If your pet is still in a collapsed state when he is brought to the veterinarian, tests will be done immediately and hospitalization with continuous monitoring may be recommended, particularly if the situation is perceived as life threatening. A complete medical history and a thorough physical examination. Particular attention should be paid to auscultation of the heart, or listening with a stethoscope. Your veterinarian should also measure your pet's blood pressure, palpate or feel the abdomen and assess the neurologic status of your dog.
Your veterinarian will determine the underlying problem and the immediate threat it poses to your pet. Alternatively, if your pet's condition improves spontaneously, and your dog seems well when you reach the veterinary hospital, tests will still be performed. These will be aimed at determining the cause of the problem in order to assess the risk of future collapse and to see whether medication is warranted.
Numerous diseases can lead to acute collapse. Therefore, your veterinarian may perform one or more of the following tests:
Routine blood tests. Abnormalities in blood test results can pinpoint certain causes of collapse such as anemia or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Blood tests can also help evaluate the state of many internal organs.
Specialized blood tests. These may include examination of some hormones to exclude Addison's disease (hypoadrenocorticism) or severe hypothyroidism.
Blood tests for myasthenia gravis. Blood tests for this disease of the muscle may be recommended if the clinical symptoms suggest this problem. This tests for antibodies against acetylcholine receptors.
X-rays of the chest and the abdomen. X-rays generally show the outlines of internal organs, which helps determine their size, shape and position. Fluid accumulation or bleeding may be evident if moderate to severe.
X-rays of the back and limbs. If a spinal problem or a leg problem is suspected on physical examination, X-rays are the best way to evaluate the bones. Often these X-rays need to be taken with the animal under general anesthesia or heavy sedation.
Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG). If a cardiac problem is suspected, the rhythm of the heart beat is analyzed with an ECG recording. This can be as simple as a routine EKG or more advanced such as an ambulatory EKG that your pet wears while at home. These specialized EKGs are sometimes called Holter monitors and event recorders.
Ultrasound of the abdomen or of the heart. While X-rays show the outlines of organs, ultrasound makes it possible to see inside the individual organs. Therefore, X-rays and ultrasound examinations are often complementary. Ultrasound is frequently performed by a specialist, which may require referral to a specialty veterinary hospital.
Neurologic evaluation. If a disease of the brain, spinal cord or nerves is suspected, a consultation with a neurologist may be recommended.
Spinal or brain procedures. Examples include a myelogram, which is an X-ray of the spine taken with a special dye injection to evaluate the spinal cord; a CT scan ("CAT" scan); or an MRI scan. Sometimes a neurologist will recommend specialized tests of the nerves and muscles called an electromyogram (EMG).
Additional, tests may be recommended from the results of any of the tests listed above. Therefore, the initial tests may find the cause of collapse outright or may direct the veterinarian to pursue other causes of collapse.
At the time of initial collapse, it is best to go immediately to the nearest veterinarian rather than spend time on "life-saving" measures. Inappropriate cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), for example, can be ineffective and cause internal organ damage if done improperly. Immediate reversal of the problem if possible. Examples include removing an object that is obstructing airflow in the throat or giving an antidote if poisoning was known to have occurred.
The most beneficial treatment for acute collapse is the elimination of its cause. Finding the cause can be complicated and time-consuming because so many potential explanations are possible. Therefore, treatments often are general ("supportive") at first and then become more specific as new information is obtained from test results.
The following are examples of treatments the veterinarian may provide.
Intravenous fluids ("IV's"). These fluids may rehydrate, provide nutrition, and bring the blood pressure back towards normal if collapse was associated with low blood pressure.
Surgery. Many of the causes of acute collapse involve abnormal tissue that should be removed. Examples include tumors in the abdomen that cause internal bleeding, and intervertebral disk problems that cause stiffness or paralysis of the legs. If and when to perform surgery requires a careful decision that is based on weighing the risk of general anesthesia against the risk of delaying surgery.
Intravenous drugs. A number of emergency drugs can be given intravenously, including drugs to control blood pressure, regulate the heartbeat, reduce inflammation, stimulate respiration in an emergency, and so on. Naturally, the exact drug selection depends on the underlying problem.
Blood transfusion. If severe anemia or a loss of blood from injury or internal hemorrhage is the cause of collapse, then giving whole blood, blood components, or blood substitutes may be lifesaving. Many veterinary hospitals do not have a blood bank on-site and a blood transfusion may require transfer to a specialty veterinary hospital.
Many of the diseases that cause acute collapse are progressive, which means they can get worse. Once a diagnosis has been reached and the cause of collapse is known, you should discuss with your veterinarian the frequency of rechecks. Giving any medications prescribed.
Follow-up care may include:
Scheduling re-evaluations as recommended.
Monitoring your pet for weakness. Often this is apparent as an unwillingness or difficulty in rising, stumbling when walking, or recurrence of collapse.
Monitoring for breathing difficulties such as labored or rapid breathing. This may indicate a problem in the circulation, lungs, or blood, or suggest your dog is feeling discomfort or pain.
Preparing a plan should collapse recur. This is a significant issue if transportation is not immediately available. Also consider if the collapsing pet is a large dog and too heavy for one person to carry alone. If two people are available, even a large dog can be carried if the dog is carefully laid on a sturdy blanket and the blanket is pulled taut by the corners to serve as a stretcher.
Exact recommendations depend on the precise cause of the collapse.