Heart Attacks in Dogs

I started to post this under "internal medicine", but it’s in the right place. Dogs (in fact, all domestic animals) very rarely have a heart attack in the sense that we understand it in human medicine.

Myocardial infarction (M.I.) is the technical term for "heart attack".  Myocardium means heart muscle.  Infarction means that the blood supply to something is stopped up, causing damage to whatever has lost its circulation.   Sometimes people say they’ve "had a coronary".  The coronary arteries are the blood vessels that bring oxygen and nutrition to the heart muscle so that it can do its job.  If one of those arteries gets stopped up, the heart muscle it was taking care of gets really sick, really fast.  Maybe it just dies.  If a big enough area of heart muscle is affected, the heart ceases to function and you die. With very small areas of heart muscle damaged, your heart may keep working, but you have chest pain, nausea and all the rest of the signs of a heart attack.

The most common cause of a blockage in these coronary arteries is the build-up of atherosclerotic plaque.  Cholesterol (among other things) builds up a lining of crud inside the blood vessel, making it’s interior diameter smaller and smaller.  This in itself causes poor blood supply to the heart muscle.  If a chunk of the crud breaks off, it flows downstream and can cork the vessel off completely.  Now you’re having a heart attack.

The thing is, it’s rare for domestic animals to have high cholesterol.  There are definitely individual animals that do have high cholesterol and triglycerides (another kind of fat in the blood).  They usually have thyroid problems or other medical problems that contribute to this.  Even when they do have high cholesterol, they don’t develop the atherosclerotic plaque that would clog up their coronary arteries.  Maybe they just don’t live long enough for that to happen. Even really obese human children don’t develop that kind of heart problem before they are teenagers.  At any rate, dogs and cats and horses and cows do not have coronary arteries clogged up with junk.  This means that they very rarely have something that stops up an artery to cause death of the heart muscle.  If they do, it would be a blood clot or something similar.

What all that boils down to is that, with rare exceptions, dogs don’t have heart attacks.  Whenever I have a patient that dies suddenly with no explanation, we encourage a post-mortem examination.  If nothing shows up to the naked eye, we send tissues (pieces of the organs) to the pathologist to examine under the microscope.  With a sudden death case, we always send the entire heart.  Myocardial infarction has been reported back to me exactly one time in twenty-eight years.  It can happen, but it doesn’t happen very often.

So why do people tell you that their pet died from a heart attack?  Where did they get such an idea? Sometimes they just invent it.  You extrapolate your answers from what you know.  Why do people die suddenly?  Heart attacks.  Why wouldn’t a dog be the same? See the above.

I’m afraid that, in years past, most people have heard the pet-heart-attack story from a lazy veterinarian.  Think about it: people have experience with heart attacks.  They don’t have much understanding of other types of heart problems.  If the pet didn’t die from a heart attack, what did cause the sudden death?   If you (as a doctor) were presented with a pet who died suddenly and you could not determine the cause, which would you rather do?  1. Give a lengthy explanation of why it’s probably not a heart attack (see above) and end by saying that you don’t have a clue, OR 2. Solemnly pronounce that the pet died of a heart attack.

Two good things here: the first is that our pets are unlikely to have a heart attack.  The second is that most veterinarians won’t give you that kind of a BS answer these days.  Would you rather have an earnest "I don’t know" or a solemn load of BS?  Would "I don’t know" satisfy you?  See comments below.

710 thoughts on “Heart Attacks in Dogs

  1. Alyssa says:

    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.

    • Darlene Long says:

      My dog died on Wednesday at the vet don’t know why she died either they gave you this reason they died was from an heart attack dogs don’t have heart attacks

      • Doc says:

        Hello, Darlene,

        Dogs don’t have coronary artery disease as people do, with the plaques that break loose and stop an artery, causing a “heart attack”. That doesn’t mean that they can’t have heart failure. It is difficult to determine the cause of sudden death, so we often assume it is a heart condition. We cannot really be sure without a complete post-mortem examination and sending tissues to the pathologist for microscopic examination. When this is not an option, we take our best guess. Veterinarians often use the phrase “heart attack” because people understand it, and its easier than going through along explanation of what we don’t know.

        • Dee says:

          My 6 year old jack russell passed away on mothers day , we found her in her bed in a laying position with arms and legs out , her tounge was hanging out of her mouth and her eyes was closed , she had also opened her bowels, in the morning she was running around the house like normal no signs seen of illness , when we looked back at our dog camera , our jack russell appeared to be walking around very slowly standing in one position staring at the floor or wall , she moved slighty round the kitchen then went back to her bed and we found her when she passed away , any ideas if this could of been a heart attack as we took her to the vets and they said her tummy felt fine she looks like a healthy dog we cant understand what caused her to pass away so young

          • Doc says:

            Hello, Dee,
            The standing and staring sounds like something affecting her brain, a stroke-lie event, perhaps. These cases are very difficult to get to the bottom of, even with lots of testing, sometimes.

            I am sorry for your loss.

          • Molly says:

            Hi Dee, I’m so sorry for your loss. My 9.5 year old English Bulldog passed away on January 23rd under almost identical circumstances. She was running around the backyard playing with her ball when I saw her sit down suddenly. She was starring at nothing and didn’t respond to me. She took about 3 or 4 steps and collapsed in the snow. We ran outside and found her tongue sticking out, her eyes open with fixed and dilated pupils, completely limp and not breathing. From the time I put her out back to her collapse was only 5 or 6 minutes and I saw the whole devastating event. She was gone by the time my husband picked her up from the snow. She was almost 10 years old, which is above average life span for a bulldog, but otherwise healthy and very frequently checked by the vet (at least once every 8 weeks or so due to my fears about her aging). I wanted to share this with you for a couple reasons. First, although no autopsy was done, my vet also believed her death to be associated with some catastrophic event in her brain and second, to let you know having seen the whole thing unfold it was very quick and despite seeing it and getting her to the emergency vet immediately (less than 10 min from the time she collapsed to them attempting to resuscitate) they said that there was nothing anyone could have done to save her. My vet went so far as to say that the whole emergency vet team could have been in my backyard at the time of Marcy’s collapse and the result would have been the same. I just wanted you to know that there was nothing you could have done to prevent or save her and, given how similar the circumstances surrounding her death were to what happened to my Marcy, I believe she didn’t have any pain or awareness. I have a 3 and 5 year old daughter but losing Marcy felt/feels like I lost my first born. I loved her with every fiber of my being. She was my soulmate and I miss her more than I could ever express with words. My heart aches for you. I hope knowing that someone else can relate and truly understands what you’ve been through can bring you some comfort!
            My deepest sympathies,

          • Kris says:

            Dee my 9 year old doodle died 3 days ago almost exactly what you explained. She ate her breakfast with my other doodle like any other day and ran outside to use the bathroom. Upon returning a few minutes later she was walking very slowly with her nose to the ground. I thought she was sniffing something. She then came into the house and collapsed. Her legs were spread out snd she lost control of her bowels. She died before we could get her into the car. I’m devastated. She was our baby.

          • Felicia says:

            Sorry for your loss. My dog passed away today. Same as your dog he was playing in the yard with my kids and suddenly he got slow laid down and passed. I was at work my 12 year old was freaking out. I got it all on camera also

          • Doc says:

            Hello, Felicia,
            Thanks for sharing your story. I cannot imagine how difficult this was with your child passing this on to you.

          • Katie says:

            My 5 year old lab passed away on Monday. She was a very healthy, active dog… the only health issue was a possible torn ACL a few years ago which healed… probably wasn’t a torn ACL after all. She went out at 628 and and at 630 I found her laying in the grass, tongue was blue and she wasn’t breathing. I tried CPR the best I could do on a 55lb lab/pit mix. I keep going back to thinking I Stopped CPR too soon. An autopsy is being done, but so far the only finding was scant of blood in her stomach. I’m just lost.

          • Doc says:

            Hello, Katie,
            Statistically, CPR in cases like this is almost never successful, no matter who is doing it, or how long they try. So don’t beat yourself up about that.

            I hope the post-mortem will give you some answers. Best wishes.

        • Dawn Rosen says:

          My almost 12 year old cockapoo died suddenly yesterday and I can’t stop blaming myself. She was fine and happy yesterday morning and had a big breakfast. I had a vet appointment scheduled because I know that she has a history of a heart murmur and had started to have an occasional cough that sounded a bit asthmatic. She was fine before they took her in, but when they brought her back out to me, she went into some sort of pulmonary distress, they said because she was stressed and panicked. They took an xray, said her heart was enlarged, tried oxygen and told me to go to the emergency vet, so I drove there, arrived, pulled into their parking lot and she actually seemed better, so i pulled back out, thinking that maybe she’d get better being calm at home and would have had another panic attack (maybe fatal) going in there. So, i started driving home and it started up again with the labored breathing and she jumped off the seat to sit on the floor. So, I turned back and tried to get back to the vet and was driving in circles trying to get back on the parkway because I was scared. She then was trying to get back up to the seat next to me, so i pulled over and put her next to me and I knew. Her body jolted a bit (i’ve seen that too many times before) – and she went limp. I drove 85 mph anyway back to the emergency vet, they tried to revive her, but it was too late. How do I process this and make sense of it to not feel so tortured?

          • Doc says:

            Hello, Dawn,
            Thank you for sharing your story. I can see how you would have felt letting the dog go home to “de-stress” would have been the appropriate action to take. Really, when a patient is lost this quickly, it is unlikely that they could have been restored to health. I have a patient with congestive heart failure who has had two trips to the specialty hospital for critical care treatment with oxygen and round-the-clock monitoring. He has been able to come home both times, but he is just “sitting on the edge” of another crisis. His heart is barely strong enough to function with the assistance of his medicines, and any additional stress gets him de-compensated.

            It is obvious that you feel guilty about your decision, but I don’t think that you should. Some things just can’t be fixed.
            I am sorry for your loss.

          • Patti H says:

            My 8 yr old dog died 2 weeks ago. He was his normal self. Around 830pm he jumped up put his head on my lap to be petted, put his paw on my hand. His nose was cold so I covered it. He got down and laid in his spot in front of me. I sat and watched TV. At around 12 I said Bubba do u need out and he didnt move. I touched him, he was cold and had passed away. Not one sound had he made. Looked as if he was sleeping. Eyes closed and moth shut. I’m trying to reason how or why.

          • Doc says:

            Hello, Patti,
            Wow. We frequently say that we wish our pets could just pass away peacefully in their sleep, but we are thinking much later in life.

            I wish that I could give you some closure here. I can only say that it doesn’t sound like there was anything you neglected. Sometimes bodies just fail.

            I am sorry for your loss.

          • john kierans says:

            dawn i had the same problem with my yorkie . took him to a cardiologist put him on viagra said he would live for 4 months . a day & a half later i found him by my bed lifeless . that day he was had laboured breathing can not stop thinking should i have taken him to the ER vet that night . the cardiologist said to keep a eye on him i keep on blaming my self

          • Doc says:

            Hello, John,
            I am sorry to hear about your loss These things are often hard to predict. We just do the best we can. I’m sure you miss him.

