Shock is caused by insufficient blood flow and oxygen to meet the body’s
needs. Adequate blood flow requires effective heart pumping, open, intact blood
vessels, and sufficient blood volume to maintain flow and pressure. Adequate
oxygenation requires an open respiratory tract and enough energy to breathe.
Any condition that adversely affects the circulatory or respiratory systems can
The cardiovascular system of an animal in shock will try to compensate for
inadequate oxygen and blood flow by increasing the heart and respiratory rates,
constricting the skin’s blood vessels, and
maintaining fluid in the circulation by reducing urinary output. This requires
additional energy at a time when the vital organs aren’t getting enough oxygen
to carry out normal activities. After a time, shock becomes self-perpetuating.
Untreated, it results in death.
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Signs of early shock include panting, rapid heart rate, bounding pulses,
and a bright red color to the mucous membranes of the lips, gums, and tongue. Many of these signs will be missed or
considered mild-perhaps regarded as signs of a dog
who overexerted himself. The later signs are when most owners notice and
respond to their dog’s condition. Signs of late shock (the ones seen most
often) are pale skin and mucous membranes, a drop in body temperature, cold
feet and legs, a slow respiratory rate, apathy and depression, unconsciousness,
and a weak or absent pulse.
Treatment: First, evaluate. Is the dog breathing? Is there a heartbeat? What
is the extent of the injuries? Is the dog in shock?
If so, proceed as follows:
If the dog is not breathing, administer artificial respiration.
If there is no heartbeat or pulse, administer CPR.
If the dog is unconscious, check to be sure that the airway is open. Clear
secretions from the mouth with your fingers and a piece of cloth. Pull the tip
of the tongue foreword beyond the front teeth to make it easier for the dog to
breathe. Keep the dog’s head lower than his body by placing a blanket beneath
Wrap the dog in a coat or blanket to provide warmth and protect injured
Transport the dog to a veterinary hospital.
To avoid aggravating the shock:
Calm the dog and speak soothingly.
Allow the dog to assume the most comfortable position in which breathing is
easiest. An animal will naturally adopt the position of least pain.
When possible, splint or support any broken bones before moving the
All dogs who are unconscious or found lying down after an accident must be
considered to have spinal cord injuries and should
be handled accordingly.
Transport large dogs on a flat surface or in a hammock stretcher. Carry
small dogs in a blanket with the injured parts protected.
Avoid using a muzzle except for short periods, such as when moving the dog
from the scene of the accident into a car, or from a car into the veterinary
clinic. Muzzling can interfere with breathing in some situations.