Pet Expressway for Dogs

How To Check Your Dog For Shock

How To Check Your Dog For Shock

You can check your dog for shock by checking his ‘capillary refill time’. The Capillary Refill Time is the time it takes the dog’s gum or inner lips to return to their normal pink color after you press them. When you press the gums they will blanch or turn whitish under and directly around the pressed area because you are interrupting blood flow in that one area

When you release the pressure on the gums they will return back to their normal pink color. The time it takes for ‘color to return’ to the gums determines if your dog is in shock. This will tell you if your dog’s blood circulation is normal or in one of the 3 stages of shock. If the capillary refill time is normal, it should take one to two seconds to refill. Phrased another way it should take one to two seconds for the color to return to what it looked like before you pressed the gums.


Check for Shock  by Checking Capillary Refill Time

Method & Tips

  • Have your dog sit, stand or lie down.
  • Observe the area of the gums or inner lip that you plan on pressing. Know what it looks like before you press it.
  • Lift the dog’s lip upward, exposing the gums.
  • Press lightly with one finger and hold for a moment or two. You may see blanching contouring your finger as you press.
  • After a moment, release your finger and keenly observe how long it takes for the color to return to pink.

Normal Capillary Refill Time is 1 to 2 seconds. A refill time of more than 3 seconds is an emergency.

Video on How to Check Your Dog for Shock

YouTube video


Valuable Tip – Know the Baseline

A valuable tip would be to know what your dog’s gums look like now, so you have a ‘baseline of wellness’. Not all dogs have textbook pink gums. For example, unhealthy dogs may have a bluish tint to their gums. This would be the case if your dog is not getting enough oxygen due to congestive heart failure chest or breathing problems. Dogs with gingivitis may have gums that are reddish and inflamed. Older dog’s gums tend to darken as they age. Some dogs can have pale gums and not be in shock; as it a sign of anemia.

If you needed to check your dog for shock in an emergency, but have never looked at his gums before, you could get a puzzling surprise if they are not pink. This is why you need a ‘baseline ‘ as to the color of ‘your’ dog’s gums.

Capillary Refill Time

Also, you should take it a step further and check for capillary refill time occasionally with your dog by pressing and releasing his gums. Once again, due to age and health issues, your dog may have a slightly longer capillary refill time than a younger or healthier dog. It may not be ‘ textbook normal’, but it is ‘your dog’s normal’

If you Do Not have this ‘baseline of wellness’ for your dog, it may be very difficult to accurately tell is your dog is sick.


For Further Information

For a complete, encyclopedic survival guide to all aspects of dog health, from preventative care to choosing a vet to doggie First Aid (even the canine Heimlich maneuver!), you should take a look at The Ultimate Guide to Dog Health.

It’s a survival guide for knowledgeable, effective, and life-saving dog care. This manual keeps your dog’s health and well-being firmly within your control – which is exactly where you want it to be.

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Keith Byrne

Keith Byrne

From an early age Keith has been around dogs. He has been involved in dog grooming, dog walking, dog sitting and dog showing as well as voluntary work in animal shelters. His aim is to help all dog owners especially newbies learn about dogs and care for them in a loving, caring and fun way.


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