          • Kat says:

            Good morning Dawn Rosen. I am just coming across this website, and reading your story. I see that it has been almost a year since you lost your pet and there is never a healing for it. I am sorry for your loss. Your story stood out to me because I just recently lost my dog under similar circumstances. I took her to see a vet for some bloodwork and coughing they recommended she’d have an x-ray, she walked in her happy energetic self, and left on oxygen to the emergency hospital. I lost her two days later at home, she never became herself again she was weak didn’t want to eat and seemed lethargic she passed away in my arms. I am just wondering if you ever found out what was the cause of the loss of your beloved pet? This was a sudden loss for me, I know I am forever heartbroken.
            Thank you for sharing your story.

        • Casey w. says:

          My 1 year old Pomeranian Millie who seems to be in perfect health suddenly passed away recently I woke up for work took her out to potty and she ate breakfast with me and she was acting like her regular self I put her on our bed and she was playing on the bed and my fiancé said she was running up and down the bed and 25 minutes after I left he said he heard her yelp and then seen she was bleeding out of her nose and said he picked her up and her heart was beating really fast/hard and she was gone within 2 minutes. We’re just having a tough time trying to figure out how our little princess could be playing and then dead all of a sudden without warning. He’s thinking she might of had a heart defect and overexerted herself because of how small she was she was a runt and only grew to be 2 1/2 pounds. We aren’t able to do any after death tests because this happened March 24th and we already buried her. Just wanted some assumptions on what could have possibly happen even though we won’t know 100% what actually happened and we understand that just haven’t heard a story exactly like ours with the bleeding out the nose.

          • Doc says:

            Hello, Casey,

            I’m sorry that I don’t have anything to add. It certainly sounds like some type of birth defect that just finally gave way.

            I am sorry for your loss.

          • Ashley G says:

            I had a 7 month old pit bull female puppy. Took her for a 1/2 mile walk, once we got home she completely urinated herself. Then started to convulse and choke , I tried to give her cpr.. then she laid there while breathing slowly with bright red blood gushing from her mouth and nose.. she passed away within 5 minutes.. it’s a mystery.

          • Doc says:

            Hello, Ashley,
            That sounds like there must have been some congenital problem with her heart and the blood vessels in her lungs. I doubt that anything could have been done to prevent this or save her.

            I am sorry for your loss.

        • Kathy Gooch says:

          My 17 year furbaby just fell over dead , lifeless with in 5 to 10 seconds after coming outside with me and my other boy. I ran over grabbed him up and started CPR I am happy to say he is alive and well only thing is he is more clingy than before but I don’t mind one bit

        • Deepa A Reddy says:

          Hello doc,I left my dog to play and he didnot come back home ,I found him dead after 1 and half day ,when I found him on the roadside I thought he is sleeping,but when I went near he was dead with his mouth closed tightly ,and no insects were on him ,so can I know how many hours before he died ,I tried asking people in that area they said he was hit by a bike from behind to the private parts ,and after even that he crawled from road to the road side and then they didnot see wht happened to him ,whenni found his body the blood was dried under the tighs and still I am not knowing wht is the reason for his death ,he died because of injury to back means private part or ,he got heart attack after crawling some way ?

          • Doc says:

            Hello, Deepa,
            I had some bugs in my comments, so just now seeing this. Often with a blow from a vehicle, something inside is damaged, and there is internal bleeding. The patient goes into shock, because there isn’t enough blood inside the vessels for his circulation to work. Often you don’t see anything at all on the outside of the body. I am sorry for your loss.

        • Brooke says:

          My dog is scheduled to have a teeth cleaning this Friday. They do these from 12:00-3:00 pm on this day. He is 8 years old and a 3 lb long haired chihuahua. He was recently diagnosed with Degenerative Valvular Disease- moderate; MMVD B2 (moderate left atrial enlargement due to moderate mitral regurgitation). This was diagnosed by a Veterinary Cardiologist through an echocardiogram. The vet recommended these every 6 months along with vetmedin twice a day. The echocardiogram was suggested by my vet before putting him under anesthesia for his teeth cleaning. He stated that the cardiologist said there is a mild, at most, moderately increased risk for anesthesia; avoidance of dexdomitor, ketamine, and very aggressive usage of IV fluids is recommended. Elective anesthesia may still be performed. My dog needs multiple extractions and the tartar and plaque are very bad or I would consider skipping the teeth cleaning all together. At this point I’m worried his teeth are a detriment to his health. He has had his teeth cleaned once before when he was 4. Although he seemed in rough shape when I picked him up, he made it through without any problems known to me. This was with a different vet. My concerns now are his age since he is 8, his size since he is 3lbs, his heart condition, and the fact his procedure won’t begin until around 12:00-3:00pm that day. He is a small dog and I’m nervous about hypoglycemia since I was told to withhold food after 10:00pm. I wanted to get your opinion on this situation. I am so nervous for this teeth cleaning and I’m about 8 months pregnant and am super attached to my sweet dog, especially right now. We’ve talked to a specialist, we’ve had his preprocedure bloodwork completed and cleared, and the doctor says they will monitor his heart on the EKG and will stop the procedure at any signs of distress. He also stated that he planned on only having my dog scheduled for any procedures this day so he can focus on him.

          • Doc says:

            Hello, Brooke,
            It sounds like everything possible is being done to ensure a successful outcome. I know you are worried, but if there are heart valve problems, you don’t want that crud from the mouth getting in the bloodstream and potentially making it worse. The periodontal disease increases the risk of problems with his heart and with his kidneys, so it is in his best interest to get it cared for. Best wishes.

        • Malinda says:

          My Dog Ki Baloo Bear passed on Sunday morning May 15 2022. Completely sudden no warning, he was 3 and a half would be 4 in october of this year. Ki was a boxer shepard mix, we think a rescue we went to dog park saturday, sunday morning we went for a walk he pottied with no issues came in ate his breakfast about 10 min later he went up stairs let out an elongated howl we have two other dogs in the house and he hit the bathroom floor. We did CPR on him I did everything I could we rushed him to the ER vet and by the time we got there he was lifeless I am so sick about it I am so broken he was my baby boy. The vet said he most likely passed in the car ride or even before we left and there was nothing they could do they said they suspect he had a blood clot that went to the heart. I just dont get it, he was fine no signs of any issues help me understand this

          • Doc says:

            Hello, Malinda,
            I wish that I could give you some closure here. We can see dogs that have had a heart muscle problem their whole lives and then just die suddenly with no warning at all. The only way to make the diagnosis is by microscopic examination of the heart muscle. Some dogs have an aneurysm that bursts.

            Sometimes even with a complete post-mortem examination we still cannot give an answer.

            I am sorry for your loss.

      • Ahalya says:

        My greyhound died last week Monday, all of a sudden. He was just 2 months shy of turning 9, and was getting long walks and was on a senior dog diet plan. He was a bit lethargic since morning, but he went for a short morning walk, ate his breakfast, drank water and slept till about 5:00 pm. Since greyhounds sleep a lot during the day, that was not unusual at all for him. In the evening, my husband and I took him to a nearby trail to walk, and that was when we observed that he was not his usual self: Not running to sniff and pee as soon as he was out of the car. Instead, he was just standing there, waiting, looking down. We went for a walk for about a mile, and he suddenly stopped, and would not move forward. My husband decided to go get the car from the parking to the place he stopped, and he sat back in the car. I was worried that he was over-heated, and tried to give him some water in the car. He would not drink. Then I noticed that he was not panting, but his heart was racing. At this point, we thought getting him home on his bed would be good for him, so we brought him back home. He was able to walk to his bed and lie down. I tried giving him water and his evening meal, but he would not drink or eat. He was lying that way for about 45 minutes, then he started walking around restlessly. He was getting dizzy at this point, and nearly fell over, but I caught him in time. By now, both my husband and I knew something was wrong. He then started howling frantically for help. I had never heard such a sound from him before – he barely even barked usually. We decided to take him to the emergency vet, and carried him to the car. The vet was 20 minutes away, and we were hoping and praying that we got there in time. However, mid-way, he stopped howling and gave a deep sigh. When we got to the vet, they said there was no heartbeat or pulse. They tried 10 minutes of CPR, and adrenaline shot, but nothing could revive him. It was really devastating and at that time, we didn’t request a post-mortem. I am still trying to find out what had happened, and have been researching online since then – but I am left with more questions than answers.

        • Doc says:

          Hello, Ahalya,
          I understand that you have more questions than answers. That is usually the case in such situations. I’m sorry that I don’t have some answers for you.

      • Mrs mo dorey says:

        Is there anywhere in dorset surrounding areas that deal with jack russell who has been diagnosed with a hole in the heart cm long heart murmur and enlarged heart she is 7mths old

    • Dewayne says:

      I just lost my 1 year old Paws,,, he tested + parvo and vet said he is more likely to make a full recovery if I help him thru this , well 15 hrs later he responded for the 1 st time to be aided with nutrients thou allday I had to make him take , I thought well I guess he’s gonna be ok if we can get thru till sunlight. Well I had my hand on him and 38 min later he took his last breath and died. Heart was still working, well nutrients, no vomiting and only one diarrhea time and was in a controlled environment with full time aid. So I am heartbroken and confused to mabe he had a blockage. Your the first I’ve stated and spoke with on this and I am in PTSD condition, I miss my friend so much

      • Doc says:

        Hello, Dewayne,

        We know that the parvovirus can attack the heart muscle, thought this is more common in very young puppies. Most dogs have the more obvious signs of vomiting and diarrhea. The virus also routinely attacks the bone marrow, causing the white blood cell count to drop to extremely low levels, which makes the dog more susceptible to other infections.

        When they have a lot of intestinal damage, the breakdown products of the dying cells can get into the blood stream. This can cause the dog to go into shock, where there is collapse of the circulatory system, with such poor circulation that the organs shut down.

        I am sorry for your loss.

    • Lynn James says:

      My 8 year old Japanese chin passed away yesterday morning in my arms he woke up as normal ran downstairs to go outside he had wet himself and seemed disoriented we thought he may have heatstroke he laid down and refused to drink his jaws were clenched shut he had laboured breathing my husband took his temperature and it was 36.9 his eyes were closed and he was unresponsive we rushed him to the vet we were almost there my dogs body suddenly jolted he became floppy I ran into the vet and gave him to her he seemed to let out a last breath the vet came out and said he’s gone I’m devastated he was absolutely fine last couple of days the only thing that happened the night before was that he wouldn’t eat his dinner what could have happened

      • Doc says:

        Hello, Lynn,
        I wish that I could give you some closure on this. That temperature is slightly below average normal, so not a heat-stroke. Even when we do a complete post-mortem in these cases we are often frustrated. I am sorry for your loss.

    • Maj Ravi Kant Saini ( Retd) says:

      My 6 yr old female Husky had so far12 times Myocardial Infractions beginning at the age of 2 yrs. Each time she survived having been attended to and given CPR by me.

      2 years back , it conceived and delivered two Pups. One female and one male.
      Now at 1 year and 10 months both pups suffered same problem simultaniously in a gap of 45 days.
      Vets says, nothing can be done. All three are healthy and take their meals regularly.

  2. Doc says:

    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.

