« Treating Congestive Heart Failure | Main | Yes, I'm happy to visit your school. »

November 08, 2006

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341bfe0853ef00d83537c30e53ef

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Heart Attacks in Dogs:

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Alyssa

My Black Lab died suddenly this week, she was only 6 years old. The vet told us he could do an autopsy but it could cost $200 being a college student that is way beyond my budget. He stated just by looking at her she either had a stoke or a heart attack. After reading your article I feel mad knowing thats the excuse vets give to people. What if she had a heart problems all these years and the vets did not know, maybe this could have been prevented. It just makes me sad that I dont know the reason my best friend died.

Doc

I can appreciate your frustration and pain. Please don't feel that your veterinarian was trying to be malicious or dismissive.

Sudden death in a pet is devastating to the family. Many times people are too upset to permit a post-mortem exam. Many times the post-mortem examination is inconclusive. More than once we have done as complete an exam as we were able, including sending tissues to the pathologist, and still not been able to determine the cause of death.

Sometimes in such a situation (where either through inconclusive results, or being unable to perform a post-mortem) we try to offer some type of closure. I think that sometimes the doctor is just trying to help the client not feel guilty. If it were a heart attack or stroke, then it obviously wouldn't be due to any neglect on your part.

Sometimes it is just impossible to figure out what happened, and you do your best to help people get through it. Despite this, our best can surely be less than is needed to get through this time of grief. I know you will miss your friend.

jen

hi,

one of my dogs, a beautiful 7-year old rotty/pit mix, died suddenly last night. he collapsed in my mum's kitchen; all four legs splayed out, and couldn't get up. his breathing got laboured, his back started arching, and he lost bladder control. my mum thought it was a stroke, so she called a pet ambulance. a few minutes later, he stopped breathing all together.

we're devastated, and don't understand how a happy and healthy big dog of only 7 could die so suddenly; do you have any idea what it was? i terribly miss my canine brother.

thank you for your help.

~jen

Doc

This type of sudden death is frightening and frustrating. I wish that I could help you with some type of closure, but I don't have any good answers for you.

While dogs do not have the cholesterol problems and clogged arteries the way people do, there are dogs with high blood pressure (a possible cause of stroke). Dogs can have aneurysms, just like people. (An aneurysm is where an artery develops a weak spot, like a bubble on a tire. One day, it breaks and there is internal bleeding. This can happen in the brain, the lungs, anywhere.)

I can think of several possible reasons for sudden death, but sometimes it is not possible to determine the cause, even with a thorough post-mortem examination.

I am sorry for your loss.

Michelle

Yesterday my 6 year old lab died suddenly after being at the vet's office for 'allergy' tests. A week and a half ago, he started having mini 'asthma attacks' or short shallow breathing spells lasting about 10 seconds or less. They increased over a period of 3-4 days. After the spell, his eyes would roll back and become beet red. He was then lethargic and kept his eyes closed. We took him in for more tests and he was doing fine. Yesterday afternoon, he had what the vet described as a mild seizure, then just stopped breathing. As you can imagine, we are devastated. We NEVER expected anything like this. We've requested an autopsy because we had been giving him allergy medication (prescribed by another vet) for about 8 months and it didn't seem to help his skin 'allergy'. There were several blood tests sent to various labs and the vet has requested we get the results before doing the autopsy. He thinks our lab may have had a fungal infection but he hates water and has never been exposed to stagnit water or runoff of any type. Has anyone ever heard of this before?

Doc

Dear Michelle,

I know that this is a frustrating and devastating situation.

I think that your doctor has a good idea in wanting to get the blood test results, but the post-mortem (autopsy exam) may be necessary also. Histopathology means having a specialist (pathologist)look at the tissues under the microscope, and that may be necessary as well.

Unfortunately, sometimes the test results do not give us a definite diagnosis, even when we do everything we know how to do.

From your comments about stagnant water and fungal disease, I think that your veterinarian may have been referring to Blastomycosis. This fungus is found in swampy soils. 70% of infections are found in animals who live within 100 yards of some body of water. That means that 30% of infections are NOT associated with water accumulation. I have seen it animals who lived on well-drained sandy areas, but our whole geographic area is considered at risk for this fungus. Since I am in southeast Missouri about 100 miles from Memphis, I fear you and I are in the same boat there.

Blastomycosis organisms can usually be found in the infected tissues when the pathologist looks for them under the microscope with special stains. The blood test can give false negatives (the animal did have the germ, but the test didn't show it), but if it turned up positive for the germ, that would be reliable.
Here is a link to a discussion on Veterinary Partner
http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&S=0&C=0&A=2256&EVetID=3001962

I hope that you are able to find out what happened to your dog.

Thanks for reading and writing.

Angela Brooks

Hi,

My 2-year-old black lab suddenly started to freak out one night about a week ago. She just started barking and growling wildly like she had gone crazy or something. She was just simply eating her dinner as always when this happened. We, my husband and I, took her outside as quickly as we could because she started acting like she was going to throw up. We had no idea what was going on with our beloved dog. Then she stopped breathing and collapsed. Fortunately, my husband, tried to give her CPR, having to punch our dog in the stomach/chest area. She threw up and looked around, swaying and very dizzy. After a couple minutes she was back up on her feet and my husband took her back inside the house. We gave her a drink and that was the end of it. The entire thing happened so quickly--my kids were terrified, as was my husband and I because we have no idea why a dog that our vet described as "the poster dog for perfect health" would suddenly freak out and collapse like that. If you can, I would greatly appreciate it if you could tell what happened to our poor Patches.

Thank you,
Angela

Doc

I am uncertain from your writing as to whether the dog has made a complete recovery or whether she died. It sounds like she got okay. If so, I would suspect some type of seizure disorder. If you have not contacted your regular doctor to discuss the case, you should.

Typically, with a dog's first seizure (if that is what it is), recovery is very rapid. We want to run a blood chemistry exam to be sure that the seizure is not due to some liver, kidney or blood-sugar problem. Your dog's doctor would discuss keeping a seizure log, recording the circumstances preceding, the appearance and duration of the episode, and how long the dog takes to recover.

Some dogs have one seizure and never have another. With many, the seizures continue, but it many be six months or a year before the next one. If they are becoming more frequent or more severe, your regular veterinarian can guide you about when it would be appropriate to begin seizure control medications.

Thanks for reading and writing.

HollyP

hello,
My 7 year old golden retriever died last night. She had a heart murmer. If it wasnt a heart attack what was it. We found her laying down in an unusual spot, and her face had a grimace look on her face. We thought that a jolt went through her and she died. Its very devastating because she was a very good dog.Please help me.

Thank you,

Holly

Doc

I am sorry for your loss. The sudden death of your pet is a devastating thing.

It is not impossible that your dog had a heart attack, but the type of attack people suffer is very rare in dogs. There are other types of heart failure that are just as fatal.

A post-mortem examination ("autopsy") would be the first step in trying to determine cause of death. If there is nothing visible to the naked eye as the cause of death, the doctor can submit tissue samples for microscopic examination by a pathologist.

Unfortunately, sometimes we are still unable to determine the underlying cause of the problem, even running all the tests we know.

Knowing the cause of death doesn't bring back the pet, but it at least gives us some sense of closure. It certainly is more difficult to have to wonder what the cause was, and if there were something we could have done to prevent it.

Cheryl

I was playing catch ball with my 8 year old jack russell. He exercise everyday, ate well, just very healthy.

When I threw the ball, he just fell to the ground. It looked like a seizure, he stopped breathing. I thought he might have choked, I was able to put my fingers down his throat.

His throat was so relaxed and his body was limp. Now I wish I had tried better CPR. He just had blood work in October, and everything was okay.

I wonder if I excerised him to much, right now I'm going thru the guilt trip, I'm racking my brain for any symptoms and I could have prevented it.

I'm so upset and I wished I knew why he died at such a young age and so healthy.

Thanks, Cheryl

Doc

Dear Cheryl,

I am sorry for your loss. These sudden death cases are so frustrating. Sometimes a post-morten will reveal the cause of death, but sometimes everything just looks normal. Sending tissues to a pathologist for microscopic examination can also tell the tale, but doesn't always.

As in people, dogs can have aneurysms (defective blood vessels) that rupture with no previous signs. While rare heart attacks and fatal strokes may occur as well. One would think that some congenital birth defect in the heart would have shown up long before this.

I wish I could offer you some explanation that would give you closure, but I cannot.

Thanks for reading and writing.

denise

on weds night my dog ( 5.5yr old black lab/german shepard) was running around the yard like he usually does, then suddenly started yelping, we thought that maybe he got some ice stuck in his paw. he calmed down, we brought him inside. he looked really sad. he wouldn't put his ears up. he barely wagged his tail. so I brought him into the living room with me, he laid down where he normal does. He got up to walk about and then started to stumble. he came back to me and collapsed. He started to drool/foam at the mouth, his tongue fell out of his mouth, he couldn't get up. He died before he got him to the vet. The vet said it was either a twisted bowl, which he said it wasn't or a heart attack. I fell like i did something wrong. I didn't get autopsy done. Was there something that I could of done to prevent this.

Doc

Denise,

I am sorry for your loss. Without a post-mortem exam (autopsy), and perhaps even WITH one, we cannot know what caused your pet's death. We just don't have enough information. Your description does not sound like any of the commonly available poisonous substances.

In these cases of sudden death, it is unlikely that the cause is related to any neglect. Also, when the pet goes from apparently feeling fine to dying within a matter of minutes, it is unlikely that he could have been saved, even if you had rushed him to a well-equipped emergency facility.

I doubt that this is much comfort, but I do not feel you should blame yourself.

denise

thank you for your response. It puts my heart at ease a bit knowing that I did all that I could.

L.James

I'm so hurt I don't know what to do. My dog was 9 years old and she was an inside dog. Everytime I came home, as soon as I open the door, the first thing you saw was her little black nose trying to help open the door. She would talk back to you in howl forms. It was amazing. I taught her many tricks as a puppy and she still can remember the tricks I taught her. Example, high five and waive with her paw. Bark on command. Waive both paws at times and was very trained with sitting, staying and all the other basic commands.

