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Evaluation of a veterinary triage list modified from a human five-point triage system in 485 dogs and cats


  • Dr. Sigrist is an assistant editor of the Journal but did not participate in the peer review process other than as an author.

  • The authors declare no other conflicts of interest.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. Laura Ruys, Medisch Centrum voor Dieren [Animal Medical Center], Isolatorweg 45, 1014 AS, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.




To devise a veterinary triage list (VTL) and to determine whether the application of this VTL results in more accurate categorization of emergency patients compared with intuitive triage.


Prospective and retrospective observational study.


Private veterinary emergency clinic.


Four hundred and eighty-five client-owned dogs and cats.



Measurements and main results

A VTL was composed using a human triage system and data from medical records of the study group. Target waiting times were prospectively determined using intuition by veterinary nurses (TWT-N).  Target waiting times were subsequently determined retrospectively by the use of the VTL (TWT-VTL).  Both TWT-N and TWT-VTL were compared against target waiting times determined by a review team (TWT-R), which was considered the gold standard. TWT categories included 0, 15, 30–60, and 120 minutes, and were associated with triage categories red, orange, yellow, and green, respectively. Differences in agreement were tested for significance. One hundred and eighty-five dogs and 300 cats fulfilled the inclusion criteria. TWT-N and TWT-R agreed on 30 cases of 67 (44.8%) in triage category red and 22 of 89 (24.7%) in category orange. TWT-VTL and TWT-R agreed on 64 cases of 67 (95.5%) in category red and 75 of 89 (84.3%) in category orange. Agreement between TWT-VTL and TWT-R (Pearson's R = 0.848) was significantly greater (P < 0.001) than agreement between TWT-N and TWT-R (Pearson's R = 0.519).


Intuitive triage performed by veterinary nurses showed significantly less correlation with TWT-R than triage performed with the VTL. A short physical examination in all emergency patients appears to be essential in recognizing critical disease. The use of a standardized VTL can help to categorize veterinary emergency patients.