    • Sharon Kelly says:

      I read these stories and my heart breaks for everyone of you. I am so so sorry.
      Well Doctor, I kinda like have a similar story as they all do. But I didn’t feel my dog had a heart attack. But I’m kinda like still mourning since she just died April 14th at around 730-745pm 2021…. So this is like really hard trying to text and be talking about her but I am soooooo scared about something… Please put my fears at rest….I have the guilty feeling.. they say that’s natural. Cuz you start thinking “did I do some thing wrong.? Was it the brand of dog food I chose for her or the treats she ate?”
      Ok it started about 4 days ago when my son took are 2 dogs out to potty and he always carried my dog angel and when he put her down the grass she like went limp and then peed right there so he picked her up and brought her back in and she was okay then I guess she did it again they later and then on the 14th she had really long hair so I noticed when she went to the bathroom that and plus when she was laying down the grass she got poop around her bottom and so I was cutting the hair around it and just put her in the sink and was giving her a bath and she was okay you know looking up at me babe she wouldn’t sit up so when I put her down on the floor for her to shake she didn’t wouldn’t shake so I picked her up and put her in the towel and held her for a little while and I could tell that she cuz she was like into some kind of dead stare but still breathing she wasn’t shaking nothing like that she just like those limp and goes into a dead stare in her mouth open a little bit and she drools a little bit but then I put it on the stool right in front of me where I was sitting on the blanket and on her bed and she was all covered up and I was petting her and she was just staring at me so I started rubbing the side of her head ..she always like when I rubbed her ear. Well at the same time I was doing that I was playing a game on my phone well then I noticed her head went down on my hand you’re like she was putting her head into my hand and I looked over at her ass is all this is mama loves you too baby girl and she started licking my hand and my arm and I went and kissed her and she lay there for a few minutes and just stared at me and so I pet her again and then she just laid down and put her head away from me and she stared at me for like 10 minutes and then she put her head away from me and a kept looking over at her and making sure I pet her butt and stuff then I noticed that cuz she breathes heavy when she’s sleeping and I know she wasn’t her stomach wasn’t going up down in my picture up her eyes were a little bit open and her tongue was hanging all the way out to the side and she was real limp my son tried reviving her but there was nothing.
      But tonight a huge fear hit me when I was reading about things that made her go limp and be unresponsive for those couple times. And I read about seizures and syncope , part sounds like what was wrong with her but she wasn’t doing the shaking and the conversion and she wasn’t you’re like real stuff like your legs weren’t completely out she was just like to limp I mean you couldn’t get her to stand up for nothing she just like fall down and for some reason and then I started reading about brain tumors and stuff like that she did have like this really bad kennel cough from the people because I rescued her and then the brain tumor thing came up so some part of me is thinking we could she have been in a coma or with her eyes open and tongue hanging out mean she was dead. I had my son take her to the humane society to pronounce her dead and they gave her a shot . Cuz she said it helps the rest of the body relax and die cuz I guess sometimes they have parts that still might move or something. I understood that.
      So l guess I want a professional tell me that when a dog dies their eyes are a little open and dead stare and mouth part way open and tongue hanging out and body limp means she died and wasn’t in a coma..
      I’m sorry I know how this sounds. I just never been around a dog that dies right beside me.
      I know that before I rescued her she had it pretty bad and I showed her so much love. I know she was happy .. she showed me every day for over 2 years that she was. .
      ….thank you for taking the time to read my crazy mail here. I am a worry wart about everything. Just like her life before me..she didn’t get the attention and felt love so I didn’t either growing up and was always made to feel worthless. So that’s where this over fear feeling thing is coming from . I just need someone to tell me that the way I described her at that moment meant she was dead …
      Thanx again. Will be looking forward to your reply…

      • Doc says:

        Hello, Sharon,

        I don’t know that I can answer all of your questions. When dogs die, their eyes do remain open. Comatose dogs usually have their eyes shut. Sometimes we have what is apparently brain-death, but there are still occasional spasmodic breathing motions and an occasional heartbeat. This will stop eventually, but that may have been why they gave her the injection.

        I am sorry for your loss.

        • Kristen says:

          Need help understanding my dogs death

          My 4 year old dog died Sunday. She got shots on tuesday, was active and playful as usual on wednesday (we live on a farm, she ran for miles), had diarrhea on thursday. I took her to the vet and they said she had heart and liver failure. She didnt eat, and her death was very sudden. Within 20 seconds she vomited, whined, vomited again, died, peed, then bled out of her nose. How did we not know she was sick? Is it usual to die so sudden with no warning? Was there something we should’ve done to prevent this? Why the blood in the nose?

          Species: unknown long haired weimaraner mix

          age: 4


          50 pounds

        • Heather says:

          Doc. I lost my little girl 4 days ago, she was only 6 and I’m tearing up inside. I left the house at 4.30pm with two very healthy pups. My Romeo and Juliet.
          I came home after a bus run (work) at 7.30pm and found her unresponsive She had popped and peeped Her jaw was locked shut with her tongue out one side. . Eyes half open. Still warm.
          She’d had passed all alone. I wasn’t there.
          She must have been so scared.
          The emergency vet on the phone said it was likely a snake or spider bite. Autopsy not an option. I couldn’t find any marks on her but she very fluffy
          I’ll probably never know what happened but petrified for my Romeo now.
          Do you want have any ideas what might have happened to my Juliet.
          She is a Maltese shitzu

          • Doc says:

            Hello, Heather,
            I had some bugs in my comments, so just now seeing this. I wish that I could give you some reassurance and closure, but I don’t have any good ideas for you. For what it’s worth, it doesn’t sound like something that would be “catching” to the other dog. I am sorry for your loss.

  3. jen says:


    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.


    • Sandra Moll says:

      My german shepherd mix started having pancreatic problems and we put her on a diet she lost 20 pounds but then didnt want to walk anymore and that night laid down and couldnt get back up and that night passed away and blood came out of her mouth she was just 9 years old I miss my baby dog dearly

      • Doc says:

        Hello, Sandra,
        I can’t relate what you are telling me about your friend’s death to the pancreatitis. Blood from the mouth may have come from the lungs, a blood vessel having broken there. It is so hard to tell what happened in these cases without a post-mortem.

        I am sorry for your loss.

      • Brytni says:

        My three year old pitbull woke up at 8am and couldn’t use her back legs. One hour later she was throwing up and bleeding from vagina. Twenty minutes later she died. Any ideas. It’s been killing me for five days.

        • Doc says:

          Hello Brytni,

          The inability to use the hind legs makes me think of a fibro-cartilaginous embolus (FCE). This is a stroke-like event where a piece of disc material gets in the bloodstream and stops up the circulation to a portion of the spinal cord. With your dog also having vaginal bleeding, it makes me wonder if she had a spontaneous bleed that caused this type of problem, just as some brain strokes are caused by a bleeding vessel. The most common source of bleeding disorder in dogs is contact with rodent poisons that make them a free bleeder. There are also auto-immune disorders that destroy platelets, resulting in free bleeding.

          I wish I could give you a definitive answer and some closure. I am sorry for your loss.

    • Dave says:

      Why would my 7 yo Male Pom healthy normal weight, vet checked, shots, go from playing with a rag toy and 1 minute later come moping tail down, Laying around and be found dead the next morning. By the way it’s only an indoor dog.

      • Doc says:

        Hello, Dave,
        I wish I could give you some closure, but without a post-mortem examination it really isn’t possible for me to tell you what happened.

    • Sharon Kelly says:

      I’m so sorry that you had to go through that. This is the first ANYTHING has died in front of me. And I know for sure I never want to witness it again. Like you said.. I too was devastated. I almost collapsed.
      But hun I really am sorry.
      My prayers to you and your family!
      God Bless

  4. Doc says:

    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.

    • Shelby M says:

      My 13 year old American Staffordshire Terrier died suddenly Sunday. He was completely fine in the morning and then we gave him a shower and when he got out he seemed okay he went out poop and then when he came back in he stumbled a little so we thought he may have gotten some water in the ears despite us putting cotton in there and the cotton came out seemingly dry.
      He laid down and was shivering so we thought he was just cold from his shower so we just covered him. And thought he would warm up and rest. We went about our business and when we came back a little bit later he was standing against the couch and he had peed the floor. He laid back down and and seemed to be resting. While we were observing him and discussing taking him to the emergency vet he stiffened up and seemed to have a seizure then he was gasping. 20 minutes later he died in the parking lot of the vet. I don’t know what happened.
      A few weeks ago he had been to the vet for his shots and they said he had ear infections and gave us drops and then he went completely deaf. We waited a bit to see if it would clear up but it didn’t and we had an upcoming appt to get his ears checked out again.
      He also had a lick spot under the base of his tail that the vet said was just a extra cell growth but she just gave us a wash to keep it clean because there was always broken skin there because he wouldn’t stop licking it.
      I thought maybe he had a stroke. But now reading your post I’m not sure. I feel like I failed him. 13 years together and maybe if I had just taken him straight away to the ER he’d still be here.

      • Doc says:

        Hello, Shelby,
        Don’t beat yourself up about this. The deafness occurs rarely when medication somehow penetrates the eardrum. Some ear medications are more likely to do this than others, and it is more likely to happen if the eardrum is already perforated (as it often is with long-term ear infections). Unfortunately, there are rare occasions when the eardrum appears intact, and deafness occurs anyway. I’ve been in practice for 42 years and it has happened to me (my patient, I mean) twice.

        Dogs can have strokes and they can have heart attacks, but we don’t usually have access to the sophisticated imaging that it takes to document strokes, and most pet parents don’t want the dog’s heart removed and sent to the pathologist. With the history you have described, it could have been anything from a stroke to a brain tumor.

        In sincerely doubt that getting him to the ER a little faster would have preserved his life. I know you feel bad about this, but I don’t think that you should blame yourself.

  5. Michelle says:

    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?

  6. Doc says:

    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

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

    Thanks for reading and writing.

    • Debra M. says:

      My dog passed away at 16, 2 weeks ago. Miniature Pinscher I am devatasted. She was diagnosed with tracheal collapse 3 years ago by 5 different vets. She had coughing spells. This year the vet said she didn’t have trachael collapse. Now they are saying she had pulmonary hypertension, maybe pneumonia. She’s had a crackling sound in her lungs for over a year. They gave her antibiotics. She took a spill and fractured her right front paw and got a splint the next day because the vet couldn’t see her that night and the ER hospital said they don’t do those types of accidents now because of Covid they only do serious emergencies. Two days later she was fine and ate and hobbled around on her splint, but later that night she had trouble breathing. Her cough got worse. I took her to the ER that night (Monday) and I lost her that Friday. The fall didn’t seem to bother her, but I’m wondering if it aggravated her pulmonary conditions. My heart is broken.

      • Doc says:

        Hello, Debra, I’m sorry to be so late replying, but we had a revamp of our website and the comments were hidden until today. I would have to say that a dog of her age with breathing problems would always be at risk with any other illness or injury. Any kind of stress can put them over the edge.

        In regard to her underlying problems, I can’t really speak to that. Pulmonary hypertension is a little difficult to diagnose definitively without some sophisticated testing. The treatment most often recommended in dogs is sildenafil (the same drug that is in Viagra – it opens up the blood vessels that are too tight, lowering the blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries). Tracheal collapse is a dynamic process. You can take several X-rays without seeing it, then see it on the next one. Sometimes you see it on the first picture. The trachea collapses in when they inhale, then expands out when they exhale. It is a common condition in older toy breed dogs. It gets worse with time, but sometimes can be helped with anti-inflammatory drugs, cough suppressants, broncho-dilators.

        I am sorry for your loss.

  7. Angela Brooks says:


    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,

  8. Doc says:

    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.

