There are many reasons why an animal may become unconscious and there may also be several levels of unconsciousness. For example, it may be due to apathy – a repressed stage of consciousness where the animal only responds to strong stimuli.
Then there is the coma, a stage of unconsciousness where the animal does not wake up even from painful stimuli. So why can an animal become unconscious?
First, you need to determine the extent to which the animal is unconscious and the cause of this. Then you should stabilize the animal and try to wake it up.
What should you do if an animal is unconscious?
Of course, you should first consult a veterinarian. Mainly because most situations that can lead to unconsciousness are quite serious and can be life-threatening for the animal. Therefore , a veterinarian should make a diagnosis and give advice on what to do.
1. Try to find out why
A neurological examination should be able to provide answers to which area of the pathology has led to unconsciousness. Whatever the cause, the ability to walk and stay up is non-existent in these cases, and the spinal reflexes may appear to be normal or increased.
A brain injury
The organs associated with the nerves of the brain can be affected, which can usually be detected by looking into the eyes of the animal. The pupils may not respond to light, for example, in which case blindness may have occurred.
An injury to the brain stem
There may be damage to the nerves in the brain, as we mentioned in the previous paragraph. Again , the best clue is to look into the animal’s eyes. Look for dilated pupils, strabismus, absence of normal eye movements, and more.
2. Investigate the cause
Inflammatory or metabolic diseases, intracranial neoplasia and hydrocephalus can all lead to brain dysfunction and some level of unconsciousness in animals.
A disease of the brain stem
Again, neoplasia, inflammation and more can lead to acute or progressive dysfunction of the brainstem. Treatment may include chemotherapy, antimicrobial or anti-inflammatory drugs.
A cerebral hernia
So neoplasia, inflammatory brain disease and trauma can all cause intracranial pressure. They can also create hernias in the brain tissue, which can potentially compress the brainstem.
Metabolic causes of an animal becoming unconscious
Diseases of the metabolism can generate diffuse, increasing symptoms of dysfunction in the brain. It becomes apparent only when vision is affected and then unconsciousness follows.
This is the case with diabetic coma, heat stroke, encephalopathy from liver or kidneys, hypoglycemia, coma due to hypothyroidism, lack of oxygen and more. Even toxic substances such as heavy metals, barbiturates, narcotics, parasite or sleeping pills can be a reason for this.
If the problem is poisoning, it can be cured with gastric pumping or an antidote (if any), but a disease of the metabolism is much more complex.
Vascular causes of an animal becoming unconscious
A coma or loss of consciousness may be the result of a stroke or cerebral haemorrhage, which in turn causes an increase in intracranial pressure. Stroke in animals can be due to:
- Neoplasia and metastases
- Bleeding diseases
- Heart disease and high blood pressure
- Blood clots due to parasites in the blood – for example heartworm
It is not always possible to identify the underlying cause, but predisposition to cardiovascular disease, which is so common in humans, is quite uncommon in animals.
But if there is reason to suspect cardiovascular disease, you need to test your blood pressure and blood coagulation ability. Therefore, doctors usually attack cerebral infarctions by:
- Give the patient support
- Check for underlying diseases
- Reduce intracranial pressure
Act immediately if your pet is unconscious
As you can see, the causes of unconsciousness in animals are often serious. But if you detect them in time and act immediately, the animal can recover.
Finally, it all depends on how quickly the animal receives care and on the information that the owner can give the veterinarian regarding the animal’s health. Above all, it depends on how serious the underlying cause is.