A ventilator (or respirator) is a machine that is used in human ICUs and now, in veterinary ICUs, to provide some or all of the work of breathing for the patient. There are typically 3 main reasons why we would choose to use mechanical ventilation in a pet:
The pet cannot maintain an adequate oxygen level.
The pet cannot release the waste gases (carbon dioxide) that build up during respiration.
The pet has such severe disease that the work of breathing is exhausting it.
We will also try to use less invasive measures first to relieve the above concerns. But if these fail, mechanical ventilation would be indicated. Once a pet is placed on a ventilator, the prognosis varies with the underlying disease process and the degree of disease in the lungs. Mechanical ventilation is a critical tool in our battle at MECA to save critically ill pets.
Carolyn Jochman, DVM