  9. HollyP says:

    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,


    • Eva says:

      My 3 yr old puggle (pug/beagle) Mr. Beacon, passed last night. He was fine and acting normal when I came home from work then just 5 hours later he walked as though he was drunk then he threw up and evacuated his bowels and within an hour he was gone.
      With every drs visits I was told he was as healthy as he could be. Never any problems with him. Got him fixed about 4 mths ago. About a month ago he stopped wanting to jump up on everyone and I thought it was due to all the weight gain from being fixed.
      Any explanation or insight on this would be greatly appreciated. He was one of my babies. My kids even called him brother.

      • Doc says:

        Hello, Eva, I am sorry to be so late in replying, but our website was revamped, and the blog comments went into limbo. These sudden death cases are so frustrating. Sometimes we cannot find the cause even when we do a complete post-mortem examination (autopsy). Dogs can have strokes, but it is certainly rare in such a young dog. Same thing with tumors or aneurysms. It does sound like this started with something in the brain. It certainly does not sound like this was due to anything that you did or didn’t do. I am sorry for your loss.

  10. Doc says:

    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.

  11. Cheryl says:

    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

  12. Doc says:

    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.

  13. denise says:

    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.

  14. Doc says:


    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.

  15. L.James says:

    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.

    • Miss Bee says:

      Hello, I was Wondering, How You’re Doing Now, Since It’s Been Such A Long Time Ago? How Soon Did You Find Another Friend, Like Roxy? Did It Take Very Long, To Quit Crying? Your Story Seemed Similar to Mine, So I was Curious & I Wanted to Talk to Someone.. Two Weeks Ago, I Lost my Daisy Girl, my 12 Year Old, Toy Poodle, ???? My Girl Daisy ???? She was Just That Special as Well, Like Your Roxy!! Idk, What to Do , I Try but I just I Can’t Seem to Let Her Go. I Lost Her Quickly too. & If I Had just Went to the ER Hospital that Night Maybe She’d Still be w/me. She was My Best Friend.. She was So Smart, Slept w/Me, Every Single Night, Followed Me Around & No Way Around It, We Were Best Friends!! I’d Tell Her Stories, While She Laid in my Arms & She Would Just Listen bc She Knew, Exactly, What I was Talking About!! I’m Handicapped & I’ve Been & Still Am, Going Through An Awful Lot & Now This. ???? I Need My Girl to Talk to & She was Always There for Me, Aways, More Than My Own Family Has Been. That’s Pretty Sad Isn’t It but Very True… I Loved It, When I Came Home from the Dr.’s or Store & She Missed & Loved Me, So Much, She’d Scream. HaHa!!! Cutie-Pie, All The Way!! The List is Endless, about How Special She was & The Greatest BFF in The Whole World!!! ???? ???? ???? ???? ???? I Just Wondered, What You May Have Done or What Might Have Helped You, Get Through Your Loss? My Family Doesn’t Even Come Over to See Me, While I’m Going Through This Sad Time.. Thank-You for Your Time.. I Greatly Appreciate It!!

    • Penny says:

      So sorry for your loss. I’m reading these posts as my 9-year-old Chinese crested died in exactly the same way as you described the passing of your dog. She jumped up on me, dropped to the ground. Went into a seizure with legs stretched out. Let out a gif awful howl. Released her bladder then gone. Carried her limp body straight to the vet but she was gone. Heartbroken

  16. Doc says:

    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.

  17. Bryan says:

    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 🙁

  18. Doc says:

    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.

  19. kym says:

    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?

  20. Doc says:


    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.

  21. Shelly Magno says:

    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,

  22. Doc says:

    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.

  23. Mark says:

    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.


  24. Doc says:

    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.

  25. WendyAnn says:


    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.

  26. Doc says:

    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.

  27. Bri sant says:

    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.

  28. Doc says:

    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.

  29. Leslie says:

    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.

  30. Leslie says:

    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.

  31. Eric Lemnitzer says:

    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?

  32. Doc says:

    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.

  33. kim k says:

    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.

  34. kim k says:

    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. http://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.

  35. Doc says:

    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.

  36. Carrie says:

    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.

  37. Doc says:

    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.



  39. Doc says:

    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.

  40. Juliano says:

    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

  41. Doc says:

    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.

  42. tammy says:

    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.

    • Sad dad says:

      My little guy died yesterday and did the exact same thing…horrible howling then on his side with legs and tongue out. I pray that he wasn’t conscious or was feeling whatever it was that caused the howling. I protected him from suffering throughout his life and to think he suffered in his last moments breaks my heart.

      • Doc says:

        Hello, Sad dad,

        It’s hard to say, but many times a patient who has low oxygen to the brain will vocalize, despite being unconscious. I know you miss your buddy, and I wish that I could be more certain in providing closure. I am sorry for your loss.

  43. Doc says:

    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.

  44. Janelle says:

    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.

  45. Doc says:

    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.

  46. Gina says:

    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

  47. Doc says:

    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.

  48. Brent says:

    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.

  49. Doc says:

    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.

  50. kim says:

    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?

  51. Doc says:

    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.

  52. kim says:

    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

  53. LAURA LEE RAYNOR says:


  54. Doc says:

    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.

  55. havingaball says:

    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……..

  56. Lisa says:

    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?

  57. Doc says:


    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.

  58. Doc says:

    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.

  59. Dog Ramps says:

    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…

  60. Dawn York says:

    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?

  61. Doc says:

    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.

    Everett Mobley, D.V.M.

  62. Takumi Gerharz says:

    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.

  63. Peak says:

    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.

  64. Doc says:

    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

  65. Doc says:

    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

  66. janie says:

    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.

  67. Doc says:

    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.

  68. Lynne says:

    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!!!!!!!!!!

    • Gloria says:

      Hi I know this post is really old but maybe someone will answer me. My family is absolutely heartbroken and lost and we desperately need some answers. About a week ago a similar situation happened to us. We lost our beautiful baby boy, a 2.5 male chocolate lab named Ranger. He was not just our pet but he was our child. Very spoiled and healthy as far as we know. He had just been playing out in the snow and acting a goofball the day before with my daughter. But the next morning was extremely traumatizing. I got up early for work and let him out to do his business like always but when he came back inside he went to his bed and before I knew it he was kicking his legs in the air and gone!!! It was so fast, sudden, and unexpected. We couldnt bring ourselves to do an autopsy and we were in so much distress as it was. I cant stop grieving and the pain is so bad. He was way to young for this. Someone please help!!

      • Doc says:

        Hello, Gloria,
        I can Understand your feeling. It does sound like this might have been a cardiomyopathy. They can be a “time bomb”, with sudden death with no preliminary signs. I wish there was a way to determine this without a post-mortem examination.

        I am sorry for your loss.

        • May says:

          So my puppy (of 4 months old) just recently passed last night out of no where. She was perfectly fine all day and when I let her outside at night to use the restroom I went outside to get her and she was laying down, when normally she’s jumping on me. I had to physically pick her up because she seemed so fragile to walk. I put her on the porch and she was barley able to use her back legs and she stumbled to walk everywhere and her tail was tucked. She was drooling from the mouth uncontrollably and later on about 30-40 mins after that she had a seizure and after her seizure her body basically went completely paralyzed. She didn’t move anything along with her head. She then proceeded to grunt really loudly and then it turned into her howling like she was in pain. Also when she was having her seizure there was steam coming from her mouth.. I’ve never seen or heard of anything like it. After about 2-3 hours I moved her to a more comfortable area and her breathing started to get slower and she never moved an inch.. later on last night she had her last seizure and stopped breathing.

          I’m very baffled at how or what caused her to break into seizures and suddenly pass. Please help me find some type of answer.. she was too young..

          • Doc says:

            Hello, May,
            That is a very unusual story. It is certainly not something that I have seen.

            I can only speculate that she had something like a brain-bleed type of stroke. That sort of thing is rare, but I’d be more likely to suspect it in an older dog. It would be even rarer in the young, but it happens in people, as well. St. Jude’s hospital is full of kids with cancer.

            I am sorry for your loss.

  69. Doc says:

    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.

  70. Lynne says:

    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.

  71. Doc says:


    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.

  72. William says:

    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.

  73. Doc says:

    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.

  74. teresa says:

    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

  75. Doc says:

    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.

  76. Chan says:

    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

  77. Doc says:

    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.

  78. David Evans says:

    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?

  79. Doc says:

    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.

  80. Elizabeth Santiago says:

    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!

  81. Doc says:

    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.

    Everett Mobley, D.V.M.

  82. Danielle says:

    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!

  83. Doc says:

    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.

  84. larry says:

    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

  85. larry says:

    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

  86. Doc says:

    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.

  87. Marina says:

    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!

  88. Doc says:

    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.

  89. Marina says:

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

  90. Robert Geary says:

    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

  91. Doc says:

    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.

  92. Bill Hunt says:

    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?

  93. Doc says:

    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.

  94. Christina says:

    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.

  95. Michael Wus says:

    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.

  96. Doc says:

    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.

  97. Doc says:

    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.

  98. Tim Maheras says:

    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.

  99. Doc says:

    Hello, Tim,

    I am sorry for your loss. As I follow the narrative of your dog’s sudden mysterious illness and untimely death, I am in sympathy with both you and your veterinarian.

    As events developed, each action taken seems reasonable and appropriate, but in hindsight it is obvious that we were missing something. In cases like this, we always have a tendency to “second guess” or “Monday Morning Quarterback” — what should we have done differently?

    If one knew that the dog were going to nose-dive and had unlimited resources, would electrocardiograms, C-T scans, echo-cardiograms, blood tests, every test known to man… would we have been able to find and successfully treat the problem?

    I have been so frustrated with cases where pets have died suddenly (no apparent problems, no treatment). Even with a complete post-mortem and sending all tissues to the pathologist, we sometimes cannot determine the cause of death.

    Cardiac arrest means that your heart stopped. Well, that always happens when the body dies. Why did it stop? I cannot even speculate.

    Despite the unhappy result, I cannot look at what you tell me and point out any specific spot where I would have done things differently.

    I wish I could offer you more help. I know that you will miss her.

  100. Tim Maheras says:

    Hello Dr. Everett,

    thank you so much for the quick response and for your kind understanding of
    the situation. We understand that given the information you have it is very
    difficult to provide a sure fire answer as to what could have been. We are
    understanding that we did what we could given what we knew, as did our vet.
    The dogs personality as invincible and the fact that she never so much as
    yelped or showed any outward signs of discomfort other than her posture and
    slight fever (which peaked at 39.9 Celsius), made us and the vet think that
    exhaustion was the culprit. While we cannot change what happened we have
    become familiar with dog cpr and know better what to do should this happen

    We have another male standard 4yrs old and a 10 year old chiauau to take
    care of now, do you think they understand and do they mourn, if so any

    thank you again

    Tim and Valerie (spouse of Tim and person writing this response)

  101. Doc says:

    Hello Valerie and Tim,

    I’m not sure that “understand” is the right word in a case like this. I have no doubt that the other dogs know their friend is gone, and that they miss her. Dogs are very social animals, with the human pack, dog pack, or the mixed human & dog pack. Maybe “friendship” isn’t the right word, but one certainly sees special buddies or hunting partners within a larger group of dogs.

    It would not be surprising to see the remaining dogs looking for their buddy and being a little anxious or upset when she does not appear. I suspect they will make the adjustment on their own in a week or so.

