Checking Your Dog or Cat's Responsiveness

What is Responsiveness

Responsiveness, simply put, refers to how your dog or cat responds to certain stimuli.  As you may already know, healthy dogs and cats are pretty alert and responsive to their surroundings.  Dogs perk up as soon as they see you…or the treat or toy in your hand.  Cats do the all too familiar ‘ear turn’ in response to even the slightest sound, even when they seem to be sound asleep.

When they become ill, however, our pets’ responsiveness is affected to various degrees.  The less response there is, the more serious the condition.  The following guideline can help you in assessing responsiveness:

Responsiveness Levels and What to Do

Level of Consciousness    

What it Means

Call the Vet?

Alert & responsive to owner and outside stimuli; if you call him for a treat, he responds.




Depressed, response slow to site, smell or touch stimulation; may seem sleepy or reluctant to move.

Common to many illnesses, including pain, arthritis, tummy ache, etc.

Yes, next day if the condition doesn’t resolve with first-aid.

Disoriented, bumps into objects, stares blankly, walks w/ unsteady gait or in circles, falls to one side.

Possible neurologic disorder or inner eat involvement.

Yes, same day.

Stupor, can be aroused only by deep pain (i.e. pinched toes)

SERIOUS – Neurologic or metabolic problem


Comatose (unable to wake) or having seizures

EMERGENCY – severe neurologic damage or disruption from injury, disease or toxin

YES, IMMEDIATELY – wrap pet in a blanket and get to the vet!


Keep in mind that with an injury, fight or flight can kick in as a first reaction and mask slowed responsiveness.  If you pay attention, though, signs of disorientation may become evident.