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Acute Collapse in Dogs

By: Dr. Etienne Cote

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Treatment In-depth

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.

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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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