Supplemental oxygen is an important treatment for animals with signs of respiratory distress. Additionally, oxygen therapy is used to treat a number of cardiopulmonary diseases in veterinary medicine.
Several traditional options exist for providing supplemental oxygen: flow-by, face mask, oxygen cages, and nasal cannulas. With short-term oxygen supplementation, it is generally unnecessary to humidify the oxygen. However, the longer the respiratory tract is exposed to dry air, the greater the risk of damage to epithelial cells, which can further promote the development of respiratory infections. Therefore, humidification is necessary for patients receiving oxygen supplementation for any extended period of time.
Oxygen cages are commonly used in the ICU and are both convenient and efficient in providing supplemental oxygen. One advantage is the ability to adjust the fraction of inspired oxygen (ranging from 21% to 60%) to fit the individual patient’s needs. When patients fail to improve with traditional oxygen therapy, positive-pressure ventilation (or mechanical ventilation) is generally recommended.
Our small animal intensive care unit recently acquired a newer technique: high-flow nasal cannula (HFNC) oxygen. The HFNC system delivers heated and humidified oxygen via nasal prongs at higher flow rates than is possible using the more traditional nasal cannula method. Higher flow rates create pressure within the airways, more commonly known as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), which provides more effective breathing assistance.
In comparison with mechanical ventilation, HFNC is much less invasive, requires less intense monitoring, allows the patient to remain awake throughout the duration of treatment, and is less expensive. Recent veterinary studies have shown that the HFNC system is a safe and effective method for oxygen delivery in patients that fail traditional oxygen therapy. It can be especially beneficial when mechanical ventilation is not feasible.
We are very excited to be able to offer the Vapotherm Precision Flow Plus HFNC system for our patients! If you think your patient may benefit from HFNC oxygen or if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact our service for more information.
By Jenica Haraschak, DVM, MS, DACVECC