Syncope is the medical term for fainting – a period of unconsciousness, often followed by an instant (referred to as spontaneous) recovery. We all know that humans faint, but do dogs faint, too? If they do, what causes them to faint, and what should you do, as a pet owner, when it happens?
Here’s everything you need to know about syncope (fainting) in dogs…
- Do Dogs Faint?
- Symptoms of Syncope in Dogs
- Why Do Dogs Faint?
- Causes of Syncope in Dogs
- 5 Steps What to Do if Your Dog Faints
- How to Diagnose Syncope in Dogs
- How is Syncope in Dogs Treated?
- Can You Prevent Dogs Fainting?
- Online Vet
Do Dogs Faint?
Yes, dogs do faint.
All dogs have the ability to faint, but certain breeds are known for it more than others. These include:
- Cocker spaniels;
- German shepherds;
- Great Danes;
- Miniature schnauzers;
Older dogs are also more likely to experience syncope (fainting) than their younger counterparts. In some cases, this is linked to cardiac issues, which are also more prevalent in mature canines.
Symptoms of Syncope in Dogs
The most obvious symptom of syncope in dogs is, of course, that the dog will faint. This usually results in them falling to the floor, being heavy and floppy, and not responding. Sometimes, syncope in dogs can imitate a seizure. It is quite common for pet parents to confuse one for the other.
Read more: Seizures in Dogs
Just as quickly as they are taken down, so to speak, your pet can spring back to life. Within a few minutes, sometimes not even that long, the pooch will often be right back to normal, if a little confused.
You and your vet can use other symptoms your dog is displaying to determine the cause of syncope. If you are unsure of what your pet’s other symptoms are, it is worth investing in a home pet camera, which allows you to monitor, rewind, and play-back footage of your furry friend at home. In doing so, you can quickly pinpoint symptoms, such as syncope, which you may otherwise miss.
Why Do Dogs Faint?
Dogs will faint for a wide range of reasons, in much the same way that humans will faint for a wide range of reasons. According to the veterinarian research, the most common reason is that the brain’s blood supply is disrupted for a brief period of time.
When the blood supply to the brain is blocked or disrupted, the organ doesn’t get the nutrients it needs to function properly, and it also doesn’t get the oxygen it needs.
Fainting – in itself – is not a medical condition. It is a symptom of a medical condition. The fainting spell is usually temporary, but the underlying cause is often not.
Causes of Syncope in Dogs
There are two main types of syncope or fainting in dogs. These are known as:
- Cardiac syncope – regarding the heart, responsible for 2/3 of all reported syncope in dog cases and generally considered non-life threatening and simple to treat.
- Neurologic syncope – regarding the spinal cord, brain, and neurological system, is considered rare.
There is a wide array of triggers or causes that can result in a dog fainting, and it will be different from dog to dog. It can be a symptom of relatively benign problems that are easily treated, such as:
- Anxiety, depression, or other emotional stresses;
- Low blood sugar levels;
- Pulling too hard on the collar (also known as carotid sinus hyperactivity);
- Contractions of the abdomen from bathroom activities, swallowing or coughing (also known as situational syncope).
Constant, prolonged, or chronic fainting can be caused by a more serious underlying medical condition, including:
- Heart disease or defects;
- -0 disease;
- Tumors of the heart;
- Blood thickening, naturally or medication-caused;
- Blood clots;
- Heartworm/heartworm disease;
- Sensitivity to medication;
- Incorrect sodium, glucose, or calcium level.
5 Steps What to Do if Your Dog Faints
If you believe your poor pup has fainted, here’s what you should do:
Step One: Heartbeat
Does your pup still have a heartbeat? Use your hands to feel their chest. If the fainting spell is caused by something cardiac in origin, there is a chance that the heart will be beating harder or faster than usual or slower and much lighter than usual.
If your pup does not have a heartbeat, call for help and seek emergency vet treatment.
Step Two: Breathing
You must make sure that your dog’s airway is clear. Open the mouth, and make sure the tongue is not restricting the airway.
