Locally-Owned in Oakdale and St. Paul, Minnesota

What’s an Oxygen Kennel & How Does it Help My Pet at the ER Vet?

Two rows of kennels including one oxygen kennel at Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota.

If your pet is having difficulty breathing, this is considered a “RED” – or true emergency – on our Fast Track Triage system. We advise you to seek immediate veterinary care. Please call ahead of your arrival so the veterinary team knows to expect you!

  • Remove any neck collars or facial restrictions such as muzzles.   
  • If your pet is having difficulty breathing caused by heat, learn more here 
  • Seek immediate veterinary care rather than attempting chest compressions or CPR at home. Have a veterinary professional guide you over the phone on how to help your pet during transportation. 

A pet experiencing respiratory distress, or difficulty breathing, is scary for both pet parents and the pet. After all, respiratory problems can become life-threatening very quickly. Fortunately, oxygen therapy can easily and effectively be provided in the veterinary ER – which is why our oxygen kennels serve as an essential tool! In this blog, we’ll delve into the significance of oxygen kennels, explaining how they are utilized and when they are necessary to support pets during an emergency. 

A pug lying down on a couch.

Signs of Respiratory Distress 

We know oxygen therapy will likely be needed when a pet arrives to our ER with one of these common signs of respiratory distress: 

  • Elevated resting respiratory rate 
  • Increased effort while breathing 
  • Severe coughing
  • Gasping
  • Gums turning pale or blue 
Two photos side by side of two different types of oxygen kennels at Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota.

Two types of oxygen kennels at Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota.

Oxygen Therapy 

A pet with respiratory distress will immediately be provided with oxygen therapy via a variety of means: 

  1. “Flow-by” Oxygen
    • A tube providing oxygen delivery is held in front of the pet’s nose/mouth. This will be done while basic vital signs are recorded, and an examination is performed.  
  2. Oxygen Kennel  
    • The pet may then be moved into an oxygen kennel.  
      • In cases of severe respiratory distress, flow-by oxygen is not provided. Instead, the pet is immediately placed into an oxygen kennel.
    • Oxygen kennels funnel oxygen into an enclosed space, raising the oxygen concentration of the environment within the kennel, thereby providing the pet with more oxygen with each breath. As you already know, oxygen is a critical element for life, and easing its delivery to the lungs (and subsequently the heart, the rest of the body, and the brain) can be lifesaving. 
  3. Nasal Cannulas 
    • If a dog is too large to fit in an oxygen kennel, nasal cannulas (tubes that go into the nostrils to deliver oxygen) may be utilized. 

First photo is of a veterinary technician hand feeding a patient inside an oxygen kennel. The second photo is of a dog receiving oxygen therapy in an oxygen kennel. Both photos were taken at Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota.

Common Causes of Respiratory Distress 

There are many reasons why a pet may experience respiratory distress and need oxygen therapy. A few of the more common causes include: 

  • Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) 
  • Pneumonia 
  • Asthma 
  • Trauma 
  • Certain fungal infections (ie: Blastomycosis which is unfortunately prevalent in Minnesota) 

If your pet is hospitalized with one of these conditions, treatment for their specific disease will likely be initiated while your pet is receiving oxygen. 

Weaning Off Oxygen 

If the pet starts to breathe more comfortably with time, the goal is to slowly decrease the oxygen levels back down to the amount of oxygen commonly contained in “room air”roughly 21%. The exact timeframe varies, but often, it can be half a day or longer before a pet is comfortably breathing room air. Once this is achieved, if the pet is doing well, they will be able to go home. 

A cat being held by a gloved technician.

If your pet is having difficulty breathing, bring them to the closest veterinary ER immediately. We always recommend calling ahead so the team can prepare for your pet’s arrival. If you have another person with you, one of you can call while the other one drives. We know this situation is frightening but remember – every second counts! The sooner your pet is evaluated, and the sooner oxygen therapy is started, the better!  

Both our Oakdale and St. Paul animal ERs are open 24/7, every day of the year including holidays.  

More Reading:

Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota, emergency veterinarian, Twin Cities animal emergency hospital, Twin Cities emergency care, pet emergency

Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota, Fast Track Triage, color-coded triage system, pet emergency, Twin Cities emergency vet, Minnesota emergency vet, Saint Paul emergency vet, Oakdale emergency vet

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