Healthy dogs and cats are alert and responsive to whatever is happening in their surroundings.  When they are injured or ill, their behavior is affected to various degrees.  The more serious the condition, the less response there will be.

Gauging Responsiveness

Normal, healthy pets are usually alert, curious, and responsive.  See the chart below to determine if your pet’s behavior is cause for concern.

Level of Consciousness
What it Means Call the Vet?
Alert and responsive to owner and outside stimulation; if you call your pet for a treat, he/she should respond Normal NO
Depressed; response slow to sight or touch stimulation; may be sleepy or reluctant to move Common to many illnesses YES, next day, if the condition doesn’t resolve with first aid
Disoriented; bumps into objects, stares blindly, walks with unsteady gait or in circles, falls over to one side Probably neurological or inner ear involvement YES, same day
Stupor; can be aroused only by deep pain stimulation (i.e., pinched toes). Neurological or metabolic problem; serious YES, immediately
Comatose (unable to wake) or having seizures Emergency! Severe neurological damage or disruption from injury, disease, or toxin YES, immediately

Shojai, Amy D. The First Aid Companion For Dogs & Cats. Rodale, Inc., 2001.