She was about 55lbs and she was my first dog. She had her own little bed next to my bed where I sleep next to the window. She would lay her mouth on the window ledge and stair out the window. As soon as I moved....she followed me everywhere. She loved car rides and she understood..."wanna go for a ride Roxy"...she would get excited and bark as though she was saying "hell yea I want to go for a ride!"

My daughter doesn't know yet. My daughter is 12 and we've had Roxy since she was 3 years old. She is crazy about her. She is out of town playing in a club volleyball tournament. She is going to be so torn when she comes home to find that her best friend is no longer her.

My dogs personality was second to none. I talked to her as though she was human every since she was 6 weeks old. By doing that, she understood many things in the English language. I can't get my dog out of my mine and it hurts. When my wife and I had arguments, I would take roxy and make a bed on the floor in the other room and she would sleep right next to me. She would slob on my pillow sometimes.lol However, she would stay next to me under my box fan all night. Sometimes I would sleep with my arm around her and we would just cuddle all night. Sometimes I felt Roxy liked my wife and I to have arguments because she knew it was me and her under the box fan. When my wife was out of town for a few days. She would sleep in the bed with me.

Anyway...I came home yesterday after work..she stuck her nose in the door as usual as I begin to walk inside. She showed me her usual love and all of a sudden....she fell to the floor with all four legs stretch out and started to shake a little but very fast. I would say something simliar to a vibration. It was over in about a minute. I tried to bring her back but she was gone. She lost her bladder control and her pupils were completely dialulated. At the point I knew she was gone. Her body became so limp. When I picked her up she hung over my arms like a wet towel. I begin to hug her and cry. I couldn't believe it.
It was extremely difficult for me to bury her but it took me a while. Before I put her a way....I hug her some more kiss her on the lips and placed her cold tongue back in her mouth and tried to close her eyes. This is so hard and I'm so upset. I don't know what to do. I don't know if I can ever love a dog like I loved her. That is what I'm afraid of if I get another dog, I will measure the new dog vs my roxy. I know it would be wrong to do that but that is how I feel right now. I want my dog to do all the things roxy can do. I want her to sleep next to me and be my best friend when I need him/her the most. Anyway, thats my story and I'm so sad. This is much harder than expected. I hope by writing this to my fellow dog lovers, this will start my healing process. One thing, tomorrow when I pick up my daughter from the airport, it will be like she died all over again.

Doc

I am sorry for your loss. Don't let someone else tell you when it's "right" for you to get another dog. It's different for everybody, and you'll know. When I lost my first dog, it was nearly a year before I found myself wanting another. The time did come, though.

Thanks for reading and writing.

Bryan

Last Thursday I came home after being at my parents for dinner and my dog Dixie met me at the door, excited as usual but seeming a little odd. I headed into another room, noticing that my other dog, Angus, hadn't come out yet. He sleeps really heavy, heavier than usual lately, so I didn't think to much of it. As I walked by the livingroom, I saw him sleeping in one of his regular spots, so I said "Hey, Angus". As I took another step, I realized he didn't lift his head and immediatly turned around. Thats when I saw his tongue hanging out, ran into the livingroom, and realized he was gone. He was still warm, I was only gone a hour and a half, and began mouth-to-mouth and heart palpitations, to no avail. I was devestated and living alone, did the first thing I thought of and called my parents, hysterical. They were so sad but obviously didn't quite know what to say. He was in a spot where he always slept, in a position like he always slept with nothing disturbed, no drool or foam at the mouth, and just a small loss of urine. Is it possible he died in his sleep, without ever waking up? He always slept so heavy, even as a pup. I would have to put my ear by his mouth, you could barely see his chest rise and fall. He was only 9 years old, a smooth collie, and I knew being a larger dog he might pass at a lower age, but never imagined losing him at 9. He was very healthy, Dixie has been my "problem child", catching colds and a bladder infection a couple of years ago. Angus was never sick. We both miss him so much :(

Doc

I'm sorry for your loss. This is one of those things where (from an intellectual standpoint) we'd love to have a post-mortem exam. From an emotional standpoint, it's not going to bring them back, and a lot of folks don't want to go through the process.
Best wishes for the future.
Everett Mobley, D.V.M.

kym

I am having a hard time dealing with a sudden death of my dog. She was a beautiful Australian Shephard/Husky mix with one blue eye and one brown. She was 12 years old. We woke up this morning, fed her, walked and played with her and at 1:00 we took her for a bath and teeth brushing. I got a call from the groomer at 3:00 saying that she was throwing up and lethargic. We went to pick her up immediate. She was not acting like herself and when we got home, she went to her favorite place on the couch between pillows and about 10 mins later, we saw her head drop. He took her to the vet but it was too late. She was gone. I am having such a hard time dealing with the sudden death. Has this happend to anyone? Was there something I should have done to prevent this? I can't undersatnd why she is no longer here. Does anyone know what may have caused her to go?

Doc

Kym,

I am sorry for your loss. From your post, I take it that no post-mortem (autopsy) examination was performed. I frequently find that folks who have lost their pet do not wish to confront the thought of the pet's remains being dismembered. After all, it won't bring them back. Unfortunately, when we are looking for closure, the information we want can no longer be obtained.

It is exceptionally frustrating when, despite the dog being at an advanced age, she seemed just fine. The extremely rapid onset of weakness and death in your case reminds me of patients who have had internal bleeding due to the rupture of a tumor, as in a tumor of the spleen.

As to what you might have done to prevent the death, it is unlikely that a more rapid trip to the veterinarian could have saved her during that short period of time.

As part of her wellness exams, it is not common for us to perform whole-body X-rays, ultrasounds and CT-scans. Really, nobody does that. That MIGHT have detected a treatable problem ahead of time. I would relate it to a person who has an undiagnosed aortic aneurysm. Sometimes they are found serendipitously when a person is being examined for another problem. If not, they rupture one fine day and you hemorrhage internally.

Your dog has left a failing body and continues the adventure elsewhere.

Thanks for reading and writing.

Shelly Magno

I have a question about some symptoms. My 12 year old English bulldog died last month suddenly. She'd had a normal day, ate her dinner, and stretched out for a nap on her puff. Half way through her nap, she suddenly craned her neck back and stretched her legs out straight. Her bladder let go and she let out several gurgled wails. She died in 20 seconds.

She was regularly on Soloxine for Hypothyroid and was diagnosed with an enlarged heart the month before but the vets here in Boston said it was typical for Bulldogs and no reason to be alarmed.

I'm just wondering why she stretched the legs and neck out, and made that noise?

Appreciate your help,
Shelly

Doc

Hello, Shelly,

The stretched out position you describe is not uncommon when an animal breathes its last. Possibly the low oxygen to the brain causes a seizure-like electrical discharge, but I really don't know. I have seen this many times (too many) over the years when an animal has been hit by a car or had other severe trauma. It doesn't really tell us anything about the cause of death. With the suddenness of your dog's demise, I suspect that the moans were not associated with a conscious sensation of pain, but were simply a terminal event, like the stiffening out.

Did the dog have a stroke, a seizure, a heart attack or what? Even if you had a complete post-morten examination we might not be able to tell.

I regret that I have no helpful information for you as to cause of death, but I sincerely doubt that there was any suffering.

Thanks for reading and writing.

Mark

I just found out some pretty strange and upsetting news. Evidently my sister's 2-year-old golden retriever died abruptly outside of her house while he was playing. Her vet said that it was a heart attack, but I'm beginning to find out that that is a pretty whack conclusion.

She is too upset to do any kind of autopsy, so unfortunately it appears as though this will remain a mystery.

One question remains for me though. Recently her dog had been taking some meds for, what I believe, she described as a "hot spot." Is it feasible to believe that the meds could have brought a drop in blood pressure, thus resulting in the collapse.

Also, it was night, his eyes are a little sub par, and she said he was overly excited because he saw the cat and "freaked."

Just wondering if one, or both of these things could have played some role in his untimely death. Thanks so much for your help.


-Mark

Doc

Mark,
Your distress at the dog's unexpected and sudden death is certainly understandable. There are dogs who have a congenital heart defect that is just a time-bomb waiting to fail. With cardiomyopathy (a sort of catch-all term for heart muscle disease), sometimes the first sign of a problem is sudden death. If every patient routinely got chest X-rays, electrocardiogram, and cardiac ultrasounds as part of their annual physicals, you'd find some of these before they blow. Nobody is really going to do that. The situation is analagous to these high school football players who collapse on the field and die. Nobody expects a teenage athlete to have some kind of heart problem.

As far as medication reaction being the problem, I have to be pretty skeptical there. With a "hot spot", the dog would probably have been receiving antibiotics, or antihistamines, or some form of cortisone, or some combination of the above. Drug reactions tend to be more along the lines of skin eruptions or stomach problems, rather than sudden death after you've been taking them for a while.

I am sorry for your loss.
Thanks for reading and writing.

WendyAnn

Hi,

I had a two year old dog neutered last week and two days after the surgery, he was dead. He died overnight in his sleep.

I bred this dog and he had never been sick a day in his life... except... about a month before the neutering, he had what seemed to be a stomach virus or he ate something he shouldn't have. He was lethargic and vomited a few times over a couple of days.

A vet visit ruled him to be in normal health. He recovered and was back to his old self. Athletic, happy, active... a normal two year old Shiba Inu.

An autopsy said his left ventricular tissue was 90% dead.

This dog had been an active and healthy dog his entire life - there's no way he was born with a heart defect - which was one of the suggestions for his death.

I'm devastated over his death. I have four other dogs that I"m worried about -- one of them a champion bitch two weeks away from having her first litter - in 15 years of breeding and raising Shiba Inu, I have never seen or heard of anything like this.

Like I said, this loss has been devastating and I wish I could find some answers.

Doc

Hello, Wendy,

I can appreciate you distress and frustration. If the tissues were preserved, one would ideally send the entire heart for examination by the pathologist (under the microscope). I could not tell from your note whether this was done, or the diagnosis was made from visual observation alone. Microscopic examination might yield more information as to why the tissue died, such as whether there was inflammation in the heart muscle, or blockage of blood vessels. I have only had one patient where we could actually document the blockage of a blood vessel to the heart, causing the same situation as a heart attack in a person.

If there are closely related dogs who need to undergo anesthesia or surgery, I would consider a pre-op electrocardiogram and echocardiogram (cardiac ultrasound) for them.

Thanks for reading and writing.

