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Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook


Shock is lack of adequate blood flow to meet the body's needs. Adequate blood flow requires effective heart pumping, open intact vessels and sufficient blood volume to maintain flow and pressure. Any condition adversely affecting the heart, vessels or blood volume can induce shock.

At first the body attempts to compensate for the inadequate circulation by speeding up the heart, constricting the skin vessels and maintaining fluid in the circulation by reducing output of urine. These activities become increasingly difficult when the vital organs aren't getting enough oxygen to carry on. After a time, shock becomes self-perpetuating. Untreated, shock causes death.

Common causes of shock are dehydration (prolonged vomiting and diarrhea); heat stroke; severe infections; poisoning; and hemorrhage. Falling from a height and being hit by a car are the most common causes of traumatic shock in the cat.

The signs of shock are a drop in body temperature, shivering, listlessness and mental depression, weakness, cold feet and legs, pale skin and mucous membranes and a weak faint pulse.

Treatment: First, evaluate. Is the cat breathing? Does it have a heartbeat? What are the extent of the injuries? Is the cat in shock? If so, proceed as follows:

1. If not breathing, proceed with Artificial Breathing.

2. If no heart beat or pulse, administer CPR.

3. If unconscious, check to be sure the airway is open. Clear secretions from the mouth with your fingers. Pull out the tongue to keep the airway clear of secretions. Keep the head lower than the body.

4. Control bleeding (as described below under Wounds).

5. To prevent further aggravation of shock,

a. Calm the cat, and speak soothingly.

b. Allow your cat to assume the most comfortable position. An animal will naturally adopt the one of least pain. Do not force the cat to lie down--this may make breathing more difficult.

c. When possible, splint or support broken bones before moving the cat (see MUSCULOSKELETAL SYSTEM: Broken Bones).

d. Wrap the cat in a blanket to provide warmth and to protect injured extremities. How to handle and restrain an injured cat for transport to the veterinary hospital is discussed above (see Handling and Re-straint). Do not attempt to muzzle a cat. This can impair breathing.


© Copyright 1998, Macmillan Publishing. All rights reserved.

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