Shock in Cats

By PetMD Editorial on Aug. 15, 2008

Shock is a set of physiologic changes that has many different causes. Regardless of the cause, there is a set of characteristic signs that indicate the cat is in shock. It is important to recognize these signs and to be aware of some of the more common reasons a cat will go into shock.

What to Watch For

  • Listlessness or depression
  • Pale, cool gums
  • Weak pulse
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Rapid shallow breathing
  • Below normal body temperature (hypothermia)

Primary Cause

A common cause of shock is trauma, such as being hit by a car or burned.

Immediate Care

If your cat is still responsive, wrap him up in a towel to keep him warm until you can take him to a veterinarian. Keep his head lower than his heart to encourage blood flow to the brain.

If, however, your cat is not responsive, check that he is breathing and that his heart is beating. If not, begin administering artificial respiration and/or CPR.

Veterinary Care


Your veterinarian will usually be able to determine that your cat is in shock based on physical exam. Testing to determine the cause of the shock will likely include X-rays, blood tests, and urine tests, though other more advanced diagnostic procedures may be necessary.


Basic supportive care for cats in shock includes intravenous fluids, external warmth for hypothermia, oxygen supplementation, and atropine to increase heart rate. Corticosteroids may also be used. Otherwise, your veterinarian will treat the underlying cause of the shock.

Other Causes

  • Overwhelming infection causing septic shock or toxic shock
  • Heart disease
  • Severe fluid loss from vomiting or diarrhea

Living and Management

It is important you follow the veterinarian’s aftercare instructions to prevent relapse of the condition that put your cat into shock.


Shock can be prevented or at least minimized by seeking immediate care after a trauma. Any illness or injury to your cat which causes blood or fluid loss should likewise be taken very seriously.

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