Bri sant

My dog sadly passed away at the vets office yeasterday at 8 years old. She was going in for a check-up because she had a believed eye infection and skin problems. I was holding her head while the nurse looked at her eye and my dog suddenly collapsed and she let out a high pitched scream and urinated on herself. She was gone instantly and I could do nothing to help her. I don't understand what happened to her, she was a healthy dog.

Doc

Hello Bri,

I wish that I had an answer for you. Events like this are devastating for us all. While strokes and heart attacks are rare in dogs, they can certainly occur. I have had patients with cardiomyopathy (a defect in the heart muscle) go on seemingly okay for years, then just drop dead.

A post-mortem might have revealed the cause of her death, but sometimes even the pathologist is not able to give us a certain answer.

With an event of this nature, I think that you can feel certain that there was nothing you could have done to either cause or prevent your dog's death. Please don't add guilt to the grief you're feeling.

Leslie

I just lost my dog suddenly 5 days ago. He was an 8 yr old pit bull and I'm just devastated. Im so confused at to what had happened. The night before his stomach was take large breaths. it was going in and out. Then the next morning he was not himself. He was very mellow and laying around in weird places. So, he slept most of the day and around dinner time he wanted his dinner and was even interested to see what his mommy was cooking. He seemed better to me. Then all of a sudden a couple hours later he was breathing funny again and hiding. I had found he made a bowel movement in the house (after he just made one outside) but it was not dirareha. It was solid. He was not even throwing up. In a matter of minutes the breathing was making him uncomfortable and he would lay down and get back up. All of a sudden his lips got really thin and he pushed them all the way back; very frigid. He got up and was hunched and fell over. I took him outside and thats when he just went down..and stopped breathing.I grabbed him and raced him to the vet hospital but it was too late. Im so confused...he did not have direhea or vomiting or anything of the sort. The vet said it could have been a heart attack or stroke or even a annerism....i just dont know what happened to my baby. He was a very healthy boy.

Leslie

To add one more thing: He was not gasping for air...his mouth was not opened. He seemed fine...his stomach was just going in and out.

Doc

Hello, Leslie,

I wish that I had something to offer you. I am sorry for your loss.

Eric Lemnitzer

This morning my Australian Shephard(Sydney) was playfull, I was sitting in the chair outside, and Sydney got up and looked like she was choking or gasping for air, a few seconds later she looked herself. I went into the yard, Sydney came over while I was working and than went back where the other dogs were. About 5 muinutes later, I went back over to the dogs and Sydney was just laying there, her tongue and mouth were non responsive, her eyes were open and ears up. Her head could not stay up,she was not in control of her bowels, and her breathing was fast. I took here to the Vet and he listened to her heart and said it was racing fast and irregular. He said the heart muscle had torn and the heart was pumping fast to get oxygen into the blood. he said this happens in athletics who tear a heart muscle and just die. He said the dog was having a type of heart attack and the best to do do was to let her go peacefully. So I choose to put her under. Is this rare in dogs, and if so can this be detected?

Doc

Hello, Eric,

What you have described would be rare (though not as rare in dogs as the artery blockage that humans experience as a "heart attack").

It would be difficult for your doctor to make as accurate and detailed a diagnosis as he would like to without performing a complete post-mortem examination. I am sure he has made as accurate an assessment as could be done under the circumstances.

As far as detecting it early, it is unlikely that this could have been done without an echocardiogram, electrocardiogram, and possibly a dye study. These are not things that we routinely do as part of a young dog's annual physical exam.

I am sorry for your loss.

kim k

Hi, I just wanted to relate that I also lost my dog, Pinky, fairly suddenly within like 24 hours. She was 13 years old, but very healthy and alert. First I notices a little bit of coughing, but we all were kind of doing that in our house due to air conditioning. So I put a pan of water to humidify the air a little bit. Then She started to breath heavier and wouldn't each much of her dinner. So I decided if she wasn't much better in the morning we would go to the vet, because it was very late at night and I am disabled so I have to arrange transportations. Well next morning her breathing was more labored and walking was an effort. So I rushed her to the vet. He looked at her mouth, gums and tongue and said the color was off, and that he suspected heart attack or similar episode. He listened to her rib cage, and said her heartbeat was erratic, fluid was in her lungs and also he detected a leaky ventricle sound. I kissed her goodbye and left her in his care. He said he must act quickly but things didn't look promising. I got a phone call next morning that despite his heroic efforts, my dear Pinky was gone. Now mind you this happened like overnight and in the span of few hours. Does this sound like 'heart attack' to you? I did not order an autopsy, not wishing to prolong the pain or disturb her final rest.

kim k

Hi writing again because I found a site with wonderful testimonials and alternative treatments. Too late for my babe Pinky but maybe it will help someone else. www.caninehearthealth.com it is for the 5 leaf pet pharmacy. Please check that out it looks very promising as a possible solution when other traditional proceedures have failed. Ty.

Doc

Kim,
It certainly sounds as though your dog had serious heart disease, even though it may or may not have been the blood-vessel blockage that we associate with heart attacks in humans.

Many herbs and botanicals do have medicinal properties. It is unlikely that a dog who developed such a sudden deterioration would have benefitted from any type of nutritional supplementation, as these things take time for a poorly functioning body part to rebuild.

There are many veterinarians who are knowledgeable in herbal and alternative medicines. If I felt the need for an alternative treatment, I would seek their advice. Mail-ordering herbal nostrums is an iffy business. Many do not contain their advertised ingredients. Even when they do, the potency varies from one company's preparation to the next. If the compounds ARE biologically active, then it is just as easy to create problems by wrongly dosing as it is with conventional medications.

If you work with a veterinarian who is expert in using alternative treatments, they will have sources that they know from experience that they can trust. They also can advise you as to what combinations are beneficial versus risky.

Anything that you can sell to treat heart disease as being risk-free, without seeing and examining the animal, makes me wonder whether it may not be benefit-free, as well.

Thanks for reading and writing.

Carrie

My 9 year old doberman/lab mix dog died yesterday, he had been diagnosed with heart disease only 2 weeks ago, he was prescribed a diuretic and also a heart medicine, he seemed to be doing ok. He woke us up at 2:55 am yesterday panting real hard then he slumped into a dresser in the bedroom he then stretched his head/neck straight up and he let out this blood curling howl and he slumped again, he let out another howl upon constriction of his breath and he was gone. I have read that normally dogs do not have heart attacks but that is what seemed to happened. It was so awful to hear such pain in his howl. I know that is not going to bring him back to us but after everything I have read I find it odd that it sure seemed like a heart attack to me.

Doc

Hello, Carrie,

I am sorry for your loss. When the heart fails, for whatever reason, circulation to all organs will fail. When the brain gets low on oxygen, you can get stiffening, twitching, vocalization, and so forth.

It is certainly possible that your dog had a coronary artery blockage (what happens in a heart attack in humans), though this is rare.

It is also possible that the failing heart just could not continue, even with the help from the medication.

Thanks for reading and writing.

MATTHEW BAUMGARDNER

HI,
LAST THURSDAY MY WIFE CALLED TO TELL ME SHE HEARD OUR DOG MAKING A NOISE. SsHE INVESTIGATED AND FOUND HIM UNDER ONE OF HIS FAVOURITE TREES. HE WAS CONCIOUS BUT UNABLE TO MOVE. I CAME HOME AND TOOK HIM TO OUR LOCAL VET. WE THOUGHT THAT THE DOG HAD BEEN HIT BY A CAR AS HE HAD A PENCHANT FOR ANYTHING MOVING. AFTER X-RAYS SHOWED NOTHING HE PRESCRIBED PREDNISONE AND TOOK SOME BLOOD. FRIDAY CAME AND HE WAS STILL STRECHED OUT AND UNABLE TO MOVE BUT SHOWED NO SIGNS OF DISCOMMFORT. THE VET HAD CHECKED FOR FEELING AND THE DOG SHOWED SOME SIGN BUT DID NOT WINCE.SO MY INITIAL THOUGHT WAS SPINAL INJURY. SO BACK TO FRIDAY. NO CHANGE TO THE DOG. CHECKED HIS EYES FOR DILATION AND ALL WAS GOOD. HE WAS ABLE TO URINATE BUT NO BOWEL MOVEMENT. SATURDAY MORNING EARLY I WENT TO TAKE HIM TO ANOTHER VET AND WHEN I SAW HIM I KNEW HE WAS DYING. HE WAS BLOWING BUBBLES FROM HIS MOUTH AND HIS BREATHING WAS LABOURED. HIS HEART STOPPED WHILE WE WERE THERE WITH HIM. HIS BODY WAS NOT STIFF PRIOR TO HIM PASSING AWAY.WHAT COULD IT HAVE BEEN?

Doc

Hello, Matt,

I am sorry for your loss. Dogs can have strokes (though this is not nearly as common as it is in people). It is unlikely that your dog could have been accurately diagnosed without an MRI or similarly sophisticated imaging and diagnostic technologies.

A post-mortem exam would have required a skilled pathologist. In a case like this, it is unlikely that a general practitioner such as myself would have been able to sort out anything that wasn't pretty dramatic.

The sad part of this is that even if you had been able to take your dog to a teaching institution, some of these things just can't be fixed. A dear friend of mine has been languishing for months in a hospital with one side paralyzed by a stroke.

Thanks for reading and writing.

Juliano

Hi my dog, Sam, a Belgian Malinois, died suddenly this morning. she was only 8 months old. She was a very active dog and enjoyed to run a lot.
She was playing when the tragedy happend. The Vet said that she might had a heart attack. Her tongue was blue. Any guess??

Thanks a lot

Doc

Hello, Juliano,

I am sorry for your loss. These sudden deaths are very frustrating.

The arterial blockage that we think of as a heart attack in people is rare in dogs, but it does occur.

It is certainly possible to have a congenital heart problem that shows up as the dog matures. With a "cardiomyopathy" (something wrong with the heart muscle), sometimes the first sign of a problem is sudden death.

When I have had to deal with these sad events in my own practice, a complete post-mortem ("autopsy") sometimes tells the tale. In the event that examination wtih the naked eye doesn't tell us much, I have sent a sample of every major organ to the pathologist for examination under the microscope. In such cases, they ask for the entire heart to examine.

