Emergency conditions

Loss of consciousness (syncope) in dogs and cats

Syncope is a sudden short-term loss of consciousness with loss of postural tone, after which the animal, as a rule, fully recovers spontaneously. The term presyncope is a term that describes the weakness of the hind limbs, generalized weakness, ataxia, or disturbance of consciousness. It most often occurs as a consequence of compromised cerebral circulation. One of the main reasons for the occurrence of syncope is heart rhythm disorder (arrhythmias).

It is very important, but in practice, it is not always easy to distinguish syncope from an attack. In the case of an attack, there are usually “preparatory” actions that precede the attack itself (prodromal signs). Collapse or syncope usually occurs suddenly, without any introductory behavior. Also, seizures occur when the animal is at rest, while syncope is usually preceded by some physical activity or excitement. After the attack, the animal often has a period of recovery until a complete return to a stable state, and after syncope, it almost immediately returns to normal behavior. Although these differences are noticeable in a number of cases, it cannot be the rule on the basis of which we assess and make a final conclusion whether it is syncope or an attack.

Whether it is syncope or an attack, it is necessary to contact a veterinarian who will evaluate the further steps based on the given data in order to make a diagnosis and find the cause. The examination of the animal will include a detailed history taking, general clinical examination, laboratory tests, and even a detailed cardiac and/or neurological examination of the animal, as well as other specific diagnostic procedures (ultrasound, ECHO, ECG, X-ray, CT or MRI).