    Good luck.

  102. ken richards says:

    We had a Cocker Spaniel 10years old who for 3 years
    was on medication for a Heart Murmer Vetmed/Fortecker/Fusamide
    sadly he passed away 4 weeks ago
    he had been fine all day and sat on the chair we called him for his food but could not move,and did not eat when offered to him
    he jumped off the chair took a few steps and collasped and lost control of his urine & poo.
    we called the emergency vet who said he could not get there for one hour.During this time he had 4 heart attacks (yelping & stiff limbs etc)
    and died just as the vet arrived
    given his condition over the last 3 years would we have saved him if we could get a vet to him more quickley


  103. Doc says:

    Hello, Ken,

    I am sorry to hear of your loss.

    Given the long history of heart disease in your dog, I doubt that a more timely examination would have made the difference.

    When we have an unhappy outcome, we always look for what we could have done differently. We “what if”, wishing that things could be better.

    When my father died with his third heart attack, I was glad that my brother was with him, that he ambulance arrived in five minutes, and the best doctor in town was working the emergency room. Even though we lost him, I was thankful that there no “if only” items to worry about till the end of time. Everything that could have been done, WAS done.

    When you feel that perhaps more could have been done, it tends to haunt you. You would probably feel better if there had been a doctor right there performing heroic measures, knowing that nothing was being left undone.

    Even so,as hard as your situation was, I doubt the outcome would have been changed.

    We just have to remember the good times and go on. It takes a while.

    Best wishes.

  104. Greg Allen says:

    Similar story to others, but I’ll tell it:

    Two weeks ago on the day after Christmas, I came home and my 3 dogs were all fine and perky. My 100lb 12yo Shepherd/mix was fine. I let them out to do their business, which they all did normally. She came back up to the door thinking she might be going on a walk and was fine. I decided not to walk them, but took them out a treat and came in for one minute.

    When I came back out, she was laying upright on the ground taking very very deep, slow, long breaths. A slight amount of drool was coming out. She would not drink water or look directly at me. She was not choking as air was going in and out – just very deep, long, and slow breaths.

    I came inside to call the after-hours vets and looking out of the window, saw her attempt to stand up. She did so very wobbly. Took 3 steps, “hunched” her rear, and her bowels emptied out a large amount of stool (not liquid, normal, but lots of it). She then wobbled over the middle of the yard and laid down upright, and then fell over on one side. When I got to her, she continued the slow labored breathing for around 3-4 minutes, but she then passed away. There was no apparent sign of pain – just her staring forward and tongue was sticking out and oddly twisted to the side.

    While she was 12, she was according to her recent yearly, an extremely healthy and active dog for her age, with no outlying medical problems (at least visible).

    Over and over here I keep hearing that without a necropsy nothing can be determined, but with decades of modern veterinary medicine history today, I find it hard to believe that there isn’t a “short list” of “most likely” causes. After reading various boards, it’s apparent this is happening somewhat frequently, so one would think enough data has been collected to at least have reasonable theories aside from always saying that a necropsy has to be done to figure anything out (if it can even be figured out), such as “7 out of 10 times based on this description it usually comes down to being a stroke”, etc etc. I mean, decades of data and a necropsy is still needed to even narrow the causes down?

    I’m grieving more than I have over human losses, but I’m also angered that while some vets are being accused of being lazy and just saying anything, others have the “we have no idea at all, unless we dissect your dog” answer as well.

  105. Doc says:

    Hello, Greg,

    I am sorry for your loss. Your pain and frustration are obvious, and understandable.

    The body is an incredibly complex piece of machinery. You want a “short list” of most likely events. Okay: Stroke, ruptured tumor on the spleen with rapid internal hemorrhage, aneurysm that ruptures with internal hemorrhage, the old reliable heart attack.

    There’s a short list of things you’d never notice on a physical exam. You’d have to do full body MRI to anticipate some of them.

    Is there anything in your history to point us toward the actual cause of death? Not really. We don’t have psychic powers. We can speculate, but we don’t “just know” without looking.

    It surprises me that the majority of clients do not wish to have a post-mortem performed, even on those occasions where I offer to do it at my expense. “It won’t bring him back.” It won’t, that’s for sure. “I don’t want to put him through that.” Well, you wouldn’t be, because he’s gone. This is just the body he left behind. Makes no difference: they don’t want the body cut open, which is their choice and I respect it.

    Again, I am sorry for your loss and wish you the best.

  106. Greg Allen says:


    I should point out that while I wasn’t keen on having a necropsy done on Lucy, in the Atlanta area no vet ever offers to do it “free of charge”. If you had done that with me, I probably would have changed my mind and taken you up on it.

    I called various places that I could reach that night to try to figure out what to do. Everyone kept discussing transportation fees, tissue tests, necropsy, and then cremation – and then quoted anywhere from $750 to $900 for all of it.

    This was not something I could focus on just 2 hours after my dog passed suddenly, and to be honest, it would have put me in debt for over a year to pay for it. None of them offered any kind of reduced fees or to do any parts of it at no charge. In Atlanta anyway – pet death is apparently a profitable business for some.

    I didn’t expect solid 100% answers. It’s just that some of the post answers on here made it sound like vets have “no clue” unless a full necropsy is done, and to me, based on MY own experience only, that just sounded like a way for people to make some extra money off of it. If you have offered free or reduced-fee work for some your grieving patients, then I honestly then do applaud you, and I would have taken you up on it, myself. Too bad others don’t always feel the same way.

  107. Doc says:


    A complete post-mortem can be a big job, especially on a big dog. It would take 30 to 60 minutes. If you find something obvious like a big hemorrhage, you’re done. If there is nothing visible to the naked eye, that’s another story. It’s no funny project to open the skull for even a “naked-eye” look at the brain.

    If there is nothing visible to the naked eye, then you take specimens of tissue to submit to pathologist. They charge by the tissue, so you could spend $90 to $300 with the pathologist (my cost).

    Our local (50 miles away) crematory charges $200 plus for most pets. I am fortunate in having some farm ground outside of town. We periodically do group burials there for the cost of the back-hoe operator. This enables me to do a pet’s burial for around $30. I am sure this is not an option in Atlanta.

    I don’t do freebies very often. Mostly I offer when a pet has had an apparently mysterious death, or an illness that did not respond to treatment, and the owner is a long-time client.

    I feel pretty comfortable in saying that nobody is offering post-mortem exam as a “way to make money off the pet’s death”. The plain fact of the matter is that if you want to KNOW, you have to look.

    I do understand that it’s a little difficult to focus on comparison shopping when you have just lost a friend. That’s how funeral homes make the big bucks. I bought a hell of a nice coffin for my father. It’s buried now and nobody will ever see it again. At the time, it made me feel better, so that’s what I did. You just do the best you can.

  108. J. Maggs says:

    Hi Doc, we’ve just lost a four year old St Bernard very suddenly. He had dry retched just a couple of times the previous few days, nothing much. Then on Friday he was a little off his food although drinking plenty. We kept checking his stomach and it was normal size and shape, no bloating or distension.

    On Saturday morning his tail was down, he was restless and wouldn’t eat anything (although he was still drinking.) We called the emergency vet ambulance and put him on the lead waiting for them to come. Before they even arrived, he reared up on his lead and crashed to the ground. He let out one cry and that was it, he’d gone. He was a very fit, lean dog, always full of fun and we miss him terribly.

    Do you think being on his lead (he wasn’t used to it, but I put the collar on him about twenty minutes earlier and he seemed fine with it then) helped cause his death? We couldn’t afford an autopsy – and nothing would bring him back. But we wish we had some idea why he died. It was so sudden and so awful.

  109. Doc says:

    Hello, J. Maggs,

    I wish that I could give you some closure, but I am as mystified as you.

    I certainly do NOT feel that putting the dog on his leash had anything whatsoever to do with his death. This is hard enough without feeling guilt about something that absolutely was NOT the cause of death.

    I know you will miss the guy.

  110. Greg Allen says:


    I’m going to ask just one more question and I won’t bother you any more since there are many others who need your advice on here, but you should hopefully be able to answer this as it’s kicking me in the head.

    When Lucy (described a couple of posts above) had her cardiac or “whatever case” event that caused her to pass quickly in our yard, I was frantically on the phone trying to reach after-hours Vets in my area to see if any of them could tell me what to do, or what it might be. Deep down, I guess I should have known this was “it” due to the collapse and all, but I guess my brain wouldn’t accept it and I was trying to get phone help instead.

    I have one roommate, and he’s been around Lucy much of her life, so she was really close to him too. He was able to get out there in the yard with her immediately after she collapsed, and stayed with her until she passed. But I’m kicking myself mentally every day thinking that it should have been me out there instead of on the phone trying to get help that didn’t exist for what was happening. She should have been looking at me during her final moments – not anyone else, even though it was someone she cared about regardless.

    Ok, that was more shrink 101 than veterinary, but here’s my question: A coworker suggested to me that by the time she collapsed, even though it appeared she was awake and conscious, that by this stage that maybe she was already mostly “gone”, in terms of awareness, and that it really wouldn’t have mattered (to her) if it was me or him or anyone else out there with her. I don’t know if that makes me feel better or not, but are they right? If a dog is experiencing an end of life event whatever the cause, by the time they collapse and are taking their last minute of breaths, are they fully “aware” of their surroundings, or already technically gone by that time? Last question. I won’t bug you more after that one.

  111. Doc says:


    This is a difficult question. In people, those who have experienced “near-death”, or even been “clinically dead” have a variety of recollections or lack thereof. As with those who have been “in a coma” or under anesthesia, some individuals have clear and complete memories of what went on during their period of apparent unconsciousness, while others have no recollection whatsoever.

    So this comes down to: what is the nature of consciousness? And the answer is that we don’t know. If you believe (as I do) that people (and to a lesser extent animals) are spiritual beings, then the spirit may or may not hang around a failing body, and who knows for how long?

    So, I don’t know. Do dogs go to heaven, or pick up a new puppy body and start over here? I don’t know.

    Stop beating yourself up. When we teach first aid to Scouts, sending someone for help or calling 911 is the first thing you do, even before assessing the pulse and airway. That’s what you did.

    Take care.

  112. Michael Moore says:

    I had a 6 month old Maltese named Parker. He was my little boy. I left him with a friend while I went to college that day as I had many times before, they have a 5 month old mini snousher. While playing with his girlfriend he simply yelped, fell over and quit breathing. I recieved the call about what happened and had them take Parker to the vet. The vet said that he probably had an aneurysm, is that possible? Thinking back on the situation my friends told me that he was “hacking” outside when they took him to go potty. Parker liked cigarette butts and would always pick them up, but I would awlays make him spit them out. I did some research and learned that the lethal dose of nicotine in a dog is 4mg per pound. Parker was 3 lbs and the amount of nicotine in a half smoked cigarette or a cigarette butt is more than enough to kill my dog. I read that, “nicotine toxicity can cause paralysis of the breathing muscles and your dog may die from an inability to breathe, sometimes within a few hours” after consuming the cigarette. Do you think this is more likely in my situation than an aneurysm?

    Thank you.


  113. Doc says:


    I sent your question to a specialist.
    Here is the toxicologist’s reply:

    “Cigarettes can contain up to 20-40 mg nicotine per piece, so a long butt might contain a lethal amount for a 3 lb dog. Nicotine would cause muscle fasciculations [tremors, twitching] followed by paralysis, which doesn’t really sound like the scenario here (yelped, fell over, stopped breathing).

