Vets have been asked by the NHS to provide animal ventilators to help tackle an anticipated shortage of the machines for coronavirus patients.
There are an estimated 300-400 animal ventilators currently in use in the UK.
Those designed for animals larger than a dog but smaller than a horse would be suitable for treating people, experts said.
The government said it was “asking the veterinary community to help the country and the NHS”.
The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) and Association of Veterinary Anaesthetists (AVA) are helping co-ordinate a nationwide stock-take of compatible or modifiable equipment, such as ventilators and oxygen concentrators.
Dr Kathy Murphy, director of Newcastle University’s comparative biology centre and an AVA member, said: “We’re inundated by NHS trusts workers contacting us saying, ‘At the end of the day, if we need this, it is that or the patient dies’.”
Small animal ventilator manufacturer Vetronic said it was adapting existing respirators and modifying newly-manufactured machines.
Managing Director Keith Simpson said a machine could now be modified in about a day.
“I think they will do a very adequate job,” he said.
“I don’t think they will do it as well, but we’re in a situation where ventilators are really required and this is fitting the bill for 90% of the requirement.”