How will a Veterinary Criticalist help my pet?

A veterinary criticalist helps your pet much like a human pediatric criticalist would help a child in an ICU (Intensive Care Unit).  In the worst of circumstances, a criticalist’s specialized skill may increase your pet’s chances for recovery.

What is Veterinary Critical Care?

The easiest way to get a picture of what veterinary critical care means is to compare it for a moment to human health care.  Human patients who enter an emergency room have a huge range of problems – victims of a car accident or other trauma, a teenager who fell and broke his arm, someone weakened by vomiting and diarrhea that won’t stop, a man having a heart attack, or a crying child with a sudden and painful earache.  

It is obvious that some of these problems are more severe than others – some will be treated by the emergency doctors, prescribed medications, and sent home to heal.  Others have conditions that will require specialized care and will ultimately need to be transferred to other departments in the hospital – such as surgery, imaging (for ultrasound, CT, or MRI), or to the intensive care unit (ICU).

Patients transferred to our critical care service can best be compared to those human patients transferred to ICU.   Examples of patients transferred to ICU/Critical Care are those that:

  • Have experienced severe trauma, such as those hit by cars, bite, bullet or burn injuries
  • Have undergone life-saving emergency surgery requiring intensive care during recovery
  • Are having trouble breathing
  • Are experiencing life-threatening coma or severe seizures that are not responding to medications.  
  • Need a blood transfusion
  • Are unwilling or unable to eat on their own

These patients may require:

  • Mechanical ventilation & supportive care
  • Cross–matching & blood transfusion medicine
  • Peritoneal and pleural dialysis for toxin removal or kidney failure
  • Total & partial intravenous nutrition for patients who are unable to eat
  • Feeding tube placement and management
  • Advanced pain relief for trauma patients
  • Advanced monitoring of all patient vital statistics
  • Advanced and dynamic intravenous fluid and electrolyte treatments


What is a Veterinary Criticalist?

The American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care is the certifying organization for veterinary criticalists.   There are very few veterinary criticalists in the world, and the VMC of CNY is extremely proud to have three criticalists, Maureen Luschini, VMD, DACVECC, Elise Craft, DVM, DACVECC, and Emily Cottam, DVM, DACVECC leading our Emergency and Critical Care services.  Additionally, we have multiple licensed veterinary technicians who have been formally specialized in Emergency and Critical Care (VTS, ECC) and have more working toward specialization every day.


Is this level of care available elsewhere in the Syracuse area?

No.  Veterinary Medical Center of CNY is the only facility to offer intensive critical care services with board certified veterinary criticalists and Emergency Critical Care specialized technicians in the greater Syracuse area.

How do I know if my pet needs a Criticalist?

If your pet is admitted by the VMC’s Emergency Service with a critical condition, our emergency veterinarian will make the recommendation for a consultation with our criticalists.  We will help counsel you as to whether a criticalist’s involvement is appropriate for your pet.

If your pet is not currently hospitalized, you can discuss the potential for seeking a consultation with your primary care veterinarian.  Your veterinarian can give you a direct referral for evaluation and treatment by the Critical Care Service. 

Meet Dr. Luschini, Dr. Craft, and Dr. Cottam, our Board Certified Veterinary Criticalists