Spinal shock is the loss of muscle tone and segmental spinal reflexes that develops caudal to a severe spinal cord injury. Although little recognized in the veterinary literature, spinal shock occurs in animals and is important in both accurate lesion localization and case management. In this review, we consider why spinal shock occurs and discuss the subsequent physiologic alterations, including the development of reflex hyperactivity. We also discuss differences in the expression of spinal shock between species and suggest why recovery of reflexes is relatively rapid in animals compared with humans. Finally, the implications for clinicians dealing with animals in the period immediately after severe spinal injury are considered.