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Dog 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. This becomes increasingly difficult to do when the vital organs aren't getting enough oxygen to carry on these activities. After a time, shock becomes self-perpetuating. Prolonged shock causes death.

Common causes of shock are dehydration (prolonged vomiting and diarrhea), heat stroke, severe infections, poisoning and hemorrhage. Being hit by a car is the most common cause of traumatic shock in the dog.

- Transporting a dog in shock. Muzzle only when absolutely necessary. (J. Clawson)

The signs of shock, which are caused by the effects of poor circulation and the adjustments made to compensate for this, are a drop in body temperature; shivering; listlessness and mental depression; weakness; cold feet and legs; pale skin and mucus membranes; a weak faint pulse.

Treatment: First evaluate the signs present. Is the dog breathing? Is there a heartbeat? What are the extent of the injuries? Is the dog in shock? If so, proceed as follows:

1. If not breathing, proceed with artificial respiration.

2. If no heartbeat or pulse, administer heart massage.

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 dog's head lower than the body.

4. Control bleeding (as described under Wounds section that follows).

5. To prevent further aggravation of shock:

a. Calm your dog and speak soothingly.

b. Let the dog assume the most comfortable position, and adopt the one with the least pain. Don't force your dog to lie down-it may make breathing more difficult.

c. When possible, splint or support broken bones before moving the dog (see MUSCULOSKELETAL SYSTEM).

d. Cover your dog with a coat or blanket. Do not wrap tightly.

e. Transport large dogs on a flat surface or in a hammock stretcher. Carry small dogs with injured parts protected.

f. Muzzle only when absolutely necessary. It may impair breathing.


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