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What to Do if Your Dog Collapses or Passes Out

Seeing your dog fall unconscious can be scary. Knowing what to do and when to seek veterinary care can make a difference in the outcome for your canine companion. In this blog post, our vets in Alpharetta share the common reasons why a dog collapses or passes out and what to do when it happens.

Fainting & Collapse in Dogs

Collapse is a sudden loss of strength that causes your dog to fall to the ground, with or without loss of consciousness. Dogs who collapse but remain conscious may express confusion or anxiety.

Fainting, also known as passing out or syncope, is a sudden loss of consciousness that may be accompanied by defecation or urination. It can be preceded by staggering, disorientation, diarrhea, or general weakness and is considered a veterinary emergency.

Depending on the cause of the dog's collapse, they may recover quickly, jumping up and appearing perfectly normal. In other cases, they may stay in a lying position until assisted.

What should you do if your dog collapses?

If your dog loses consciousness but quickly recovers, contact your vet to inform them of the incident. Your veterinarian will advise whether an examination is necessary.

What to Do if a Dog is Unconscious

Remain calm and evaluate the situation.

Make sure that your pup is in a safe space away from danger. Use a calm voice to reassure your pet, and if necessary, use a blanket to move your dog.

Examine your dog for any clinical signs that may help your vet determine the cause of its collapse.

  • Was your dog behaving normally before the collapse?
  • Is your dog struggling to breathe?
  • Are they bleeding?
  • Is your dog's abdomen swollen? 

Call your vet immediately during regular hours to explain the situation and arrange an emergency appointment. If your usual veterinary clinic is closed, contact your nearest animal emergency hospital or head straight over.

Note: An unconscious dog may wake up feeling confused or anxious. This can lead to uncharacteristic behavior, including aggression. Use extra caution when transporting your pup to the vet for care.

What are the common causes of unconscious dogs?

There are numerous reasons a dog might collapse, mostly cardiovascular or neurological.

Cardiovascular (Heart & Blood Vessel) Conditions

  • Arrhythmias
  • Heart Failure
  • Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)
  • Mitral valve disease
  • Pericardial effusion
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Congenital heart defects
  • Bradycardia (abnormally slow heartbeat)
  • Tachycardia (abnormally fast heartbeat)
  • Low cardiac output

Neurological (Brain & Nervous System) Conditions

  • Vascular disease
  • Narcolepsy
  • Vestibular disease
  • Brain tumor

Other Medical Conditions

  • Heartworm disease
  • Cancer
  • Bloat
  • Acute blood loss or hemorrhage
  • Low blood sugar
  • Drug side effects
  • Sudden drop in blood pressure
  • Seizure
  • Heatstroke

Treating Dogs Who Have Collapsed or Fallen Unconscious

When dogs collapse and are taken to the vet, they undergo a thorough examination and a series of diagnostic tests to determine the underlying causes. The vet may take X-rays, perform an ultrasound, and conduct a CT or MRI scan. Additionally, the dog may receive intravenous fluids and be prescribed medication. In some cases, collapse may be benign and require no treatment. Diagnosing the cause of short or infrequent episodes of collapse can be challenging, and this may require more in-depth investigations from a referral clinician or specialist.

Can you prevent fainting in dogs?

The easiest way to protect your dog against collapsing is to take steps to keep them healthy. This means routine veterinary checkups, vaccinations, daily walks and exercise and keeping up with medications if your pup requires any.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Has your dog collapsed or passed out? Our team at Loving Hands Animal Clinic & Pet Resort is here to help. Contact our vets in Alpharetta during regular business hours or your nearest after-hours emergency veterinary hospital right away.

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Loving Hands Animal Clinic & Pet Resort is always accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Alpharetta companion animals. Get in touch today to book an appointment.

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