Obviously, this isn't going to bring back your dog, and it's a significant expense. While we always hope for closure, I must say that even when we run every test available, sometimes we are at a loss for an explanation.

The only good news is that whatever caused the problem is unlikely to be catching, so a new puppy would probably not be at any extraordinary risk.

I know you will miss your buddy.

tammy

Last week my much loved and healthy dog of 7yrs died suddenly. He was a chow mix. One minute he was out running with the other dogs and they all came back in he looked almost sad like so i offerd he a yumyum and he seamed fine after that. Then the dogs wanted back outside and he acted like he was going to go out but decided to eat instead,I gave him a good scatching and went out myself. Two minutes later I hear a horrible howling and when i got to him he was laying on the floor with his legs straight out, his tongue was hanging out and he wasn't breathing anymore. I can't beleive he just died just like that in a matter of seconds I cant understand why a perfectly healthy dog would be fine one sec and dead the next can you please help me know what happend so maybe i can quit hurting and wondering if there was something i could have done. We did try CPR but it did no good.

Doc

Hello, Tammy,

I am sorry to hear of your loss. These sudden death cases are devastating. I don't know that we ever really "get ready" to lose a loved one, but it sure seems worse when it is so sudden and inexplicable.

I wish that I had an explanation for you, but even with a complete post-mortem ("autopsy") examination, sometimes we are not able to understand what happened.

I think you can be certain that this was not a result of anything that you did or failed to do, and it is very unlikely to be something contagious that would affect another dog.

Take care.

Janelle

We had a cane corso who just turned 1 year old and weighed about 90lbs. Our vet has always said that he is in perfect health and a beautiful dog. This morning, I let him out about 6:30 and went back to bed. Our kids got up about an hour later and came upstairs. Our son went back down to play and let Tyson out of his crate(we crated him at night to prevent chewing). He was out for a couple minutes following our son around, according to him, and then ran quickly upstairs. This is when my husband and I heard him. He was howling over and over. My husband got up to see what was going on and saw him seizing. He then got limp, his tongue fell out of his mouth, and he lost control of his bladder. He did what is called agonal breathing in humans for about a minute. My husband carried him downstairs and got his shoes on so we could rush him to the vet. By the time he got his shoes and coat on, Tyson was gone. Being in healthcare myself, I wanted to have an autopsy and find out why a 1 year old dog would suddnely die like this. My husbad had very opposite feelings, thinking that he did not want his dog 'dissected' and then thrown out so we did not have an autopsy done. Our vet said it was most likely a heart attack or some kind of a congenital heart defect. After reading what this says about a heart attack being a bogus answer, I was wondering if you have any idea what could have caused this.

Doc

Hello, Janelle,

My language may have been a bit strong in labelling "heart attack" a bogus answer, but myocardial infarction (the stopped-up artery to the heart muscle that causes heart attacks in people) is pretty rare in dogs. They don't have cholesterol problems and atherosclerotic build-up.

To be fair, you haven't given your veterinarian much to go on. Without a post-mortem and pathologist's exam, there is really no way to know. While I probably wouldn't have said "heart attack", I probably WOULD have speculated that there was a congenital heart problem (as did your doctor).

Dogs (and people, for that matter) can have a problem with their heart muscle, present since birth, and seemingly just fine. The first sign of illness is sudden death, which doesn't give you much warning. ECG, echocardiogram (ultrasound exam) and chest X-rays might have let you know ahead of time, but who in the world does all that stuff on a young, apparently healthy dog? Nobody, that's who.

After the fact (with no post-mortem), the only advice I can give you would be to contact the breeder. Let them know what happened and ask if they have ever heard of similar problems in their breed. Ask as though you were sure they would want to know, rather than in a manner accusing them of selling bad dogs. This could be a one-time deal, or there may be other problems in the breed (if not in their bloodlines).

I am sorry for your loss.

Gina

Hi. I had a black lab/rottweiler mix. This dog loved me more than my own mother. He was nothing but love. He is 9. He has been slowing down the last four months and looking a little more "oldish" with weaker muscle tone, but nothing unusual. When he was 3-4 he got heartworm and was treated vigorously for this. I had him retested a year later and they were gone but I didn't have him tested after that. Last night at midnight, I let all my dogs outside to go potty and gave them a fresh bowl of water which he drank. At 3:15 in the morning, I woke up and found him in his final death breaths. He had that straight ahead stare and didn't seem to respond to me. He wasn't breathing much at all and quickly stopped breathing and then took 3 of the last gasps. I pet him the whole time and told him I loved him and he was a good boy. I had to leave for work at 5 AM and it took at least an hour to see any kind of rigormortis set in. In fact, by 5 AM when I left, he was barely getting stiff in the rear legs and the bottom side of his face, (the side he was laying on), was starting to look mashed. But for an hour, he had good movement and his eyes were open and his tongue even still had a fairly pink color. By closer to 5 AM his tongue started getting blue. My question is, why did it take him so long to rigor up? Was he still alive all this time? Was he suffering in unspeakable agony unable to bark or moan? Could CPR have helped him? Why did it take so long for him to rigor? I left for work and came back by 10:30 AM and he was stiff as a rock all over and his eyes looked dry and his tongue was dark blue. He also had an exceptionally bad odor about him that came in wafts or waves. Can you answer some of my questions and help me understand what may have been going on with him before death and at the time of death? He was a notoriously thirsty dog too. Thank you so much. Gina

Doc

Hello, Gina,

I am sorry for your loss. While it is impossible to know the cause of your friend's death, I can set your mind at rest on some points.

First, that is not an unusual length of time for rigor mortis to develop. The time can vary considerably. I feel sure that he was indeed deceased, and NOT lying there in some sort of cataleptic state (paralyzed but conscious).

The eyes stay open unless you glue them closed (which is what undertakers do - in the old days, they would put pennies on the eyelids to hold them down until rigor set in).

As everything shuts down, the bacteria in the gut continue to multiply and this produces gas, accounting for the odors. (Eventually, the bacteria spread throughout the body and the gas production causes the corpse to bloat, as you may see on the roadside in summer).

It is highly unlikely that CPR would have been of any benefit. Even when dogs are in great shape and arrest with some kind of drug reaction or abnormal reaction to anesthesia, it is rare to be successful with CPR. Don't beat yourself up on that account.

The average lifespan of a giant breed dog (purebred Rottweiler, Great Dane, St. Bernard, Irish Wolfhound) is seven to nine years for the really big guys. They just don't live as long. Labrador Retrievers (with no obvious medical problems) average ten to twelve.

It's hard to lose a friend, but it didn't happen because you neglected him, nor because you failed to "rescue" him when he was dying.

Try to remember the good times. Nobody stays in the same body forever. When it wears out, we drop it and move on. The adventure continues.

Thanks for reading and writing.

Brent

Thanks for allowing us to write about the loss of our pets. My 11 year old Dachshund passed away last night suddenly .This was his second time. He died 2 years ago on the operating table while having his teeth cleaned. They revived him and put him on the EKG and found he had an irregular heart beat. The vet warned me that this could lead up to his death. Last night, he was on the couch, he lurched forward, stretching his neck and back to what seemed to be imposable limits, let out a screaming howl. Then he seemed OK, I picked him up and noticed that his hind quarters were little cold. I knew he was just more than sick. He laid in my lap for an hour or so while I checked my email. I took him out to the living room. His little heart was pounding so fast , it was like it wanted to leave his chest. I held him on my lap. He was drooling and very scared. I left him on the couch, when I returned he had gone outside. I went to look for him and found him in his dog house. He didn't want to come out. I left him for 20 min or so, he screamed another howl and I was there to see if he was OK. He was still there. I came back after about 10 min and he was gone. From the on site of the first event last night to the end was a total of about 1/1.5 hours. With all that I have read.. there probably wasn't much I could have done for him but be his friend till the end.

Doc

Hello, Brent,

I am sorry for your loss. With the cold hindquarters, we could suspect that blood clots were forming. This could partially block circulation to the hind legs, resulting in the cooler temperature.

Clots hitting blood vessels and stopping them up can certainly be painful. However, the howling could also have been from disorientation if he had poor circulation causing lack of oxygen to his brain.

Deteriorating heart valves could certainly have been a factor in causing blood clots to form.

This is all just speculation, I fear. I agree that there is likely to have been very little that could have been done to prevent your buddy's passing.

Take care.

kim

we have a 4 year old germen sheperd...he was misdiagnosed with kennel cough now he is at the vets..they are running so many tests...he has enlarged heart and liver which is making him breath heavy..one off the tests showed thyroid problem could this be the cause?

Doc

Hello, Kim,

A poorly functioning thyroid can affect the entire body, but is unlikely to be the sole cause of heart or lung problems.

Another consideration is that when the rest of the body is sick, the thyroid suffers, as well. Therefore, if the patient has a severe medical problem, his thyroid hormone levels might be sub-normal, even if the thyroid was basically okay to start with.

I know that it can be frustrating to have "lots of tests", but it sounds to me like your veterinarian is trying not to miss anything.

As to the missed diagnosis, initially feeling that the cough was due to a respiratory infection ("kennel cough"), a four-years-old dog is pretty young to be having heart problems. Without doing more diagnostic tests, I think that many doctors would suspect an infection over heart problems with a such a young dog presented with a cough.

From your description, it sounds like your veterinarian is working hard to make up for lost time so that your dog's problem can be handled as soon as possible. Keep the communication in with your doctor, and let them know if you don't fully understand the explanation.

Sometimes we try to explain too much, too quickly. People don't want to "look dumb", so they just nod and say yes. There just isn't any way I can be sure that I've given you several hours of veterinary school study in a 10-minute explanation (I sure didn't get it in 10 minutes). So just let your doctor know if their explanation isn't really explaining things so that you fully get it.

