Triage is the art of assigning priority to emergency patients and their problems based on rapid assessment of historical and physical parameters. The triage should take about 5 minutes. The goal is to quickly identify patients with life-threatening problems so they can be treated immediately. If a patient is in need of immediate evaluation by a veterinarian, verbal permission or signed medical consent should be obtained from the owners that authorizes the appropriate emergency treatment (CPR, IV catheter, medication, radiographs, blood work, etc.) as quickly as possible. Perform a rapid, whole body exam looking for wounds, bruises (petechiae, purpura or ecchymosis), abdominal pain/distention and any other signs of debilitation. Wounds to the thorax or abdomen can be critical even if the patient appears stable on triage.

Categories of Emergency Conditions

Obvious Emergencies-* Life threatening conditions*
• Cardiopulmonary arrest
• Cyanosis/Severe respiratory distress
• Collapse/Unresponsive
• Profuse blood loss
• Penetrating wound
• Severe trauma
• Heat stroke

Strong Potential for Emergency

* Conditions that could become life threatening without treatment*
• Difficulty breathing/Wheezing
• Allergic reaction with swelling around face, mouth or neck
• Smoke inhalation
• Neurologically inappropriate
• Paralysis of hind limbs or all limbs
• Active seizures or a pet that has had a seizure in the last 3 hours
• GDV (Gastric Dilatation Volvulus)/Dog with unproductive vomiting or abdominal distention
• Any animal – especially a male cat – unable/straining to urinate. Male cats may present with other symptoms such as vomiting or lethargy.