- Check the ABCs and perform CPR as required.
- Remove the collar and/or any leads as this can elevate pressure within the skull.
- Elevate the head 20-30 degrees to reduce pressure within the skull, while avoiding placing any pressure on the neck.
- Smear a small amount of glucose or honey on the gums.
- If the animal feels cold, wrap in warm blankets.
- Seek immediate veterinary attention.
- Monitor for vomiting during transport. Unconscious animals may vomit and are at high risk of developing aspiration pneumonia if the vomiting is inhaled into the airways.
WHAT IS IT?
Loss of consciousness or coma is a state in which an animal cannot respond to external stimuli.
- Failure to respond to normal stimuli
- Failure to respond to pain (a firm pinch between the toes)
- Abnormal breathing pattern
- Rigid or outstretched limbs
- Weak pulses
- Absence of breathing (respiratory arrest)
- Absence of heart beat (cardiac arrest)
Loss of consciousness may be due to a disorder or injury within the skull (intracranial) or systemic disease.
Intracranial causes include:
- Head trauma
- Brain tumours, masses or abscesses
- Infection within the brain
Systemic causes include:
- Severe reduction in blood pressure/shock
- Hypoglycaemia (especially young and diabetic pets)
- Profound hypothermia
- Heat stress
- Electrolyte disturbances
- Toxins (for example, sedatives, barbiturates, ethylene glycol, cannabis, snake envenomation)
- Near drowning
Veterinary care may involve providing oxygen or artificial ventilation, intravenous fluids or transfusions and medications to reduce pressure within the skull (intracranial pressure).
If hypoglycaemia is detected, glucose supplementation is warranted. Your veterinarian may recommend other tests including blood tests, x-rays, ultrasound and advanced imaging such as CT scanning as required.
Treatment depends on the diagnosis.
Boysen SR (2009) Coma. In Clinical Veterinary Advisor Dogs and Cats ed. Etienne Cote. St Louis: Mosby Elsevier, pp230-231.