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Shock is defined as a lack of oxygen to the body's tissues. It can be as a result of fluid loss after an accident but also cardiac or neurogenic problems. It may be there is a serious bleed, fracture or burn and fluids are lost from the body.

Shock is not always as a result of external bleeding as it could be an internal bleed that you cannot see. Internal bleeding can have delayed signs not appearing right away but the problem can be just as serious. An internal injury could be a car accident where they seem OK to start with and not obvious injuries but a few hours later, their condition goes downhill quickly.

Shock is a serious problem and can kill before the actual injury does as there is only so far that the body can compensate for a lack of blood. Once 40% blood loss occurs, this can be fatal but this figure can be a lot lower depending on the breed and the problem they have. When in shock the body increases the heartbeat to increase the blood circulation and dilate the blood vessels to make the circulatory system smaller, but there is only so far this can be effective.

Shock can come on instantly or over hours or even days.

Signs are:

  • Heart rate, rapid which in dogs is over 140 BPM and cats this can be over 180 but also a concern if it drops below 140 BPM 
  • White or pale pink gums, refer to what’s normal 
  • Cool extremities like the ear tips, tail and toes 
  • Low rectal temperature 
  • Lethargic 
  • Shows weakness 
  • Looking generally unwell
  • Changes in their character 
  • Unconsciousness and cardiac arrest are possible

Another type of shock that can affect your pet is Anaphylactic Shock which is an allergic reaction to a substance they eat, absorb through their skin or if they are stung by something they are allergic to.

In first aid terms, treatment is limited but wrap in a blanket and get them to the vet. There are different ways of keeping them warm, we will look at these now.