Septic Shock in Dogs


Shock in dogs occurs when the flow of blood decreases to a level that is below what is needed to stay alive. Septic shock refers to the origin of the shock. This type of shock occurs from an infection getting into the blood stream. Septic shock in dogs is a serious and urgent medical condition in which immediate treatment is needed in order to survive. Depending on how involved the condition has become, there is a chance that the dog may not survive, even after receiving treatment. This is especially true for younger and older dogs.


Septic shock occurs in dogs when an infection enters the blood stream. This can be caused from any type of bacterial infection in the dog. Once bacteria gets into the blood stream, septic shock can develop if left untreated. Toxins are released by the bacteria that may cause tissue damage. Dilation of blood vessels causes the blood to pool in tissue not allowing the blood to return to the heart for pumping. This can lead to low blood pressure, poor organ function and even death.

Early Detection

Most vets will look in the dog’s mouth at his gums for symptoms of blood circulatory problems, which is what septic shock will cause. This can be one of the first signs that there is a serious problem. A sign of shock in the dog's system would render the gums pale or bright purple. This is the same for the inside of the lip covering of the dog’s mouth.

First Symptoms

A lethargic dog is on of the one of the first symptoms of septic shock. He may not want to eat and vomiting may or may not be present. In the first stages of shock, his breathing will be labored, visible by excessive panting along with an accelerated pulse.

Later Symptoms

The symptoms progress quickly with a fever or below-normal temperature. His pupils will be expanded with a lost stare and glossy eyes. He will have no reaction when he is called and if a loud noise occurs he will not exhibit a startle reaction. He may tremble and eventually have no movement at all.


Treatment centers on returning normal circulation to the dogs system. The approach to do this usually involves IV fluids and electrolytes. Injections of bicarbonate and cortisone-like drugs to work on the inflammation caused by this condition. Antibiotics for sepsis are either injected or added into the IV drip. Oxygen therapy also will be administered if warranted in the dog’s case.

Long-Term Effects

Once the emergency of the septic shock has been treated and the dog has recovered, there still can be long-term effects from this condition. Septic shock could weaken the heart muscles, causing the dog not to tolerate the same amount of activity that he once could. It also can render him susceptible to heart failure. The liver functioning also could be affected from a severe case of septic shock.

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