    Given the history provided, I don’t think this is nicotine. A necropsy [post-mortem, “autopsy”] might shed more light on the potential cause.”

    Note that she said a necropsy “might” shed more light. A post-mortem is the only way to really tell what happened. Sometimes,however, despite our best efforts, we are still unable to 100% determine the cause of death. Guessing and speculation are not very rewarding, for sure.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  114. mari says:

    My australian bulldog died suddenly. I came home from work and I saw him standing, staring at us with excessive saliva on his chin and neck. He was ok and was a bit playful but he seemed to look a bit unusual. Couple of times he became wobbly hitting his body against the door. Then he was ok, had his food and went inside his house to sleep. The following morning we saw him outside his house in one corner of the garden which was not really his usual spot. He was still warm but a bit stiff. We took him to the vet but too late. I am sooo sad and depressed. I am so scared of losing a loved one. I want to know what happened to him while we were at work. I feel guilty that we were not there when he needed us. I want to know what happened and why it happened. He was a healthy dog. Walked everyday and complete vacc. I wish I could have done something that would have prevented his death. He was a happy and loving dog. Very sweet. I miss him so much.

  115. Kris R. says:

    What you described with your 12 yr old bulldog is exactly what happened to my 11 year old bulldog last week. It was as if you were in my kitchen with us. I am so sorry for your loss, but am comforted that we got to spend so long with our loving bullies. You must have cared for her very well, since she lived so long.

  116. DAWN M. says:

    Hi! My 9 1/2 year old Border Collie was diagnosed with Hemangiosarcoma. She had a mass on her spleen and four small masses on her liver. Her doctor would not operate to remove the spleen because the cancer had already spread to the liver. So I took Lady to a Holistic Vet for help. Unfortunately Lady passed a couple of days ago but I am not quite sure if it was the cancer that caused the death. Her gums were not pale but her breathing was very labored. She actually got up to walk into the kitchen and then wanted to go outside but decided not too. She turned around and laid in front of the fridge. I was petting her and talking to her the entire time. Then in a minute she stretched out all four legs and her head craned back……I moved her head back to normal position cuz she scared me. After this happened though she took a few breaths and then stopped. Does this mean she had a heart attack? And if so…..was she in pain…cuz that would kill me if she suffered. Thank you!

  117. Doc says:

    Hello, Dawn,

    Hemangiosarcoma is malignant cancer composed of blood-vessel cells. They are basically big blobs of abnormal blood vessels. They generally spread throughout the body very easily. Small tumors (like half the size of a BB) can be spread all over the body, and they would not be visible on ultrasound.

    When I lost my own dog with this cancer, he had a big mass on his spleen, but when I opened him up for an exploratory (and removal of the spleen), I could see hundreds of small tumors all over his abdomen. The specialists at that time had no treatment recommendations whatsoever. Three weeks later, a tumor in his throat prevented him from swallowing, and I euthanized him.

    Today, they do treat some cases with chemotherapy, but the success rate is not good at all.

    Cause of death in these dogs is usually a rupturing of one of the tumors. The dog then bleeds to death internally. You usually don’t see any blood unless you do a post-mortem. If it were in the lungs, they might cough or spit up blood, might not.

    This internal bleeding isn’t painful, you just get really weak, really fast.

    The stretching out with head back is a frequent occurrence when a dog dies, whether from this type of blood loss, or from being euthanized. It doesn’t really mean anything in particular.

    I suspect that there was nothing that could have been done to significantly extend your dog’s life.

    I am sorry for your loss.

    • James O’Kane says:

      My pomchi aged 8 suddenly died a week ago and completely devastated the family, I woke up to to him lying on the top of the stairs breathing loudly as if he had a cough stuck in his throat, I immediately rushed him down to the vets however unfortunately he died on the journey, he had saliva coming from his mouth that had a pink tinge to it, he also had foam around his mouth, the vet said he most likely could of had a heart condition, in the coming weeks leading up to this I noticed he was coughing/wheezing, I looked it up online when it was happening and thought that is was reverse sneezing because that is exactly what it looked like and I saw with reverse sneezing there is nothing to worry about so I didn’t do anything, now I am completely kicking myself that should I of taken him to the vet earlier maybe this would of never of happened and I need closure :(, is there anything you could tell me of what he could of had by the description I have just mentioned?

      • Doc says:

        Hello, James,

        I understand how you would have been reassured by the statement that reverse sneezing is nothing to worry about. Reverse sneezing isn’t usually accompanied by wheezing.

        Both Pomeranians and Chihuahuas have a high incidence of airway problems, with weak bronchial tubes, weak tracheas (windpipe). This usually shows up as chronic cough and wheezing. It does NOT usually cause fluid buildup or bleeding.

        The outward signs you observed sound like fluid in the lungs. This can certainly be the result of heart disease. It can also be a primary lung disease, like lung cancer.

        With such a rapid decline, I have to be concerned that even if you had gotten chest X-rays when he fist started having the cough, you may very likely have found something untreatable.

        I am sorry for your loss, and I don’t think you should be beating yourself up.


  118. Kelly says:

    My greyhound who was nearly 10years old, passed away suddenly on Saturday morning, I heard him get up, he would do a moan to say “I’m up” and go down the stairs, where he did the usual moan of “get up, it’s walk time” then I heard a loud bang where he had fell against the table downstairs, I jumped out of bed and I heard him cry out in pain, I got to him and he was laid still, weeing, his eyes fixed, and as i lifted him head he let out a breath, and he was gone. My heart is broken cos he was my best friend and companion for the last 6 years. I keep thinking about the cry of pain, and thinking if I had climbed out of bed before he went down stairs maybe he wouldn’t of tired himself and died. I know he died quickly, but the pain at the end makes me ache for him, as well as the fact I think he was gone before I got to him, so he would of felt alone, thank you.

  119. Doc says:

    Hello, Kelly,

    I am sorry for your loss. Sometimes those final cries are less about pain than they are about low oxygen to the brain in the final moments.

    When my father had his third and fatal heart attack, my brother (who was upstairs) heard him cry out. He rushed downstairs and found Dad unconscious. I doubt that there was any great or long pain. He never recovered consciousness and died later that night.

    It’s always hard to lose a friend.

    Best wishes.

  120. theresa payne says:

    Hi i just lost my 3 month year old golden retriever puppy that we have only had for about a month but were already in love with her. She yelped then fell to the ground we took her to the emergency animal hospital and she didn’t make it, they told us she had an aneurism. Was there a way we could have saved her because it has been bothering me if there was something we could do. The aneurism was in her head.

  121. Doc says:

    Hello, Theresa,

    An aneurysm is like a “bubble” on a tire. It is a weak place in an artery wall that has ballooned out. It is just waiting for a little more pressure to burst, causing a serious (often fatal) hemorrhage.

    The only way you could have known ahead of time would have been to have a full body MRI, and nobody ever does something like that. It’s tough to lose a puppy in the fullness of life like that, but it was a birth defect, and there was really nothing you could have done.

  122. angie barnhart says:

    Hello I lost my 3 year old english bulldog last april and I’m still trying to get over him. We took archie camping with us we were starting to set up camp and ui noticed he started panting real hard and acting restless. I tried to offer him water and he just kept moving away from me. I even sat in the grass trying to get him to come to me. Then I noticed he had was vomiting white foam. I put him in the car to rush him to the animal hospital and when I pulled in the parking lot I jumped out opened the back door and his tongue was hanging out the side and he kooked at me and fell in the floorboard of the car. We couldn’t save him. They wanted to do an autopsy but I felt like that wouldn’t bring him back. Can u please tell me what happened to my archie? All this happened within an hours time. Thank u!

  123. Doc says:

    Hello, Angie,

    I wish that I could be more help to you. While we know that English Bulldogs have a lot of breathing issues, it doesn’t sound like your dog had been over-exerting himself or getting too hot.

    While the post-mortem certainly would not have brought him back, it was really the only way to find out more about his cause of death.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  124. Candy says:

    My 6 year old papillon mix died in December. She was pacing a bit one day, and then just quiet. I called the vet and nobody seemed worried (she had luxating patellas so sometimes would act weird due to pain from that). I didn’t know anything was serious, I went to take her to the vet the next morning and she fell over as she walked to me to get the leash. They said she was critical when we got there but never told me with what. X rays and bloodwork didn’t indicate anything. She had just been there days before for a bladder infection that was clear. They gave her fluids and oxygen which seems to me treats some symptoms but not the problem. A few hours later they said she was stable. Then an hour after that they called and told me to come and she was gone. They said she stood up in the cage and then fell over. I was too distraught to ask for a necropsy. The vet then asked if maybe she had been poisoned but wouldn’t that have showed in the test? English was not her first language and I felt like I got no answers, the only thing she said was her heart looked slightly larger than it was 2 months prior. I don’t know what to think. The main vet who speaks English called me after I wrote asking what was the problem, how can they treat if they don’t know what they are treating? All he said that by looking at the charts, she maybe had an embolism or aneurysm. I don’t understand and I’m mad that they didn’t know. She was alive and fine just days before. She was eating up to the night before she died. It was the weekend before Christmas. I wish I took her Saturday but I was busy getting ready and when I called nobody sounded concerned about the pacing and it didn’t happen all night and she ate dinner and everything. I can’t get over it. I wish I knew what happened.

  125. Doc says:

    Hello, Candy,

    I wish I had an answer for you. The circumstances of your dog’s death don’t really give me any more clues than do the speculations of your veterinarian.

    I know that is heart-breaking for you and terribly frustrating. You can’t keep from wondering “What if I had taken her earlier?”. If she had an aneurysm or embolism, it would have made no difference. We are really not able to detect those things with physical examination or routine tests.

    If you had taken your dog to a university veterinary teaching hospital, they might have been able to make the diagnosis using the more sophisticated equipment that is not available in a private veterinarian’s office. With the earlier signs that you describe, I cannot imagine any veterinarian thinking the illness was life-threatening. Thus, I can’t see how anyone would have considered sending you to a referral institution.

    Given the rapid deterioration of your dog’s condition, it is possible that even at a teaching hospital the only way to make the diagnosis would have been post-mortem.

    As with so many of these cases, when the owner is distressed and doesn’t want to confront the necropsy being done (on top of losing their pet), we don’t press for it. Unfortunately, when answers are demanded later, there is then no way to provide them.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  126. Meg says:


    Thank you for all of the good info you offer here. My 12 1/2 year old miniature schnauzer died suddenly yesterday. I am completely devastated as she had no serious problems health-wise. Yesterday evening, I went out to check on her and could not find her. I called her and finally saw her lying over in a corner of the house next to a central air conditioning unit. I had to get right up on her to get her to wake up. When she finally did wake up, she slowly walked about half way and then just stopped and could go no farther. I knew something was wrong with her at that point, so I carried her into the house. She was very weak and very despondent. I called my husband out and we felt of her heart, which felt a little funny – erratic, so we decided to take her to the emergency vet on call. The vet listened to her heart and said she had an arrhythmia and would need some blood tests and medicine. This was not her normal vet. But, she seemed competent, nonetheless. Her lab work came back okay with only an elevated liver enzyme. She gave her some heart medicine that did not work, to which she found her with a more severe erratic rhythm than before, so then she gave her another heart medicine called digoxin. It was shortly after this the vet said that she went into a seizure and died. She tried to do CPR, but couldn’t get her back. I know as part of the grief process it is common to wonder “what if” and “why”, and I have already buried her because I know an autopsy would not bring her back. My question is – do you think the vet was thorough enough in her examination? Should not an EKG or ultrasound have been performed before giving the heart medicine, or can a vet make a diagnosis by listening only? Also why would she be fine yesterday morning and suddenly weak with a heart arrhythmia last night? I am just confused about the whole thing. I had worried that maybe she got to hot yesterday, as it was in the low 90’s (we have plenty of shade in our back yard though), and the vet assured me that she was not overheated from checking her temperature, etc. She feels that she had an underlying heart defect that just worsened because of old age.

