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Emergency vet treats ‘the sickest of the sick’

Critical care to the rescue for dogs and cats

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Pet emergencies often always seem to happen after hours. That’s why BluePearl animal hospital in Waltham is open 24/7, ready for any four-legged trauma case that might walk through the door. Medical director Kristina DePaula says she cares for the “sickest of the sick:” dogs and cats suffering from seizures, poisonings, car accidents, cancer and other ailments. Just like in a human emergency room, animals are stabilized, triaged, and then treated, with operating rooms for emergency surgeries. DePaula, who is a critical care specialist, spoke with Globe correspondent Cindy Atoji Keene about responding when medical emergencies befall our furry friends.

“After veterinary school, I ended up working at an emergency veterinarian hospital in Rhode Island. That experience made me decide to do a residency in emergency and critical care. It fits my personality – I am calm under pressure and I like the ability to troubleshoot quickly. Being able to make owners comfortable when they are in crisis over their pet is something I am skilled at. People are surprised at the diagnostics and interventions we are able to do today, unlike even 15 years ago. Just as human medicine has become more specialized, veterinary medicine has as well. There’s cardiology, neurology, dermatology, ophthalmology, dentistry – the list goes on and on. In the summer, we will see dogs impaled on fish hooks; cats that fall out of the window; animals with vomiting and diarrhea. Our patients can’t talk and tell us what’s wrong, but that’s similar to pediatric medicine with infants. I rely on physical exams, bloodwork, x-rays and other tests to get to the bottom of what’s going on. But just because we can do all these things doesn’t mean that is the right decision for the family. We offer people the gold standard then options below that; whatever makes the owner comfortable. I am cognizant of the fact that emergency vet care can get expensive. When an animal comes in that is near death with a guarded prognosis, the owners usually want to do everything possible for their family member. The ones who do pull through have a great quality of life. I get pictures and videos of the dog running through the woods. This is the greatest triumph, when the odds are defied.”

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