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Shock in Dogs and Cats- What you can do

By Dr. Andrew Jones

Checking Lewis' Gum Color


This is a life-threatening condition, which occurs as a result of a serious injury or illness. It can progress to collapse and death.

PALE OR WHITE GUMS. Examine the gums by gently lifting the upper lid to expose the gums. Sometimes the gums are pigmented so look right around the mouth. Dogs, such as the Chow, are impossible to assess as they have naturally pigmented gums. If the gums are pale or white your pet needs urgent veterinary attention.

RAPID HEART RATE AND WEAK RAPID PULSE. The heart rate often exceeds 150 beats/minute.

RAPID BREATHING. Your pet may appear woozy and weak. They often have difficulty standing.


Shock occurs when there is a collapse of the circulatory system (made up of the heart, blood vessels and blood) due to:

BLOOD LOSS. Bleeding can be external or internal. Blood can be lost into the chest between the ribs and the lungs, into the abdomen around the organs or into the organs themselves, such as the bladder. There may be no obvious signs that bleeding has occurred. The volume of blood in the vessels then becomes insufficient for the body’s needs.

FLUID LOSS. Fluids lost to the body through, for example, vomiting and diarrhea are drawn from the entire body including the blood, causing dehydration and loss of blood volume. Most Parvovirus cases present in shock.

DECREASED BLOOD PRESSURE. This may be brought about due to pain, spinal cord injury, infection or poisoning.


TO THE VET ASAP. Any sign of shock requires urgent veterinary care with IV Fluids. Apply some of the following solutions while you transport your pet to the vet.

ASSESS SEVERITY. Check breathing and heartbeat. If you can see the chest rise and fall then she is breathing. If not, perform rescue breathing. Wrap your hands around your pet’s muzzle (their mouth is closed), and breath into their nose. The chest should rise. Give 15 breaths per minute (one every 4 seconds). If the chest doesn’t rise, then proceed to the Heimlich (See CPR section in Bonus Material 3 for further details)

CPR. The next step is to feel for a heartbeat by placing your hand behind the left elbow on the chest. If the heart has stopped, then begin CPR. Perform 5 heart compressions and 1 rescue breath. You should be giving 80-100 compressions per minute. For complete details on administering CPR to your pet see Bonus Material 3.

STOP THE BLEEDING. Apply direct pressure to any open wound your pet may have. Use whatever is available: gauze, soft cloth, or a towel. Don’t remove the cloth if it soaks through; apply another on top and continue the pressure.

KEEP HIM WARM. Hot water bottles filled with warm water can be placed around your pet especially against the stomach. Do not use boiling water. Wrap the bottles up in towels to prevent burns. Wrap your pet loosely in a blanket or a jacket. The disrupted circulation can cause hypothermia making the shock even worse.

SOME SWEETENING. Pets with signs of shock often have low blood sugar. In these cases, raising the blood sugar level is helpful. Rub honey or corn syrup on your pet’s gums.

UNCONSCIOUS. If your pet is unconscious, place it on its side with her head extended.

ELEVATE. Elevate your pet’s chest and hindquarters above the head by placing folded towels or a pillow under the pet’s chest and body. This is to prevent fluids from entering the chest and to increase the blood flow to the brain.

COMFORTABLE CAR RIDE. If you pet is conscious, allow it to make itself comfortable. For cats and smaller dogs encourage them to sit in a box or basket as it will make it easier to transport them.

NO FOOD OR WATER PLEASE. Do not give any food or water. Your pet may need anesthesia and surgery.

STABILIZE FRACTURES. Sometimes it is not possible to transport your pet straight away. If this is the case, it is important to make your pet as comfortable and as pain-free as possible. For instance, if your pet has broken its leg, especially if it is a large dog and will need to be able to walk to get itself into a car, splinting the leg will help control the pain and help to manage the degree of shock. Do not give any painkillers without advice from a veterinarian.

HOMEOPATHIC SHOCK REMEDY. An effective pain remedy that is safe for dogs and cats is Arnica. The dose is 2 30C tablets twice daily. Bach’s Rescue Remedy is also a good anti-anxiety treatment you may use to make your pet more comfortable as you transport them (give yourself some too, it is good for your anxieties as well).


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Topics: Cat Health, Dog Health, Pet health | 1 Comment »

One Response to “Shock in Dogs and Cats- What you can do”

  1. Avatar Rachel Says:
    October 26th, 2009 at 10:30 pm


    I am studying natural medicine currently and have learnt that aconite is a very good homeopathic remedy for shock especially if given within the first 24 hours of illness onset.
    I agree with the whole thing of dogs going into shock with parvo as I experienced it first hand and it was horrible to watch.


Dr. Andrew Jones, DVM