Shock – Rhodes 2 Safety

Shock – Rhodes 2 Safety


When people think about canine first aid, they tend to think about things like how to do CPR and artificial respiration – the “big ones”, if you will.  In actual fact, probably the most serious and potentially life threatening situation you need to be able to spot and treat is shock.

In a nutshell, medical shock is the body’s response to a lack of oxygen, simple as that. What this means is that any situation that lowers the oxygen level can make an animal go into shock.  The kind of things that can trigger it include; choking (because if he can’t get any air in, his oxygen level goes down), drowning (because the lungs will fill with water rather than with air and that’s definitely a bad thing), crushing injuries to his ribs or his chest (because if the ribs can’t expand, the lungs cant either and then they cant take air in), pain or fear causing rapid breathing, and probably the most obvious one of all, bleeding! When somebody “bleeds to death”, it’s not the lack of blood that kills them; it’s the loss of all that oxygen the blood was carrying.

The Signs and Symptoms of shock are as follows:-


Early Signs:-

Rapid Heart Beat

Anxious / Agitated

Bright Red Gums

Shallow Breathing

Pulse Easy to Find

Secondary Signs:-

Increased Heart Beat

Gums Pale or Blue

Lethargy and Weakness

Breathing more shallow

Pulse Difficult to Find


Late Signs:-

Gums White / Mottled

Heart Rate Increases

Weak Pulse

Glazed Eyes /

Not Focussing


Heart Attack



If you think your dog is showing signs of shock:


Temporary Treatment:


1)  Quickly lay him on his back

2)  Manually hold his back legs up in the air to get the oxygenated blood to his brain ASAP.

Position for temporary treatment of a dog in shock
Temporary Shock position


Shock Stabilisation Treatment:


1)  Find a board strong enough to take his weight and lay him on it.  It’s better to think about what you could use as a board NOW rather than later when you actually need it.  Many things can be used, obviously dependant upon the size/weight of the dog, from a tea tray or baking tray, through to the tray in the bottom of you dog’s crate.

(N.B. Although its tempting to think that an ironing board will do the job, we are really looking for a board that is short in enough to fit into your car.)

Find a board to take your dog's weight
Board suitable for treating a dog in shock

ALWAYS lie him on right hand side in case his shock deteriorates and requires CPR.

2)  Wrap him in a blanket/towel, securing him to the board with it.

3)  Place cushion/rolled up jacket and put under the board, directly under his hind legs.


Use the board to stabilise the dog in shock
Stabilisation position for shock

4)  Tilt him sufficiently for the blood to be encouraged to flow toward his brain (4-6″).

5)  Phone your vet ASAP to meet you at the surgery.

6)  The board will act like a stretcher for carrying him to and from the car & it will allow you to tilt his body sufficiently to aid the blood flow to his head.

(N.B. Without the board, his body would just sag in the middle and not be physically tilted)

7) If you are in the middle of no where, simply lying the dog on uneven ground so that his head is down-hill will help massively or use your lap to lie his back half across so that his rear is elevated.

8) If you are near your car, you may be able to use the parcel shelf as a stretcher to carry and tilt your dog.  Because it fits into the car, you will be able to use it to tilt and treat the dog en route to the vet too.

8) DO NOT use hot waterbottles to warm your dog as this will cause the blood to rush to the specific warm area provided by the waterbottle and hence it will be taking it AWAY from the brain where he needs it.  Simply using layers and blankets and jackets is the best way to warm him up.

9) Monitor him constantly and be ready to step in and perform CPR or artificial respiration should the need arise.


  1. Reply

    Great advice, Thank you! Does the board need to be big enough for the whole body or can their head lie flat (would need a big board for Kgosi – Ridgeback!)

    • Reply

      Ideally, you want the board long enough for the whole body and head as well as you would be looking to be able to use it as a stretcher to carry the dog to the car should he be ill enough. A good “board” might be the parcel shelf in your car or the tray in the bottom of their crate if they are crate-trained. When I needed it in “real time” for my RR I used the lid from my son’s wooden toybox.

      If your car seats fold down, not quite flat, then you can use this during transportation to the vet simply by placing their bottom at the highest point so their head is towards to the boot end – I find it very rare that car seats actually fold flat all the way so this method usually works a treat.

  2. Reply

    Thank you for sharing these on Facebook! For those in the US these can save a life. We aren’t able to enjoy you presentations live but we can learn a lot from these posts.

    • Reply

      Hi Jane, Im so glad they are useful across the pond too

      Sadly, at the moment we can’t get to you in person but we can always look at doing on line presentations if you feel there are lots of people who might be interested (we could look at scheduling at times that suit the various parts of the US … even if that means we here are actually teaching in the middle of the night lol). Let me know and Im sure we could get something off the ground via Skype or something similar


  3. […] If you feel that these things are increasing, he could be starting to go in to shock which is even more dangerous than the dislocation.  If this is the case, please tell your vet immediately.  Here is our blog on shock just in case Blog on Shock […]

  4. Reply

    […] wrong.  If you need to familiarise yourself with the signs and symptoms of shock, click this link . With any condition, and particularly life-threatening ones, it is always advisable to keep up to […]

  5. […] The dog will be going into shock so ensure you keep him flat and his spine nice and straight, then raise the rear end of the animal to encourage oxygenated blood to travel to the brain (you can kneel next to him and rest his back end on your thighs but try to ensure he remains straight rather than sagging in the middle) and cover him with your jacket to keep him warm. (see previous blog on shock as per the following link) Shock blog […]

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *