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ASG Specialties:

  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Patella Luxation
  • Medial Patella Luxation
  • Elbow Dysplasia
  • Fragmented Coronoid Process
  • OCD Osteochondritis Dissecans Fractures
  • Arthritis
  • Ruptured Cruciate Ligament
  • Ruptured Cranial Cruciate Ligament
  • Ruptured Anterior Cruciate Ligament


Sepsis: Peeta

[Above] A recent patient named Peeta, a five-month old kitten, who had a severe infection between his lung and chest wall, known as pyothorax. He went home after about a week in the ICU.

Sepsis is a syndrome characterized by overwhelming systemic inflammation (SIRS=Sytemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome) in response to infection.

by Brian Young, VMD,
Diplomate American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine,
Diplomate American College of Veterinary Emergency/Critical Care

Sepsis Overview

Sepsis may manifest in many forms, such as high or low heart rate, increased respiratory rate, fever, high or low white blood cell count, immature white blood cells, low blood pressure, or high or low blood sugar.  Although antimicrobials (antibiotics) are used to treat infection, patients with sepsis often require much more intensive therapy to survive.  The infection can arise from many different parts of the body.  Common sources include pneumonia, intraabdominal infection (peritonitis), pyometra (uterine infection), urinary tract infection, or skin infection.

Sepsis Prognosis

With improvements in intensive care medicine, human and veterinary patients alike are experiencing greatly improved survival.  If sepsis progresses to include organ dysfunction, the patient is described as having “severe sepsis”.  In some cases, the patient can develop “septic shock”, characterized by low blood pressure despite intravenous fluid therapy.  These patients require potent medications to normalize blood pressure and maintain proper flow of nutrients to all organ systems.  Fortunately, patients with sepsis can often survive with optimal supportive care, which allows the body time to recover from infection and overwhelming inflammation.

Sepsis Care

Aggressive supportive care in the ICU includes many therapies in addition to antimicrobials used to treat the infection.  Often patients with sepsis feel very sick and will not eat voluntarily.  In order to provide nutrition and maintain gastrointestinal health, temporary feeding tubes are often placed.  In addition, patients often require medications to treat nausea and poor gastrointestinal motility.  In extreme cases of gastrointestinal dysfunction, patients may require intravenous nutrition.  Critically ill animals are prone to anemia and clotting problems that often lead to the need for transfusion of blood products, such as packed red blood cells or fresh frozen plasma.

Sepsis Monitoring

Close monitoring helps the veterinary clinician properly balance intravenous fluid therapy to maintain blood volume and hydration.  Serial blood work (blood gases, electrolytes, complete blood counts, and serum chemistry screens) helps the veterinary team monitor organ function and the response to treatment.  For the best outcome, it is recommended that sepsis patients receive 24 hour care, close monitoring, intensive therapy, and lots of TLC!

Animal Specialty Group

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