Shock and your Dog


Shock is a life-threatening disorder that occurs when the body’s cells and organs are not getting enough blood flow, creating insufficient oxygen and nutrients to function, ultimately causing irreversible organ damage.


Your dog may experience severe blood loss; fluid loss; traumatic injury including amputation; anaphylactic shock; heart failure.

Types of Shock

There are many different causes of shock, which are classified into:

  • Cardiogenic shock: Inability of the heart to circulate blood; which results in, for example, acute heart failure;

  • Hypovolemic shock: which is the loss of intravascular fluid (i.e. blood); as a consequence of massive blood or fluid loss; and

  • Distributive shock: Redistribution of body fluid; (i.e. water and electrolytes) due to a disturbance in the fluid distribution.

Safety precautions

Shock is an extremely serious and potentially life-threatening condition. It is imperative that after any medical and/or traumatic injury that the pet owner monitors and manages this condition as a priority.

Therefore, the best way to minimise the risk of shock is for the dog owner to assume that it is shock is present in all medical emergencies, and should follow the ‘Action for Shock’ seen below*, into all first aid emergencies. (Regardless of its classification/type, or the limited signs and symptoms which are present for shock at any given time).

Signs and Symptoms

Early Signs

  • Heart rate is elevated, causing pulse sounds to be strong and bound

  • Dog swings between anxiety and depression

  • Gums look red with a capillary refill time of 1-2 seconds

  • Dogs body temperature drops below 38.5°C