I hope this is helpful to you.

kim

Thank you for answering but unfortunantly are baby boy was put to sleep at 6 pm december 11.He had a heart defect one side was bigger then the other and my heart is broken and dont think it will heal for a very long time.I have been crying ever since.R.I.P my baby i love you gunner

LAURA LEE RAYNOR

MY DOG DIED SUDDENLY 10 DAYS AGO. I THOUGHT HE HAD A COLD AND WAS TAKING HER TO THE DOCTOR AND HE REACHED OVER AND GAVE ME A KISS AND THE NEXT THING I KNOW HE JUST COLLAPSED. I RUSHED HIM TO THE NEARST VET AND THEY TRIED TO BRING HIM BACK FOR 30 MINUTES. I THINK I KNEW FROM THE MOMENT HE DID NOT RESPOND HE WAS DEAD. SEE CODY WAS PARALYZED FROM THE WAIST DOWN FOR 2 AND A HALF YEARS DUE TO INTERVERTEBAL DISK DISEASE. HE GOT THE BEST CARE THAT MONEY COULD BUY AT ONE OF THE TOP SPECALITY HOSPITALS ON THE EASTERN COAST. HIS DOCTOR TRAVELS ALL OVER THE WORLD AND SPEAKS TO OTHER VETS. HE IS GREAT AND SAVED CODY'S LIFE MANY TIMES IN THE PAST. CODY HAD MANY PROBLEMS I HAD TO DEAL WITH AS YOU PROBABLY KNOW. HE WAS MY WHOLE LIFE. I TOOK CARE OF HIM LIKE A CHILD. HE WAS MY BEST FRIEND AND THE MOST PRECIOUS THING IN THE WORLD TO ME. I LOST MY MOM WHEN I WAS FIFTEEN DUE TO ME RUNNING A STOP SIGN, THIS DOG WAS MY LIFESAVER. WHEN I WAS SO DEPRESSED I COULD NOT STAY OUT OF BED HE WAS THERE COMFORTING ME, BUT I ALWAYS GOT UP AND TOOK CARE OF HIM. YOU HAVE NO IDEA THE WORRY AND ANGUISH I WENT THROUGH WATCHING HIM LIVE LIKE THIS. BUT HE WAS A HAPPY DOG, ALL TESTS WERE GREAT. HE HAD A CHRONIC BLADDER INFECTION THAT WAS CONTROLLED WELL BY NITROFURATONION AND HAD JUST HAD A THOROUGH BLOODWORK AND OTHER INTENSIVE TESTS, AS HE HAD TO HAVE OFTEN, AND MY DOC SAID CODY WAS DOING GREAT AND IF HE DID NOT KNOW HE WAS PARALYZED HE WOULDN'T FROM THE TEST. HE SAID HE WAS A MIRACLE DOG. ABOUT 3 WEEKS AFTER THE TEST HE BEGAN TO SHAKE MOSTLY AT NIGHT AND COUGH UP WHITE STUFF, AND HE STOPPED EATING. THE EATING THING WAS NORMAL CODY ATE SOMETIMES AND SOMETIMES HE DIDN'T. I ASKED DOC IF THE SHAKING WAS HIS HEART. HE TOLD ME THAT HE WAS PROBABLY SHAKING FROM SOME PAIN SOMEWHERE BUT HE DID NOT THINK IT WAS HIS HEART AT ALL. THREE DAYS AFTER I TALKED TO HIM CODY WAS ACTING MORE LETHARGIC AND WAS STILL SHAKING BUT ONLY AT CERTAIN TIMES. I CALLED AND LEFT HIM A MESSAGE TO CALL ME THE NEXT MORNING. WHEN WE GOT UP AND CHANGED CODY'S DIAPER AND WENT TO GRANDMA'S LIKE WE ALWAYS DID HE WAS ACTING FINE. THE DOC HAD NOT CALLED BACK BUT I KNEW HE WAS PROBABLY IN SURGERY, SO I WAS GOING TO WAIT, BECAUSE HE TOLD ME IT WAS PROBABLY NOTHING, ESPECIALLY NOTHING LIFE THREATING. HE LAYED DOWN AND WOULD ONLY ANSWER ME BY MOVING HIS HEAD AFTER A WHILE. I NOTICED THAT HE WAS BREATHING VERY SHALLOW AND THERE WERE HUGE SPACES BETWEEN HIS BREATHS. I CALLED MY DOC'S OTHER DOCTOR FRIEND WHOM I TRUSTED AND SHE SAID COME RIGHT AWAY. YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENED RIGHT UP THE ROAD. AN AUTOPSY WAS PERFORMED AND IT SHOWED NO PROBLEMS WITH ANY ORGANS, JUST AS THE TESTS HAD A FEW WEEEKS AGO. MY DOC DEMANDED THE TISSUES BE SENT OFF AND HE WANTED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED AS MUCH AS I DID. I GOT A CALL YESTERDAY TELLING ME THAT CODY HAD DIED OF CARDIOMYOPATHY. HE HAD DEVELOPED HEART DISEASE THAT WAS ONLY A WEEK OLD AND VERY SEVERE. THE HEART DISEASE WAS IN THE WORST PLACE POSSIBLE SOMEWHERE ON TOP OF ELECTRICAL THINGS IN THE HEART. THE AUTOPSY WOMAN SAID THAT SHE HAD NEVER SEEN A DOG DEVELOP HEART DISEASE THAT FAST AND FOR THAT MATTER THAT SEVERE IN THAT SHORT AMOUNT OF TIME. I CAN'T HELP BUT BLAME MYSELF BECAUSE I LISTENED TO MY DOC INSTEAD OF MY GUT. SHE ALSO SAID THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN NO WAY TO SAVE HIS LIFE EVEN IF THEY HAD FOUND IT THAT WEEK. I MEAN WITH ALL THE OTHER PROBLEMS HE HAD A THOUGHT HE WOULD DIE OF SOME PROBLEM RELATED TO HIS CONDITION. SHE SAID THAT SHE CANNOT SAY WITH MEDICAL CERTIANTY THAT HIS OTHER PROBLEMS AND WEAKENED BODY, AND ALL THE MEDS HE HAD TO TAKE DID NOT CONTRIBUTE TO THE HEART DISEASE FORMING THIS FAST. I AM SO HEARTBROKEN, THAT DOG MEANT EVERYTHING TO ME. I AM ON MEDS JUST TO BE ABLE TO FUNCTION SO I CAN GET TROUGH HIS MEMORIAL. MOST PEOPLE WHO HAVE NEVER LOVED AND CARED FOR AN ANIMAL LIKE THIS EVEN MY OWN FAMILY DO NOT UNDERSTAND. CODY WAS MY LIFELINE BECAUSE I HAD EMOTIONAL PROBLEMS ANYWAY, NOW I SUFFER FROM BIPOLAR AND TWO FORMS OF PTSS. I DEVESTATED, CAN YOU HELP ME ANY WAY TO UNDERSTAND? HIS LIVER WAS ALSO AGING VERY RAPIDLY. CODY WAS ONLY SIX AND A HALF AND HAD THE LIVER OF AN ELEVEN YEAR OLD DOG AND THERE WERE NEW SPINAL INJURIES ABOVE THE INITIAL ONE. SHE SAID HE COULD HAVE BEEN HEADED FOR SOME BAD TIMES. I ALWAYS SAID I DID NOT WANT TO HAVE TO PUT HIM TO SLEEP I WANTED HIM TO DIE FAST AND PAINLESS. BUT THIS IS NOT AT ALL HOW I EXPECTED IT. PLEASE EMAIL ME OR POST SOMETHING. I NEED ANSWERS BADLY. DEVESTATED IN NORTH CAROLINA, LAURA

Doc

Hello, Laura,

It is obvious that you are really hurting now, as all of us are when we lose a friend.

There is no real way to give you a certain answer. Your doctors have been as thorough as anyone could be, and (it sounds to me) have been very straightforward with you. Sometimes we just do not know.

There is no question that animals who are partially paralyzed go on to develop other health problems as a result. They don't void normally, they don't exercise normally, and their body is just under stresses that it wouldn't be under normal circumstances.

While I know it is little consolation to you right now, you should be proud of the effort you made to give this dog a real quality of life during the years of nursing you gave. Most people would not be able (or willing) to cope with this. Your dog got extra years of life ONLY because you cared.

Best wishes,
Everett Mobley, D.V.M.

havingaball

Is it possible to overexert a dog? I'm concerned about the 4 year old belonging to my son & daughter-in-law. Sophie is indoors most of the day, but is taken outside at intervals. My son plays frisbee with Sophie & runs her ragged, to wear her out. Yesterday, when I was visiting, following one such frisbee free-for-all, I saw Sophie, laying down, panting, tongue hanging out, heart racing. She needed a good 10 minutes to recover her breath. She alternately stood up & layed on her side, unable to be comfortable. I am concerned that my son is over doing it when exercising Sophie. I don't want to say anything unless I know for sure, lest I be chastized as a buttinsky mother-in-law. Sophie is such a sweet dog........

Lisa

Hello:
I was reading some of the comments on your page. We recently lost our family pet, she was a 12 year old malteste mix. She showed no sign of being ill, my mom came home, she saw that the pup threw up, Lucky (our pup) greeted her at the door, went outside & my mom found her lying there. They rushed her to the vet, but it was too late. It's terrible not knowing, but I'm thinking maybe it could have been an anerysym from her straining to vomit? Can that me the case?

Doc

In re OVEREXERTION:

It is possible for a dog to over-exert. This is less likely to occur in cold weather, but in hot weather dogs can get heat-stroke and die from over-exertion.

I have had one patient die from heat-stroke who was running freely along with the owners who were riding 4-wheeler ATVs. There were numerous ponds to cool off in, but the dog just kept running, having such a good time, until he collapsed.

He was in a deep state of shock and hemorrhaging internally by the time they got to my clinic.

If the dog wants to take some time to rest, by all means let him, even in cold weather. If the weather is hot, be sure to take frequent breaks and drink lots of water. Large dogs cannot get rid of excess body heat easily.

Doc

Hello, Lisa,

I would say that aneurysms are uncommon in the dog, but we really don't know, as most dogs who die suddenly don't get post-mortem exams. We also don't routinely ultra-sound older dogs to look for aneurysms.

If you had an aneurysm (a weak place where the blood vessel is ballooned out like a "bubble" on a tire), certainly anything that increased blood pressure might cause it to blow out.

However, it is not uncommon for a dying animal to vomit, have foam in its mouth, etc. no matter what the underlying cause of death was.

Sad to say, often we have a hard time determining the cause of death even when we do perform a post-mortem ("autopsy"). When we send tissues to the pathologist, you pretty much have to send a piece of all the vital organs, and the entire heart, and sometimes you STILL don't know.

