Weakness and Syncope in dogs and cats

Signs and symptoms of syncope in dogs and cats.

Cardiac output often becomes inadequate in animals with heart disease or heart failure, especially in association with activity. Reduced exercise tolerance and tiring can result from impaired skeletal muscle perfusion during exercise and the vascular and metabolic changes that result over time. Episodes of exertional weakness or collapse can relate to these changes or to an acute decrease in cardiac output caused by arrhythmias.

Syncope in dogs and cats is an abrupt and transient loss of consciousness and postural tone caused by insufficient delivery of oxygen or glucose to the brain. As such, syncope is not a diagnosis itself but a sign of underlying disease. Various cardiac and non-cardiac abnormalities can cause syncope in dogs and cats as well as intermittent weakness. Syncope can be confused with episodes of intermittent weakness or seizures. A careful description of the animal’s behavior or activity before the collapse event, during the event itself, and after the collapse, as well as a drug history, helps the clinician differentiate among syncopal attacks, episodic weakness, and true seizures.

Dogs and cats syncope is often associated with exertion or excitement. The actual event may be characterized by rear limb weakness or sudden collapse, lateral recumbency, stiffening of the forelimbs and opisthotonos, and micturition. Vocalization is common; however, tonic-clonic motion, facial fits, and defecation are not. An aura (which often occurs before seizure activity), postictal dementia, and neurologic deficits are generally not seen in dogs and cats with cardiovascular syncope.

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