    Please give me your opinion on this. I am not blaming the vet. I know she probably did her best. And, I am trying not to blame myself. But, do you think there is anything else that could have been done to help her? If she was misdiagnosed, could the heart medicines have killed her? On a side note, she had been rather hard to wake up recently. Could this have amounted to anything?

    Thanks for your help and listening ear.


  127. Doc says:

    Hello, Megan,

    I’m sorry that I missed replying to your comment. I don’t know if the veterinarian had access to an electrocardiogram or chest x-rays or consultation with a cardiologist. All of those would have been ideal.

    It is possible for medications used in heart disease to exceed their margin of safety. In other words, a little is helpful, and a little more can be harmful.

    From what you have said, it sounds like your dog was deteriorating very rapidly, going from feeling pretty decent to being down and out in a very short period of time. With that sort of progression of signs, I have to feel that even if you had been able to go directly to a cardiologist at a veterinary college teaching hospital, you might still very well have lost your pet.

    Even with as much information as we can gather, sometimes it is difficult to know exactly what has happened. It sounds like something may have been going on for a while, with her being hard to wake up and so forth.

    It sounds like the veterinarian who saw your dog did as much as could be done. It doesn’t sound like you had a very big window of time.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  128. Jennifer Schneider says:


    Our 11 year old yellow labrador died on the morning of July 4. My husband found him lying in his kennel when he went to let him and our other lab out. He had his head through a hole in the kennel door that he had made weeks before (due to anxiety with storms), but it was not tight around his neck. We were able to move his neck, there was no hair missing, no blood, etc. so we do not feel that he had choked himself. There was nothing around him except for a lot of drool, and 1 or 2 drops of blood. We feel that he had been like that for possibly and hour or so. He was laying very peacefully on his side (no looks of struggling to free his head, which he had done in the past). His stomach was already a bit hard, his mouth was locked tight where I couldn’t even open it (I had wanted to check to see if he swallowed his tongue due to a possible seizure) and his legs were already stiff from rhygamortous setting in.

    Even though he was up there in age this was very unexpected for us. He was just at the vet at the end of May and everything checked out great for his health. He did have a severe issue of anxiety with thunderstorms, and the anxiety was getting worse with every storm. He was on pills for his anxiety, but they didn’t do much for him. The week prior to his passing we had a storm almost every day, so we had thought that maybe the stress from that week had wore on his heart.

    He was acting normal up to that morning when we found him. Eating normal, no blood in his stool or urine, playful as always. It had been hot that day, but no hotter than it had been in previous days and we didn’t do anything to over-exert him.

    Our veterinarian feels that he might have suffered from heat exhaustion.

    Any thoughts that you can give us in regards to this would be greatly appreciated. We miss Hunter very much and it is just so much more painful not having answers. We continue to wonder if the outcome would have been different had we found him sooner.

    Thank you,

  129. Billy and Ginny Graham says:

    we lost our baby this week he was only 8 years old and had just been to the vet last week for his allergies and an ear infection we didnt know about the vet gave him 2 shots antibotic pills and drops for his ear he stopped itching did everything as usual stuck his tounge out if was hungry when you ask him had chicken for dinner late after noon my husband always feed him by hand each and every bite we went for a golf cart ride together came home and had vanilla ice cream together he’d eat right from our spoon bite for bite one for me one for him and he played with my husband with a little stuffed toy like always then laid down at his feet like usual to rest till we took him to bed with us and all the sudden we heard this primal sounding sound and he deficated we both got up to see what was wronge and i thought maybe he had had gas and had pooped but the sound was like nothing we had ever heard and his toungue hung out I looked at him and he didn’t look like he was breathing and his eys wide open I gave him mouth to mouth there was a little slobber and I thought he would come back I listen to him and I ran to get a stephascope to listen to him I thought maybe I just couln’t hear him or see him breathing or his heart beating and my husband continued to give him cpr nothing helped I wrapped him up after we cleanded him up from the poop and I just held him and cried for around and hour and ahalf when my husband came in from outside and said it was time to bury our best friend a 20 lb pekeense wonderful little guy I can’t stop crying about him when we come in the door I still look for him to be there to great me with a big kiss like he always did what do you think could of happened to him the vet said his heart sounded good he wasn’t overweight he never showed any signs of anything wronge before that moment

  130. Doc says:

    Hello, Jennifer,

    I wish that I could give you a better answer.

    All the cases of heat exhaustion or heat stroke that I have seen were in very hot weather, and involved one of two situations: a dog that is caught or tangled up in something and struggling to free itself, unable to do so, no access to shade or water, (and that is almost all of the severe or fatal cases I have seen) OR a dog that is so excited and happy to be running and playing with the folks that it just ove-rexerts and over-heats, just as people can do when working outdoors in severely hot weather. I have only seen one dog die in this way.

    With an eleven-years old Labrador, there are too many possibilities to narrow it down without a post-mortem exam.

    Most people with an older dog don’t want to deal with the euthanasia issue, and start hoping their deteriorating friend will just die in his sleep, so they don’t have to make the decision.

    I wish I could tell you why this happened, but it doesn’t sound like he suffered at all from your description.

    Best wishes.

  131. Doc says:

    Dear Grahams,

    As so often happens in these circumstances, we really have no information to go on. The terminal events you have described with the strange sounds, drooling, and emptying of the colon — these are not specific, and commonly occur when an animal’s spirit leaves the body, regardless of the cause.

    Sometimes we are unable to determine the full cause, even with a thorough post-mortem examination. Of course, many folks decide that the best way to deal with the pain is to hurry up and bury their friend, and start the grieving process. Few pet-owners want to contemplate their friend being cut open, even though later they find they really want the closure the information might have brought.

    I wish that I could tell you something helpful, but I cannot.

    Take care.

  132. Jennifer Schneider says:

    Thanks for getting back to me.

    Based on what I shared with you, about how we found Hunter that morning, do you have any other ideas of what else it might have been, if not heat exhaustion? I know that you said it could have been a lot of things, especially with him having been an 11 year Labrador, but just curious as to if you have any other thoughts in regards to our situation with Hunter.

    We do feel that he did not suffer, as you had mentioned, but it is always hard not knowing for sure and wondering if you could have done something to help one of your best friends.

    Again, thank you for your time and responses.


  133. Doc says:


    Older dogs can have internal tumors that rupture and bleed. They can have aneurysms that rupture and bleed. They can have failing hearts.

    I really don’t have any way of making a meaningful speculation.

  134. Ccpetcare says:

    Hi there,

    While taking my 7 1/2 year old dog out for his afternoon business yesterday he started to look like he wasn’t feeling well as it was hot and humid out we immediately started back for home after wetting him down with some water. At this point we weren’t out more than 10 minutes. I turned to find my cat who was following us and when I turned back around I witnessed my dog stiffen up and fall over sideways. I ran to his side and he let out the most heartwrenching screach and moan that broke my heart. Upon starting to carry him him he began having trouble breathing and first his gums turned real pale white and then his tongue and gums turned blue as my hubby ran to get the truck. By the time we got to the E-vet he was really struggling to breathe.

    We were told he had a massive cardiac event and they were unable to stablilize his vitals and said he kept having heartattacks while they were treating him and going into rigor. He was unable to breathe on his own and there was no circultion going on in his body and he was ice cold and his organs were starting to shut down. There was no way his body could fight the event and we had to have him PTS. He had no history of heart problems and had just had a clear physical and good bloodwork one week earlier.

    We are devastated that such a young dog could enter into such an event after just having been running around and playing the day before.

    I am disturbed by the article saying pets don’t have heart attacks it certainly looked and acted like one.

    Why can’t we do more to help a dog survive such an event in this day of modern medicine my faith in vets is starting to be lost.

  135. Doc says:

    I would not say that dogs cannot have heart attacks. It is just that they rarely have the type of myocardial infarction that people have. They CAN have one, but since they don’t generally have atherosclerosis and fatty plagues, it is rare.

    At the E-clinic, they would have the necessary instrumentation to really see what was going on, and I would trust their diagnosis.

    The thrust of the article is that I object to folks just casually tossing off “heart attack” whenever there is a sudden death of a pet, and no exam has been done either pre or post mortem.

    I am sorry for your loss. I do not believe that the emergency clinic has misled you.

  136. Ccpetcare says:

    I am sure they did not mislead me as I was there and saw the distress he was in and watched him turn blue and had to listen to him do the I’m dying squeal when he collapsed. It’s just that they called it a heart attack. For all I know it was an aneurysm or other event either way his body shut down and didn’t want to come back. I didn’t see the point of putting my baby through an autopsy when it wouldn’t change anything.

    I have just finished becoming a pet first aid instructor so realized he was in serious trouble and knew it was really bad but am wondering if it is possible to give baby aspirin to your pet like they do with people when they have a cardiac or clotting event?

    Thank you for your sympathy.

  137. Doc says:

    I doubt that an aspirin would make much difference with such a severe and sudden event. For people that’s more when you’re having chest pains, rather than being on CPR.

  138. Ccpetcare says:

    Is there any reasearch or in you experience has giving a dog with an underlying undiagnosed medical condition vaccines resulted in sudden death of the pet within a week or so?

    I seem to be reading a lot of stories where pets collapse and die a short time after having vaccines?

    My Sonny had lyme and Rocky Mountain spotted fever last year which was treated and from which blood tests showed he’d recovered it was to the point where we had to watch him for spontaneous bleeding because his blood count was so low.

    he tested positive for lyme at the exam this year and they placed him on Doxycyline although they said it could just be from last years exposure and he seemed to feel a little perkier starting a few days after starting the doxy. He had really started slowing down and not wanting to walk around the neighborhood as much the past six months and we never pushed him beyond what he was comfortable with.

    Is it possible that these diseases could cause a heart problem that went undiagnosed? I have read that sometimes there can be viral infections that cause heart issues.
    His bloodwork and -x-ray showed nothing on the day he collapsed.

    it is not that I don’t realize the importance of making sure our pets are immune to deadly diseases but am left to wonder if our older pets who dont come in contact with other dogs on a daily basis and arent kenneled need to continue to be vaccinated on a once yearly or every three year basis.

    He did however once when he was about 2 have an event that seemed like a small seizure where he was pacing and panicky and then layed on the floor with twitchy muscles for about and hour and a half. he was completly responsive to calling his name and asking him to lay down. I called the E-vet who said just keep an eye on him and if he became worse to call back. I layed on the floor talked to him and rubbed him and it finally went away. At this time an exam showed nothing either.