I am sorry for your loss.

Dog Ramps

Hi,
I am sorry for your loss. With the cold hindquarters, we could suspect that blood clots were forming. This could partially block circulation to the hind legs, resulting in the cooler temperature...

Dawn York

My 5 year old rottweiler, Max, collapsed and died Tuesday, Jan. 20th. He was 145 pounds, but a real active and friendly dog. We did not see this coming at all. Two days before this happened my family and I and Max went snowshoeing. Max loved doing this. Only he was acting very strange. He would stop and go under a tree and not want to go. We would call him and he would get up and eventually continue. We got worried because he kept on doing this so we brought him home. As soon as he got in the house he didn't make it far and laid down. A few minutes later he got up ate, drank, and was fine. He was having normal bowel movements, he was not crying or moaning, and did not have any trouble breathing. We thought he may had injured his leg or hip. The next day he seemed fine. On the day he died, he played outside with my husband while he shoveled. When I got home from work, he seemed fine so he walked up to the bus stop with me to get my son. He was very playful, biting at his leash, playing with another dog, interacting with everyone at the bus stop. On the way back, he made it about halfway home, he collapsed, had what seemed to be a seizure and died within a few minutes. We were completely shocked and devastated. My kids witnessed it also and we are left with many unanswered questions. What caused this??? Was the episode in the woods and indication that something was wrong? We feel guilty that we did not go get him checked out the next day. He was eating, drinking, going to the bathroom, he didn't appear to be in any pain, so did we miss something? We didn't ask for an autopsy, should we have? We are all still very distraught about this and wish Max was still with us. Do you have any ideas or thoughts about what might have happened?

Doc

Hello, Dawn,

I am sorry for your loss. Without a post-mortem (and, unfortunately, even with one, sometimes), it is impossible to say what caused Max's death.

Certainly, his previous episode of weakness seems more significant NOW, but at the time, I don't think I would have taken it any more seriously than you did.

Such a sudden death certainly suggests a cardiac arrest, but does not suggest the cause.

While giant breed dogs have generally shorter lives than smaller ones, still seven to nine would be expected. I doubt that there are many veterinarians (or owners) who would be routinely doing cardiac ultrasounds, ECGs, and chest X-rays as part of a yearly check-up on a dog who seems fine, and is not contemplating surgery.

I wish that I could give you some kind of answer, but I cannot.

Sincerely,
Everett Mobley, D.V.M.

Takumi Gerharz

My 12-year old dog died suddently yesterday. He was a Retriver/Pitbull mix, we adopted him 6 years ago. He threw up 5 to 6 times through the night before he died and we just thought he had a stomach problem or virus since his behavior was not abnormal. He was a very hyperactive dog and we took him to the vet regularly with no major health problem. He could not get up by himself yesterday morning and all of sudden he stretched his body (with tongue hanging) after he threw up last time and stopped breathing shortly after. Our vet told us that vomitting prior is not related to his death. We keep thinking there was something we could or should have done to prevent our loss. Is it possible that the dog suffers from heart attack for being too nervous or anxious? Thank you.

Peak

My poodle just died last night. He was 12 years old. We have 3 poodles and 1 golden retriever. He's the most healthiest, strongest, and active among the four. He was still playing around yesterday and my mom just gave him a bath on the day he died.

I'm still in shock that there's no sign of him being sick at all. We were told that he had a heart attack as well.

At the hospital, the vet gave him oxygen and had to do cardiac bypass pump twice (not sure if this is the correct word). At the end, we had to let him go because we don't want him to suffer.

If he's the most healthiest one among four dogs, how can I prevent something like this for my other dogs.

Doc

I am sorry for your loss. It sounds like your veterinarian was doing heart massage, as part of CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation).

Without an extensive post-mortem ( and sometimes even with it), it is very difficult to determine the precise cause of death in a situation like this.

As far as preventing the death of the other dogs, we all have to go sometime. However, there may be sub-clinical disease that could be treated and you may be able to prolong your pet's life in that way.

Ask your veterinarian about a good senior-care diagnostic workup. This would be the best thing to do to find conditions that can be treated. Usually, we would include a complete blood count, blood chemistry profile, chest X-rays and possibly an ECG.

Best wishes

Doc

Hello, Takumi,

I wish that I could help you. I doubt that there is anything you should blame yourself about. A twelve-years old Pit Bull is pretty old. This type of sudden death is always hard to understand and accept.

It is easy to succumb to the temptation to "Monday Morning Quarter-back" and try to figure out how you could have foreseen and prevented disaster.

Don't beat yourself up. I know you miss your friend.

Sorry to be so late in replying, but we are still without power. I'm visiting a friend and trying to catch up a little.

Take care

janie

Dear Dr. I have read your article with great interest. I am a dog groomer and I lost a dog on my table yesterday..suddenly and without explanation. She was a 4 1/2 year old Shih Tzu who I groomed every 6 weeks since she was 4 months old. She was bathed, blow dried by hand, brushed and she was fine. My bather put her on my table to do her nails and I noticed a bit or urine come out of her and then she went limp. She fell down, tongue to the side and eyes wide open. My customer and I did CPR for 15 minutes and we could not revive her. It was all in the course of 2 seconds. I am devastated and the owners are in shock. I have hoped that they opted for a necropsy as I need some closure. Now that you have ruled out heartattacks what about idiopathic cardiomyophathy or hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or a brain aneurysm. God, do you have an ideas? I have to work again on Tuesday and don't want to go to my shop.

Doc

Hello, Janie,

All of your speculations are possibilities, as is a heart attack (though they are not very common in dogs).

I agree that the necropsy would be the best course of action, but often clients don't want to. They know it won't bring back the pet, and they don't like thinking about them being dissected.

I understand how you feel. Once a little puppy was snarling and snapping at me and I took him by the scruff, gave him a little shake and told him to be quiet. He collapsed and died. TOO quiet. Intellectually, I know (and confirmed by the pathologist) that he had a congenital heart defect and would have died playing or something. On a gut level, I felt like I killed him.

The up side of this is how very unlikely it is to ever happen again.

Good luck.

Lynne

Hello, three weeks ago today, our beautiful Rooney, a 2.5 year old male AKC yellow labrador died with no warning. He was fit and full of life.

He excercised playing fetch at the park nearly everyday and would run and run until we made him stop.

We were scheuduled to go to Florida on a 6AM flight the next day, and I dropped him off at the farm where he was born, to stay the weekend. He LOVED the farm where he was born and we had taken him there several times when we went on vacation. They have 5 acres and 5 huge fenced play yards.

Two hours after we dropped him off the breeder called to say that he was playing in the field and "dropped dead". We are just devastated.

When talking to the breeder, several days after this horrible event, she said that they were getting ready to put the dogs down for their 2:00 nap and when she and her assistant, approached the barn all of the dogs, including Rooney, came up the the fence and he was wagging his tail. Then they went into the heated barn and were preparing their beds and when they came back out 5 minutes later to get the 10 dogs that were in the yard, all the dogs were up by the fence and Rooney was laying in the field.

They called him and he didn't get up. They ran out to him and checked to make sure he wasn't choking and there was no blockage. He let out a last gasp and died in our breeders arms. They put him in her van and rushed him to her vet but he had already died.

The breeder then took him to our vet and there was no sign of trauma and his stomach contents were fine so he did not ingest anything and he did not have bloat. There were no signs of snake bites.

His gums were pink and his eyes were clear. There was just a little bit of blue under his tounge the breeder said. Is it possible that even though it was only 30 degrees out that he over excercised? He was out for 2 hours in the cold, not something he was used to.

Also the breeder said he was playing tug-of-war shortly before dying and is it possible that the other dog was stronger and snapped his neck? Would this be obvious with a visual check? Our vet seems to think that he had a blood clot that dislodged to his brain. We did not want to have his skull cracked to find this out.

We cancelled our trip and have been researching this for about three weeks now. We were just wondering if you had any insight on this and if it's possible he was born with this defect.

He was the picture of perfect health and had his heartguard and frontline faithfully. He was just tested for heartworms 5 weeks ago and had his heart checked as well. He was 64 pounds and VERY fit. When lying on both VETs tables, they both said they have never seen such a young fit dog die so suddenly. After reading other people's stories I see this is much more common than I thought but not so many listed as young as Rooney.

One strange thing, although there was NEVER any sign of trouble before this day, when I awakened that Thursday morning, I came downstairs and normally Roo would get off the couch and greet me at the bottom of the stairs while I sat on the bottom step to put my socks on. That morning I came down stairs and he was laying on the couch with his feet up in the air and his head cocked back. He had a distant look in his eyes and I opened the curtains and he looked so funny lying there upside down that I was able to get my camera and take a photo of him. It took him a few minutes and then he was up and normal. Do you think that was a pre-cursor?

We are greatful that we did not have to see him die, but at the same time we can't help but blame ourselves that if we didn't take him to the farm that day, we would still have him.

My biggest question is the tug of war snapping of the neck and the over exertion in 30 degree weather. I am SO sorry this is so long, but any insight you might have on this would be greatly appreciated.


Your website has been VERY helpful and informative. Thanks you SOOO much for your time. Oh, also does over breeding lead to these problems too? She is a very reputable breeder and has been around since 1980. She breeded our Rooney and he was the most perfect dog, great personality and sweet as can be. Never barked, and SO FRIENDLY. But I was just wondering if over breeding is an issue. Thank you!!!!!!!!!!

Doc

Hello, Lynne,

I wish that I could be of more help to you.

I sincerely doubt that the tug of war damaged your dog. Dogs are pretty tough in that regard and the likelihood of that happening approaches zero (though I guess nothing is impossible).

Even if it had broken his neck and paralyzed him, it is unlikely that it would have killed him. I just would quit agonizing about that.

If by "over-breeding" you mean in-breeding (where sisters are mated with brothers or fathers), then that does increase the likelihood that genetic defects will show up.

If by "over-breeding" you mean indiscriminately breeding dogs, regardless of whether or not they are outstanding, healthy individuals, then again we may see more problems crop up.

In the case of a young, apparently healthy dog who looked great, I just don't have an answer for you.

In the past, when I have spoken with pathologists about these cases, they ask for a sample of each organ, and the entire heart to examine. Without a complete post-mortem and microscopic examination of the tissues, this is just a non-productive guessing game.

