First aid

Emergency first aid for dogs – Part 2 – Treatment of shock

Your dog can easily go into a state of shock, caused by any amount of pain, toxin, or injury. And when it comes to the treatment of shock, veterinarians are not in full agreement as to the term “treat for shock.”

One side states that treating for canine shock includes the administration of intravenous fluids, oxygen, and possibly blood transfusions; procedures which are not possible for the layman to undertake.

Of course this is agreeable, however, on the opposite side of the controversy there are also veterinarians who feel that if the dog owner will implement a few emergency procedures, the onset of shock can be prevented – and in cases where shock is already present, the effects can be minimized.

Basic procedures

So, while the full procedures for treating for shock include some things not within the scope of the layman, we will still us the term “treat for shock” in describing those procedures which can and should be implemented by anyone on the street.

The first step in the emergency first aid procedures for treatment (or prevention) of shock is to keep the dog calm and warm. Anything available to accomplish this should be used: blankets, hot water bottles, your own coat… anything to keep the dog warm and keep its temperature from falling.

The second step depends upon whether the dog is conscious or unconscious. If the dog is conscious, you should administer stimulants such as warm coffee, bourbon, or brandy.


It is also interesting to note that the type of stimulant used is also a big controversy among veterinarians, as will be discussed later.

If warm coffee is used, mix in some sugar and cream (or honey) so that the dog will not find the stimulant bitter and end up trying to fight its administration. Some veterinarians find brandy or whiskey, mixed with equal parts of honey or syrup, to be more effective.

Never force a stimulant

Stimulants such as these, spilled into the corner of your dog’s mouth, can help to keep it alive until you reach your veterinarian. However, if your dog fights the administration of the stimulant, stop! Step one is to keep the dog calm and warm; if it fights the stimulant, the excitement and distress which result are far worse for the dog’s condition than the value it would receive from the stimulant.

If the dog is unconscious – or semi-conscious – do not administer any liquid supplement at all! To do so would probably cause strangulation. The liquids could also go into the lungs causing inhalation pneumonia. When you have done all that you can in the treatment for shock, the dog must be taken to a veterinarian as quickly as possible for supportive treatment and the administration of the necessary intravenous fluids.