Seeing the dog staggering and fainting would be a traumatic experience for the dog owner especially if the dog is well cared for and seem to be healthy. There are instances when excitement and/or strenuous exertion would cause the dogs to collapse. The dizziness and fainting spell that could last for a few seconds to several minutes is referred to as syncope. This short period of unconsciousness is a result of low blood pressure, meaning that the delivery of oxygen to the brain is not sufficient. Syncope is not a disease. The dizziness and the fainting spell can be a sign that the dog has an underlying medical problem. Syncope can point out to a heart disease
Insufficient supply of oxygen to the brain is a relatively simple cause of syncope as often times it is brought about by anemia which can be easily corrected. Severe coughing due to a respiratory disease may cause airway obstruction when the windpipe collapse thus the level of oxygen in the blood will fall and cause the dog to faint. Cardiovascular diseases that may be due to the irregular operation of the heart or to the deviant functioning of the blood vessels may result to syncope as these defects would basically reduce or obstruct the blood flow.
Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) resulting from metabolic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and various infections can be one of the causes of syncope. And so are low level of calcium in the blood (hypocalcaemia) and hypokalemia (low level of potassium in the blood) that results to muscular tremors, extreme weakness and fainting spells. Bee stings are known to cause syncope too.
Sudden strenuous activities and exercise can lead to syncope. Often the dog would show extreme weakness that would progress to uncoordinated movements and ending in a fainting spell. The dog would have a glassy eyed appearance and some would cry out before losing consciousness. Most often the forelimbs would become rigid. Some dogs would manifest incontinence (involuntarily urinate or move bowel).
Generally, syncope can not be prevented. However, the circumstances that trigger a fainting spells can be avoided. Therefore if excitement and strenuous activities often makes the dog collapse the owner has to ensure that these are avoided. If the syncope is due to severe coughing or borne out of a respiratory disease, ask the vet to prescribe a cough suppressant. Making sure that the collar is not putting pressure on the dog’s neck may also circumvent a fainting spell.
As aforementioned, syncope may be a sign of an underlying medical problem. To avoid further occurrences the cause of the problem must be identified and of course managed. Syncope would necessitate professional veterinary care but it pays to know what to do while waiting for the vet.
First off is to position the body of the pet in such a way that the head is lower than the body. The pet must be covered with a blanket to keep the body heat. If the dog vomits ensure that vomitus is not aspirated into the lungs. Do not force the dog to take in liquid as it can be inhaled into the lungs and cause further problems. It would not be wise to slap the dog neither is dousing the dog with cold water.
Fainting spells usually last for a few minutes and the pet would seem to be “good as new” but this should not make the owner complacent and put off taking the dog to the vet. The cause of the syncope may be serious and life threatening. As in any case of medical problems early diagnosis and treatment is the best way to gain full recovery.