Sadly, even with that type of post-mortem diagnostics, we are sometimes unable to give an answer.

I am sorry for your loss.

Lynne

Thank you for your reply. Would the tounge be a little blue underneath and the upper tounge and gums pink if it were a blood clot? Just curious. I know I am grasping at straws. But it is just my final question for you. Thank you again.

Doc

Lynne,

That discoloration would not be specific enough for anything to give us a diagnosis.

Blue generally means lack of oxygen to the area, but can also reflect the color of underlying structures, such as large blood vessels.

William

We just lost our 8 year old Alaskan Malamute, Jasper, 2 days ago.One minute he was running around playing with his toys,and then he went and layed down in the bed. We heard a crying noise and we went to see what was wrong. He was gasping for air only about every 5 seconds and his heart was absolutely racing.This went on for about a minute and then he died in my arms. I asked the Vet what might have happened and he said it sounded like acute heart arrhythmia. Does that sound correct? Jasper has never been sick, injured, or had any health conditions. My wife and I are devestated, he was our son. My wife did not want Jaspers body violated by an autopsy so we will never really know. I am just personally looking for some closure. Thank you for your time.

Doc

Hello, William,

"Arrhythmia" means abnormal rhythm (pattern of heartbeat), and "acute" means that it happened in a hurry.

These things you already knew - it happened in a hurry and the heart was "racing".

The question is: why?

Unfortunately, without a microscopic examination of the heart muscle, this is a question that we cannot definitively answer. You and your veterinarian have both described what happened outwardly.

Your dog could have had a long-standing weak place in the heart muscle. He could have developed a problem with the heart's electrical system, like someone who needs a pacemaker (though those individuals usually have slow and irregular heartbeats).

Though it is unusual, he could actually have had a coronary artery blockage. [Why? Blood clot?]

I wish that I could give you a better answer. Like your regular veterinarian, I can only speak in general terms.

I do think that you can rest assured that this was NOT something that you did or failed to do.

"Stuff happens" is not a very comforting explanation, and I hate it when it's the best I can do, as it is today.

Best wishes.

teresa

I have a 15 year old cavalier who is being treated for a bad heart with vetmedin frusemide, vasotop previcox etc, she is eating well and not incontenent but her breathing is laboured and she is panting continuously. I just don't know what to do, she is my best friend and still has some good periods but at night its awful. does there come a point when you know the right time i was praying she would die in her sleep

Doc

Hello, Teresa,

This is a super tough time. It sounds like your veterinarian is doing everything possible for your dog, and maybe it just isn't enough.

There's only so much we can do to assist a failing heart. The disease is progressive and one day, we just can't do enough.

The "when is it time?" decision is a terrible one to have to make. It's difficult for every one, even those of us who deal with it almost every day.

Can your dog enjoy life? Can he do some of the things he likes to do? Does he have more good days or more bad days? Does he have ANY good days?

These are the questions we start with.

Good luck and God bless.

Chan

My 7 year old Pekingese passed away 9 days ago.She had been given Telazol IM where she could get her nails done.She has had this done several times before.They said that her heart just stopped within 3-4 minutes after the shot.We tried for 1 hour and 45 minutes to get her back.She was my baby girl i had her since she was 4 weeks old.She was in perfect health.Her results came in to day and a sample of tissue from her heart showed that she had previously had a heartattack.And that the Telazol could have been what made her heart stop beating from the heart attack in the past damage.She wasnt obese nor was she diabetic.Do you believe that this is possible.Please help me,I need to know what happened to my baby girl

Doc

Hello, Chan,

I feel your pain, and your veterinarian's pain.

There is nothing, and I mean nothing, that is harder for me than the loss of a pet in an elective procedure. They seemed fine, it was something we didn't HAVE to do, and now the animal is gone.

For the owner, it is even worse. Not only have they lost their friend, but they often feel that they made a decision that caused the pet's death, that it is somehow their fault.

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, bad things happen.

While heart attacks (as we think of them in humans) are relatively rare in dogs, they are certainly possible.

I think that it would be okay to ask your veterinarian to go over the test results with you and explain it to you some more. Just say that understanding it as well as you can would really help you to feel some closure and take some of your own bad feelings away.

Best wishes.

David Evans

My jack russel (aged 6) did something very strange today, he was one minute just sleeping on my settee, but then i looked over at him and his eyes were rolled back into his head and he was twitching, his tounge was also visible and sticking out. I shook him alot to try and get a response he was lifeless and limp for about 2 minutes. But then all of a sudden he was fine again. and now two hours later, hes fine. what could this have been , and should i be worried?

Doc

Hello, David,

It sounds to me as though your dog has had an epileptic seizure.

Some dogs have one seizure and never have another. However, most seizure disorders are gradually progressive.

Step one is to have your veterinarian examine your dog for any obvious medical problems, including blood tests for liver disease, kidney disease, and blood sugar levels.

If these are all normal, and the dog has had only the one, brief seizure, many doctors would then recommend keeping a seizure log. You write down what happened before, during and after, what the seizure looked like, how long it lasted, and how long it takes to recover to a normal condition.

The next seizure could be months or years away, so it would not be appropriate to start anti-convulsant medication twice a day for life at this time.

If the seizures become worse and closer together, you will want to work with your veterinarian to decide when it is time to begin anti-seizure medicines.

Call your veterinarian for an appointment. This is probably not an emergency, but I would not delay unnecessarily.

Good luck.

Elizabeth Santiago

I lost my 4yrs old shihtzu a couple days ago suddenly. I dropped him off to get groomed and I was called to meet the groomer at the vet because my dog had just died. I was in complete shock and wanted to know what went wrong. According to the groomer, who took him the vet, he just "acted out" which he has never done with her before. He got aggressive and then began to release gas and urinated everywhere before he went limp. At the vet clinic, he was pronounced dead. the vet told me it could of either been a heart attack or an aneurysm. I'm still at a loss for words and I cant stop thinking about what really happened to him. Earlier in the morning he was playing, running and was perfectly fine. What are the symptoms for an aneurysm and heart attacks for a dog. Could this have been prevented. Please help me!

Doc

Hello, Elizabeth,

I wish that I could give you an explanation. Sometimes we are unable to find the cause with a complete post-mortem examination and sending tissues to the pathologist.

With the history you have given, I do not believe that this was in any way something that you did or didn't do.

Could it have been detected earlier? This is very hard to say. When animals act just fine we don't routinely do chest X-rays, electrocardiograms and ultrasounds as part of their ordinary check-ups.

With a heart defect or aneurysm there are often no signs to warn you before sudden death occurs.

I know you are hurting and I wish there were something I could say to make it right.

These things are hard to bear. I know you will miss your dog.

Sincerely,
Everett Mobley, D.V.M.

Danielle

I just got home from visiting friends and was called this morning by my dog sitter and informed my 6 year old dog had passed unexpectedly. I am completely devastated and doing the blame game. See, my dog always had severe separation anxiety and didn't always do the best when I boarded her. She's gotten a little better over the years but I just switched kennels and this was only the second time there. They informed me she was fine all weekend, doing her hyperventilating as always, but nothing extreme. When they went in to let her out this morning they found her! I just don't understand it. Could her anxiety have caused this? Could she have had heartworms and I not know? I missed her last 2 months of heartworm treatment, could that have caused this. I just miss her so much I can't stop crying and I have no idea how this happened! I left on Thursday and she was a healthy happy pup and now she's gone!

Doc

Hello, Danielle,

I wish that I could give you a definitive answer as to the cause of your dog's death. Unfortunately, even with a complete post-mortem examination and sending tissues to the pathologist, we sometimes cannot give that answer.

Oddly enough, it is possible for a dog with a congenital heart defect (present from birth) to finally one day "go over the edge" with something that has been there all along.

Since it takes six months for heartworms to develop, the two missed doses were not in any way responsible for the loss of your dog. Quit beating yourself up over that, anyway.

As to her anxiety being a factor, she had been anxious before (several times, it sounds like), so I wouldn't be guilting over that.

I know you are hurting, and I am sorry.

larry

My welsh corgi just died Friday and my mother found her dead in the bathroom. She was not quite 10 years old. When she really young, she had to have an operation on her kidney to fix something. they put a stent in it and she was healthy for years. No known problems. She was overweight and did not get the exercise she needed. my question is this, I was also told by the vet that she probably had a heart attack. After reading many things on the internet and this site also, i have come to the conclusion it might of been something else. Unfortunately the doctor said that a autopsy would cost at 1000.00 and of course my parents declined that. I am at a loss what could of killed my dog so suddenly besides a heart attack. She displayed no signs outwardly of illness. No loss of appetite or lack of water.nothing. Could of been a clot? Her kidney that was repaired when she was young? I guess i will never know. Do you have suggestions as to what it might have been? thank you

larry

I want to revise my post. it was her liver that was operated on, not her kidney. I was also told today that even though she was overweight that probably didn't kill her. The person said is more than likely a blood clot or sudden stroke.Not a heart attack. I read dogs don't have those. she was only 10. Very sad

Doc

Hello, Larry,

I am sorry to hear about your loss.

Sudden death in our dogs is one of the most frustrating things we see. Even when we do a complete post-mortem ("autopsy") and send tissues to the pathologist we are sometimes unable to make a determination.

A "heart attack" in people is essentially death of heart muscle tissue caused by the blockage of the blood vessel that supplies it. In people this is usually a cholesterol plaque chunk, but a blood clot can certainly do the same thing.

A blood clot could stop up a heart vessel, or a brain vessel (a stroke). A blood vessel in the brain (or elsewhere) could develop an aneurysm (like a "bubble" on a tire) and burst. That would kill you in a hurry.

The bottom line is that it is very unlikely that you did anything or neglected anything that brought about the death of your dog.

It's hard to lose a friend.

Best wishes.