Step Three: Note the Symptoms
At some point, you will need to tell your vet everything that happened in that crazy moment – and there’s a chance that you won’t remember a single minute of it. If you have someone with you, I recommend asking them to record the episode on their phone. It’s not a pleasant thing to do, but showing that video to your vet could give them much more information than you could convey using words alone.
Step Four: Call for Help
Although a fainting spell is short for most dogs, it is recommended to seek medical advice for your pet anyway. You can call your local or licensed vet to have the episode noted down for future reference. That kind of information can be used to diagnose a new medical condition.
Step Five: Reassure Your Pet
Your pet is likely going to be scared and confused when they come back around, although others just get on and carry on like nothing ever happened. Make sure your pet has water and food but try to avoid them eating too much. It is common for dogs to experience nausea and vomiting with fainting spells, especially with underlying medical causes that also cause vomiting.
How to Diagnose Syncope in Dogs
A vet will diagnose the root, underlying cause of syncope by performing several investigative tests, including physical examinations, blood tests, ECGs (electrocardiogram), radiography, and more. The results of one examination will dictate the next course of action, either ruling in or ruling out a disease or issue.
In some cases, medications for other conditions can bring side effects, such as fainting. If your pup has only started fainting or experiencing new symptoms since taking a new form of medication, for example, the link can quite quickly be established.
The root cause of the dog’s fainting spells must be correctly determined before both the condition and the symptom can be treated.
How is Syncope in Dogs Treated?
The treatment of syncope in dogs will depend heavily on the cause. For example, if the cause is the dog pulling on the collar when you are going out for a walk, disrupting the airways, and causing syncope, changing the collar to a body harness will work to stop the issue. Alternatively, the dog can be trained not to pull on the collar or leash.
Read more: Walking Your Dog: Your Ultimate Guide
If the cause of the pup’s fainting is medication-based, an alternative form of medication can be found to help put a stop to it. In other cases, medication might need to be prescribed for the first time, such as with previously undiagnosed heart conditions.
In other situations, the cause won’t be as simple, nor will the treatment be. Blood clots are, obviously, quite serious and will usually require serious medical intervention in the hospital along with long-term and potentially life-long medication afterward.
If heartworm disease is the cause of the doggy fainting spells, treating the parasite itself will solve the root cause, which should then prevent syncope going forward.
Can You Prevent Dogs Fainting?
You can go a long way in preventing dogs from fainting by making sure they are fit, healthy, well-trained, and happy. Certain medical conditions can and will still arise, of course, but healthier dogs tend to have fewer medical conditions than unhealthier, un-walked, neglected, and overweight dogs.
Certain medical conditions can cause fainting in even the fittest and healthiest of dogs. Still, by keeping up with medication and other forms of treatment, you can keep the symptom at bay and potentially permanently cure the medical condition causing it.
Has your dog fainted? Are you worried about it but not sure whether you should seek veterinary care? Why not have a chat with Petcube’s licensed, friendly vets? They’re available around the clock, 24/7, right at the tap of a button.
If it’s advice you need, that’s just what they’ll give you, putting your mind at ease and telling you what you REALLY need to do next. If a vet trip is necessary, they’ll recommend you to do it. If it’s not, you’ll get helpful advice on what to do instead.
Save time, money, and hassle with Petcube’s Online Vet – a modern way to look at traditional pet healthcare!
My dog fainted and peed, is this normal?
It is not normal for your dog to faint, no. It is somewhat normal (but not particularly common) for a dog to urinate at the same time as fainting, however. With no consciousness to keep the muscles contracted, they can release, expelling gas, urine, and even feces.
Does vestibular disease in dogs cause fainting?
No, vestibular disease in dogs does not cause fainting, but it can cause a dog to collapse. Fainting and collapsing are classed as two different things, medically.
What is the life expectancy of a dog with syncope?
If your pup is diagnosed and treated, with the underlying cause properly managed, they can go on to live a very long and healthy life, no different from any other dog. Untreated medical causes that bring syncope as a symptom, however, can shorten a dog’s life expectancy considerably.