents.

“The holiday season is the busiest time for emergency veterinarians,” Yankin said. “Pets gain easy access to table scraps that can be poisonous for them (e.g. chocolate, grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts), foreign objects that can create bowel blockage if swallowed (e.g. bones, toys, Christmas tree ornaments, etc.), and human drugs that were brought by house guests.”

Yankin said that owners who have any concern about their pet’s health should call their local veterinarian or emergency clinic. From there, a veterinary technician or veterinarian can help determine whether or not the pet should be brought in for examination.

“In general, pets with difficulty breathing, seizures, unresponsive state, acute weakness, fainting, wounds, intractable vomiting and diarrhea, or severe pain should be evaluated by a veterinarian as soon as possible,” Yankin said. “This list is not exhaustive, and I recommend to call a veterinarian if you have any doubts.”

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

Recognizing a Pet Emergency

Many pet owners have found themselves in difficult situations in which they know something is wrong with a pet, but the veterinary clinic is closed. How do you know when it’s a true emergency and how do you know when it can wait until the clinic opens the next day?

To answer this question, Dr. Christine Rutter, a clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, discusses some common situations that often cause pet owners concern.

If an animal is showing lameness, such as abnormal movements or the inability to use a limb, the severity will determine the degree of urgency. If lameness is severe, suddenly worse, associated with bleeding, or persists for more than 24 hours, it should be considered an emergency situation.

“Weight-bearing lameness, or limping, can typically be evaluated within one to two days by a primary care veterinarian, rather than on an emergency basis,” Rutter said.

Sources online may recommend giving non-steroidal, over-the-counter medications to pets for pain relief, but this can cause serious toxicity or drug interaction issues.

“If an owner feels that a pet needs pain medication, they should always contact their veterinarian prior to administering medications,” Rutter said. “I don’t recommend any over-the-counter human pain medications for use in animals. We have veterinary medications that are much safer, more effective, and interfere less with our ability to diagnose and treat more complicated causes of lameness.”

Bleeding cuts and injuries are also considered emergencies when severe, especially if accompanied by lethargy or weakness. In addition, pale pink or white mucous membranes, including the gums and tissues inside of eyelids, can indicate severe or rapid blood loss.

“Any bleeding that is excessive or doesn’t stop within 10 to 15 minutes should be evaluated by a veterinarian,” Rutter said. “Any wound that is ‘full-thickness,’ which means it goes all the way through the skin so that you can see underlying muscles and tissues, should be evaluated. This especially applies to bite wounds; all bite wounds are an emergency.”

Bite wounds not only cause physical damage, but can also lead to infection and spread diseases between animals, so they should be treated by a veterinarian as soon as possible.

If a dog or cat swallows a foreign object or plant, the best option is to immediately call the ASPCA poison control hotline (888-426-4435) to determine if the ingested substance is toxic.

“The ASPCA hotline does cost money, but it could either save you a trip to the ER if the intoxication isn’t serious, or it can provide your ER veterinarian with important initial and follow-up information through the case number you receive during the consultation,” Rutter said.

Another common cause of concern for pet owners is when a dog or cat becomes lethargic or refuses to eat or drink.

The urgency in this situation often depends on the pet’s normal behavior. For example, if a dog that normally eats all its food in a minute suddenly refuses to eat, it should probably be seen by a veterinarian sooner rather than later.

“In general, a dog or cat that doesn’t eat or is lethargic for more than 24 hours should be evaluated,” Rutter said. “Cats are especially sensitive to prolonged anorexia, and they can have secondary illness solely from not eating. Vomiting or diarrhea that does not resolve within 12 to 24 hours should also be evaluated.”

When it comes to seizures, the pet’s medical history will determine whether a trip to the emergency room is necessary.

“A single, short seizure that is ‘typical’ for a known epileptic pet is probably not an emergency,” Rutter said. “Seizures than last more than three to four minutes, violent seizures, new seizures, more than one seizure in 24 hours, or severe after-effects of a seizure are emergencies.”

Overall, if you think a situation may be an emergency, take the animal to a veterinarian as soon as possible. It is better to over-react and have to pay for an emergency room visit than to do nothing and lose a pet.

“I don’t recommend scouring the internet for information about how to treat your pet,” Rutter said. “Also, veterinarians and veterinary technicians cannot evaluate, diagnose, and treat patients over the phone—it’s illegal and can cost us our license.”

By knowing how to recognize a true emergency, pet owners can quickly make the best decisions for their animals and increase the likelihood of positive outcomes. Being prepared for emergencies can save money, time, and possibly even a pet’s life.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.