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Show full transcript for Cat and Dog Shock Assessment video

In this lesson, we'll be covering a serious condition known as shock. We'll provide you with some signs and symptoms of shock and what you should do if you suspect that your pet is in shock.

In addition to the obvious signs of illness or injury in your pets, you need to be aware of the signs of shock as well. Shock, also called circulatory shock, is a severe condition where your pet's blood flow becomes dangerously low. When this happens, it can lead to organ damage and dysfunction if not treated properly and quickly.

As your pet's personal first responder, you'll want to keep an eye out for the signs of shock that we'll be detailing below. The problem with shock is that it can come on suddenly, often right after an injury, or it can come on much more slowly, as in hours or even days. And it should be noted that noticing changes that take place more slowly may be more difficult to spot.

Warning: If you think your pet may be in shock but you're not sure, it's really important to keep a close eye on the situation, especially if you're not taking your pet to the veterinarian immediately.

The Signs of Shock

Fortunately, the signs of shock are fairly easy to recognize. You may even notice one or more by simply doing your regular behavioral assessments or while checking your pet's vital signs.

Heart Rate

One of the first signs of shock is the change to your pet's heart rate. For dogs, a normal heart rate while he is sick or injured is somewhere between 60 and 140 beats per minute. If your dog is in shock, that heart rate will likely be very rapid and could easily jump to above 140 beats per minute.

For cats, the heart rate situation is a little different, as it can spike or slow down. A normal heart rate for sick or injured cats is likely to be around 180 beats per minute or higher. But for a cat in shock, that heart rate can exceed 220 beats per minute or dive below 140 beats per minute.

Pro Tip #1: If your cat's heart rate drops to below 140 beats per minute, this is very concerning and should warrant an immediate trip to see the vet.

Other signs of shock in your cat or dog include:

  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Gum color changes
  • Lower than normal rectal temperature
  • Cool ear tips, toes, or tip of the tail
  • Behavioral changes

If your cat or dog is in shock, he or she will not be acting normally and will likely be exhibiting signs of feeling dull or weak.

You may recall that a normal healthy gum color is a nice bubble gum pink. If that color changes to white or very pale pink, this could be a problem.

During circulatory shock, blood circulation is compromised and may not reach all areas, hence the cool ear tips, toes, or tail tips. How will you know if these are cool? You'll just have to touch those areas and see if you notice a temperature change or what you'd consider cooler than normal for your pet.

Pro Tip #2: If you notice all these symptoms together in your cat or dog, this could be a sign that your pet is going into shock. Shock is VERY serious and there isn't much you can do at home. Therefore, transporting your pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible will be your best course of action and treatment.

Transporting Your Pet to the Vet

You may recall some transportation tips from previous lessons, like removing the lid on your cat's carrier, rather than stuffing him through a small hole. Those tips will serve you well if you discover your pet is in shock.

Three things you'll want to focus on as far as transportation goes is:

  1. Wrap your pet up in a blanket. Keep him as warm and comfortable as possible during the drive to the vet.
  2. Keep your pet as calm as you can.
  3. Do not give your pet any medications, unless you've spoken to your veterinarian and they recommended that course of treatment.

Keep in mind that shock can occur at any time, but it's more likely to happen after an injury or during an illness or medical emergency. Being ultra-aware of your pet's vital signs and behavior during these moments could really help.