Marina

Hello! My dog died yesterday. She was s boxer, 13 years old. My family went on a 3-months old vacation to another country, so we had to leave the dog with my husband's parents. She was perfectly happy there for the first 1.5 months. After that, according to my mother-in-law, she started to loose wait and was sad most of the time. Then, about a week prior to her death, my dog started to refuse to eat. She wanted to drink all the time, though. She drank so much she could not keep her urine and peed inside several times. She was very sad all this time, just sitting in her armchair. Her last two days, they fed her with a spoon, she could not bring herself up to eat. They say her mouth was really, really dry. Finally, on her last day, she got up, drank water and was getting ready to go for her walk. Suddenly, she collapsed and died.
I am really upset, and have questions.
I know she was an old dog already, but, still, do you think that she had a sudden death, or was there anything they could have done seeing she was not eating? They took her temperature, it was fine, the vet looked at her and did not see anything wrong. Mind you, they suspected heartworm as she has been coughing for a year or even more. The vet also guessed she just missed us and that is why she was refusing to eat occasionally. Do you think her emotions may have infuenced her so much? Do you think the dog was in much paying prior to death? I am sorry if my post is messy, I am just so upset, I cannot speak clearly. But I really, really need closure! Please, help me to understand!
Thank you!

Doc

Hello, Marina,

My heart goes out to you in your loss.

I have to tell you that 13 is really a phenomenally old age for a Boxer. So many of them die of cancer at a much younger age. You must have done a great job of caring for her.

The excessive water drinking, urination and weight loss could have been tied to a number of underlying diseases. Kidney failure often begins with an inability to save water by concentrating the urine. You lose too much water in the urine, so you have to drink large amounts to replace it.

Cushing's disease is an overproduction of cortisol (the body's natural cortisone) by the adrenal glands. This also causes a dilute urine, causing excessive secondary water consumption to compensate. It also affects muscle tone, skin, hair, and carbohydrate metabolism.

Neither of these diseases cause sudden death, but this really doesn't sound all that sudden.

It is also not uncommon to have a slow-growing cancer internally that finally affects enough organ function to put the patient "over the edge". The body has lots of reserve capacity. For instance, you could get by with one half of one healthy kidney, but you have two whole ones. If something were gradually destroying them, you'd feel okay until they were more than 3/4 gone.

In a case like this, it is easy to get confused. I am sure that your dog DID miss you, and she WAS old and it's really easy to use those things as an explanation when the patient first starts to deteriorate.

While we cannot know without a complete post-mortem examination, I strongly suspect that your dog had been developing an internal problem for some period of time and it finally got to the "tipping point" while you were gone. If you had been home, it's possible that you would have sought aggressive medical intervention sooner. However, considering her age and breed, I suspect that her time had come.

Probably you would have been more attuned to her changes and feelings and handled it differently if you had been there. The ultimate outcome would likely have been the same.

We can't turn back the clock and get do-overs. We just have to do the best we can, while we can. I know you will miss her, but now it's time to remember the good times, honor her memory, and be glad that she's not dying a slow death.

Best wishes.

Marina

Thank you very much for your thorough answer! I really appreciate it as well as the other articles on this website.
Best wishes,
Marina

Robert Geary

My 7 yo lab/golden retriever passed away tonight not sure why. He had developed diabeties we were told that 3 weeks ago, statred him on insulin and a special diet. Took him to the vet this morning to get checked and came this afternoon and the vet said he had died about 10 min before we got there to pick him up. They told us it was a heart attack. Is that ture. Pls email your comment

Doc

Hello, Robert,

Heart attacks, as we understand them in people, are also called myocardial infarctions (MI). This means that something has stopped up a blood vessel that supplies the heart muscle itself. That spot in the heart then dies, and this can kill you immediately, or just make the heart really sick and working poorly, and you can gradually recover.

This occurs most often in people due to piece of cholestrol plaque breaking off and floating downstream. It could also occur with a blood clot.

Since dogs do not have cholesterol plaque build-ups, a true "heart attack" is rare in dogs. They certainly can occur, but the only way you could know for sure would be to either be running an ECG while it happened, or send the entire heart to a pathologist for examination.

That being said, there are certainly times when the heart just stops, and we do not know the reason why. It is often easier to say that the dog had a heart attack than to say that we don't know, or that we need a complete post-mortem ("autopsy").

There is nothing as distressing as walking in to find that an animal who seemed to be doing well has just died. It happens more often at home than in the veterinary hospital, simply because a pet spends most of his time at home. If you have read the comments on this thread, you find that many people have found their apparently healthy pet dead without warning.

I sincerely doubt that your dog was mistreated by your veterinarian, or that they are intentionally trying to mislead you. Sometimes we feel compelled to offer some explanation, even when we don't really have one.

If a post-mortem has been performed, then pathology results may (although they frequently don't) tell you more.

If no post-mortem was done, then in the interest of obtaining some kind of closure, I think it might be helpful to just ask your veterinarian to tell you about what they saw when your dog passed away. "He seemed to be just taking a nap, then quit breathing." or "He was walking around, seemed okay, then just fell over". I don't know what happened, and it's possible that we won't ever know for sure.

I'd just say to the doctor, "Look, I'm just having a little trouble dealing with my loss. It would help me to know some more details." There's no point getting confrontational. You'll get less information, and, again, I sincerely doubt that anything wrong was done.

Best wishes.

Bill Hunt

my 7 year Black Lab died suddenly the day after Thanksgiving. The vet called it a heart attack and described what happened to a tee. She started panting, let out a loud yelp,threw-up,then started seizing. We rushed her to the vet but it was to late. The unfairness of this is that this happened to another Black Lab we had 10 years ago. We miss that dog tremendously. I'm sure we will eventually get another. But, are deaths like this common to labs? Or, could it be something were we live?

Doc

Hello, Bill,

I am sorry for your loss.

Are deaths like this common to Labs? I would not say that it is some kind of regular occurrence, no. Seven years certainly is not very old, either.

Without a complete post-mortem exam, and letting a pathologist examine the entire heart, it's not really possible to say that both dogs died of exactly the same cause. If they were blood relatives, one might be concerned about some type of genetic problem. Again, without examining the tissues, there is really no way to tell.

I doubt that it is "something in the water" where you live. There are certainly diseases that can be endemic in the soil, like the systemic fungus, Blastomycosis. However, it is unlikely that there would be anything in the environment that produced such a sudden onset of illness and rapid death.

Best wishes for the future.

Christina

My best friend died 2 days ago. She was old...14 to 16 years (she was my grandma's dog first and no one seems to know for sure how long she had her before I got her 11 years ago.) I watched her die and it was the most horrible and beautiful thing ever. Horrible because I did not want her to go and beautiful because I got to be there with her in her time of greatest need and she was on her warm, comfy bed. I had just taken her for the slowest walk of our lives. When we came back she went to lay down and I knelt beside her and petted her. Then she suddenly looked up to the ceiling and started breathing quickly and then wimpering while her eyes fluttered. After that her head fell down and she let out 2 hard breaths. I miss her so badly. I guess what I want to know is, is it possible that the centrine shot the vet gave her for diarrhea killed her? I'm not blaming him because I did not have the money to run all the tests he needed to really evaluate her. I just wanted her diarrhea of 4 days to stop (and it did--she didn't poop for 3 days!) It just seemed like she got a whole new set of problems after the shot...panting, occasionally coughing, occasional heavy breathing. Oh, and she had a heart murmur. I know she was old and was going to leave soon sometime, I just hope I didn't make her go sooner than she would have. Thanks in advance for any wisdom you have on it. And thank you for keeping up this site and taking the time to answer questions. God bless you.

Michael Wus

On sunday, Dec 13, 09 I lost my 14 year old shizu. It was normal during the morning, i placed him out back to go to the bathrom and he came in. He does not do steps well so I carry him up or down. I placed him in the living room and went back to close the back door. When I came up to the living room he was laying down.
I called him but he stayed in the position. I went upstairs to get my cell phone and when i came down he had moved several feet towards the kitchen as if he wanted to find someone.
I layed next to him and petted and talked to him at least ten minutes. He did lose bowl control and I cleaned him up. His breathing was shallow and his extremiteis were getting cold. I called my daughter and she came and took him to the vet hosp. He had expired during the trip. I loved the dog and still grieve over him. No autposy was performed and he was a health 14. I need closure and would like to know or have a resonable explanation of what could have happened.
Thank you for understanding.

Doc

Hello, Christina,

I am sorry for your loss.
I sincerely doubt that the Centrine did anything to worsen the dog's condition. Being less nauseated would be a plus, I think, if you were lying there in your final moments.

Best wishes.

Doc

Hello, Michael,

Sorry to be slow in replying, but my internet was down.

While some Shih T'zus do live longer than that, fourteen is pretty old. Old age is not a disease, but you are surely more likely to have diseases when you get older.

For your dog to go from apparently normal, to super weak, then cold, and then dying in such a short period of time, I would suspect internal bleeding. A tumor in the spleen could rupture and bleed out inside his abdomen. You wouldn't see a thing on the outside.

I understand that many people do not want the post-mortem exam. Even if it were free, it's hard to think about your friend being opened up that way, and you know it isn't going to bring them back.

Sometimes we just have to focus on the memories of the good times. You did a pretty good job if your buddy was looking good at fourteen, so well done on that.

I'm sorry for your loss. I know you will miss him.

Tim Maheras

We had a 3 year old very active 45lb standard poodle. On monday she'd been playing in the snow with other dogs and came back looking very out of it. She laid down and her legs had muscle spasms and her breathig was rapid and short. We brought her to the vet and she said it was probably exhaustion and it should clear up in 48hrs. She put her on rymadyl because shou thought that she may have pulled a muscle in one of her back legs because she didn't want to bend it. We brought her home and she wouldn't eat but would drink excessive amounts of water and would urinate frequently but couldn't squat all the way. We thought this was due to her leg. Sometimes she couldn't hold her urine and other times it wouldn't come out all or in dribbles. We thought it may be a urinary infection and return to the vet the next day with a sample. She found nothing in the urine but did say it sounds like there was a little water in one of her lungs. She gave her a antibiotic 2 week shot and told us to see how she does after another 24hrs before running more tests. That night she started acting like she was drunk and was very restless. She would lie down and for a few minutes and then move to another spot, not being able to get comfortable. At about midnight she finally laid down on her bed next to mine and appeared to be sleeping. About 2:00am I woke up to her very loud short breathing. It sounded like she was a little congested. I went over to pet her face and while I was petting her which she really didn't acknowledge, her legs went straight arched her back, groaned and she was gone. The vet said it was cardiac arrest. Could she have over done it playing the day before and stressed her heart or weakend it? The vet listened to her heart twice but didn't mention anything.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.