    He also did this same type of panic/twitching when stung by bees and benadryl cleared it right up and then again on a couple of other occasions over the years but they never lasted as long as the first.

    I am now left to wonder if maybe he had an undiagnosed congenital defect and those small episodes were a sign of things to come but I know we willnever really know.

  139. Doc says:

    I am sorry to hear about your loss. I think it is very unlikely that there is any association between recent vaccines and sudden death.

    In your case, I would be much more likely to agree with your speculation that his previous illnesses produced some lasting effect.

    To have found that type of heart damage previously would have required ECG, Echochardiogram, and probably an angiogram (where dye is used to outline the blood vessels that supply the heart). These are not things one would be doing on any kind of routine basis.

    These situations are always traumatic. We feel that if we had just “noticed something sooner”, maybe we could have saved our pet. It’s hard not to blame ourselves, or at least to look for someone to blame.

    The body is incredibly complex. It is amazing that it works so well. There are so many things that could go wrong.

    When that happens, it’s hard for us to face the fact that there things we don’t understand and cannot fix.

  140. Ccpetcare says:

    “These situations are always traumatic. We feel that if we had just “noticed something sooner”, maybe we could have saved our pet. It’s hard not to blame ourselves, or at least to look for someone to blame.

    The body is incredibly complex. It is amazing that it works so well. There are so many things that could go wrong.

    When that happens, it’s hard for us to face the fact that there things we don’t understand and cannot fix.”

    I think you’ve explained my moral dilema perfectly there. I am aggravated that I could not “fix him” despite all the pet first aid & cpr training I have been taking. I hoped by learning more I would “notice things sooner” with my pets but they are so hard as they are good at masking symptoms or just plain don’t show any symptoms until it is too late.

    Would you recommend when a dog has lyme/rocky mountain spotted fever to such an extent that their blood cell count is really low an ecg or angiogram be done afterwards? When he was retested it came up alright but without symptoms one would not know if such a disease caused damage.

    I try to at least learn from each traumatic experience.

    Thank you for your answers

  141. Tara Soule says:

    So 3 days ago I lost my 9 year old dog. She was the best dog in the world. I’m very upset and broken hearted about all of this. About a month ago I took her to the vet she was dragging her butt and had some bleeding. They said she had an abcess anal gland and put her on medication for that. The morning she died she acted fine I let her out to go to the bathroom she did her business while I loaded the car to head to my sister’s house. Everytime she saw me with a bag other than my purse she would assume she was going “bye bye” She acted like she did any other time bouncing around getting excited all that jazz. I called for her and had to fight with her to get her back in the house. She came, although very dissapointed that she couldn’t come with me. I put her back in the house and closed the door behind me. My husband called about an hour later and said she had passed away. I don’t understand. He said he heard her yelping and opened the back porch door (which is inside) and she was on the last stair. She was headed into the basement. When she took her step down the second set of stairs her legs gave out and she fell. He said she was moving really weird and it sounded like she was gasping for air. He immediately ran to her and was petting her telling her to calm down. He said within 30 seconds she had gone completely limp and stopped breathing. There was a small trail of blood from the top of the stairs (where she always layed) going into the basement. Where she fell and layed gasping for her last breaths there was a small pool of blood. She was bleeding out of her mouth. There is no possible way she got into any kind of poision and EVERYONE in my neighborhood just loved her. Not to mention I was outside with her the whole time. Poision just doesn’t make sense. For about two weeks prior to this she would always go outside and try and eat the grass and throw up. Other than that being strange there was nothing else. She acted everyday as though she always had. Playfull, alert, excited, etc. My husband said within 3 minutes it was all over. She had passed. Can someone please help me. I’m not looking for an exact answer because I know that’s not possible without an autopsy but if someone could please point me in the direction of what things it may have been that would be very appreciated. Thanks

  142. Doc says:

    Hello, Ccpetcare,

    I guess if money were no object, you’d run every test you could think of to assess the health of the animal.

    In an animal that seemed to recover well from the disease, I cannot imagine a doctor making a blanket recommendation for ECGs, much less an angiogram (not a job for an amateur, by the way – referral institution needed there).

    Stuff happens. Not a comforting conclusion, but there it is.

  143. Gina says:

    My westie of 6 years old died suddlenly at 2am this morning. He wasn’t himself , vomitted a few times but this happened often after he spent the day looking for the bone he had buried, he normally got an upset tummy, vomitted a few times and then was back to normal. After I noticed he was a bit unwell at approx 7pm,I rang the vet who said becasue of his history of getting gastro from digging up old bones, its probably what it is and to just monitor him. We went to bed but was checking on him every half hour, then we heard the dog next door barking like crazy at 2am and we went out to find our dog Beau dead. The guilt that rips through me is killing me. Why didn’t I just take him to the vet to be sure??? I loved him like one of my children and now I will never forgive myself.

  144. Doc says:

    Hello, Gina,

    I understand how you feel. When we have a bad outcome, we always look for something we could have done differently.

    Would it have been better, or just different?

    While we cannot know what was the cause of your dog’s death, I must say that if he died in such short order, it is likely that the doctor at the emergency clinic would have been unable to save him anyway.

    We’ll never know for sure, but beating yourself up won’t bring him back. You made the best decision you could make with the information that you had. That is all we can ever do.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  145. Ray says:

    My 5 1/2 year old border collie died last month and I’m still devastated. In the morning he woke as usual to go into the kitchen to get some food. When I left for work he was still his usual self. My mom told me she took my dog out for a walk. She then started playing fetch with him. After several throws. She heard a yelp and my dog ran up to her and collapsed. He started trembling and died shortly after. My mom was crying hysterically. Some bystanders saw what happened and one man actually felt my dog for anything unusual when he was trembling. They saw a bee dead bee next to him and they think he might have gotten stung in the mouth and died from anaphylactic shock. When I got home, I was in complete shock and felt responsible for his death. I felt like I should’ve seen some symptoms. I primed my nasal spray in my room, could he have inhaled some? I googled the nasal spray I was using. They apparently did animal testing on the nasal spray I was using but the results indicate a very large dosage to kill a dog and he didn’t symptoms of poisoning. I also was rough playing with him several days before and accidentally punched him in the face. But he was fine, he didn’t even yelp. Could these factors have caused it? I did however notice him breathing very loud in his sleep like a week before but I thought that was normal for dogs to have different breathing rhythms during sleep, but his heart was beating really fast. He was so loyal, he would follow us off leash everywhere. He never wandered far. I always thought he thought of us as his sheep. He was still his usual self til the moment he past. We didn’t get a necropsy, but I really wished I did now. We had him cremated and his remains are in a wooden box above our fireplace.

  146. Doc says:

    Hello, Ray,

    You can rest easy on both your rough play and the nasal spray. Those nasal sprays can be a problem, but not with a mild spritz. We have trouble when the dog bites the bottle and eats a lot of the drug directly. The effects would also be immediate.

    Anaphylactic shock with bee stings is not a common thing in dogs, but is certainly possible. As with people, if you don’t have epinephrine available immediately, the results can be fatal.

    I regret that I cannot offer you a good explanation of what occurred.

    I am sorry for you loss.

  147. Ray says:

    Thanks for the response doc. I talked to my mother a little more about it and she said the hairs around his neck rose and his neck was really tight. At first she thought he might have swallowed the ball, but they found the ball next to his thigh. When he passed, he had no blood anywhere. Normally when I hear about dogs dying from a heart attack or stroke people usually see blood coming out of the nose. Also he did not collapse after he yelped, he was able to run to my mother and collapse at her feet. I felt that if I were there, I could have possibly saved him because there was a veterinary hospital only 10 blocks away and was told he was trembling for around 5 mins before he stopped. But my mother was panicking and she would’ve had to carry the dog 4-5 blocks to my house and drive there. Does the hair standing around his neck and his throat being tight indicate he could’ve died from asphyxiation? When I came home from work, his gums where really inflamed. The thought he could’ve passed that way makes it harder for me to cope.

  148. Dianne Dilena says:

    Two days ago I lost my magnificant Black Lab/Great Dane mix. We made him human, and took him everywhere with us. He couldn’t walk down the street without people stopping to ask about him.
    Bailey was my soulmate and best friend, he gave love 24/7.
    He was only 8yrs old, healthy, he ate his breakfast, and I was taking Bailey out for his morning walk, he got up to come to me, collasped into the table, his legs stretched out,took two difficult breathes, and wailed two crys, lost his bowls, and was dead with his soulfull deep brown eyes open.This took two minutes. I was hysterical, I closed his eyes and put his tongue in his mouth, and my husband and I have cried ever since. We called the his vet and she said it was probably a heart attack. I know Danes don’t have a long life span, but I thought being half Lab we had more time with our Big Boy. I couldn’t anything to save him except scream there’s something wrong with Bailey.

  149. Doc says:

    Hello, Ray,

    The signs that you describe are really not specific to any particular cause of death: raised hairs, neck, blood in mouth or nose. They just don’t really tell us much.

    Quit beating yourself up.

  150. Doc says:

    Hello, Dianne,

    This sudden loss is so difficult to deal with. It’s like you couldn’t “get ready”. The thing is, you really can’t “get ready”. Watching a loved one deteriorate slowly, seeing the end coming — it’s not easy. You don’t get ready, get prepared. You know it’s coming, but I don’t think that makes it much easier.

    My father died suddenly with his third heart attack. You could say that it being his third one makes it sound like it wasn’t very sudden. I suppose I should have been expecting it “someday”, but he enjoyed every bit of his final day. One of my good friends watched his father die slowly and painfully with esophageal cancer over a six month period. Plenty of time to get ready, but not a good time.

    It’s just hard to lose a loved one. No good way to do it.

  151. Lindsay Fortney says:

    Two nights ago our nearly 3 year old CKC rottweiler refused to go on a walk. I pulled him because sometimes he would be stubborn and we wanted to get him going for his exercize. After a block he started frothing uncontrollably at the mouth…we were concerned but thought it was half from the heat. He would not continue home and seemed out of it so I got my husband to run home and get the car. Ivan tried to jump in the car but half fell on the way in. My husband lifted him in. We got him home and I tried to give him some water. I saw that his tongue was blue and ran to call the vet (after hours cell phone) and by the time I got back I knew he was dying. My husband tried giving CPR but our beloved dog passed away. 2 days before this episode Ivan was prescribed antibiotics for hotspots, given heart worm medicine without an up to date test and given some Chinese herb medicine for dandruff. We are trying to have his heart preserved for testing because are breeder requested this. I feel awful because I pulled my seemingly fine dog down the street and 10 minutes later he ended up collapsing and dying. Could the heart worm have had anything to do with this? My vet gave the option that he possibly died from a heart attack… yet she had never noticed any irregularities in his regular visits…

  152. DOC says:

    Hello, Lindsay,

    In sincerely doubt that the heartworm preventive had any ill effects on your dog. In the rare case where a reaction occurs, one would expect it to happen within hours (if not minutes).

    Allergic or anaphylactoid reactions to antibiotics, again, with something so severe, one would not expect a delayed reaction.

    Herbal remedies are no safer than any other type of drug. One must obtain them from a reputable source, as there are many products on the market that do not contain what the label purports. Some products tested have been found to contain nothing but caffeine and inert ingredients – no herbs at all. One can overdose with herbal products, just as once can overdose with drugs.

    If your doctor prescribed this remedy, that should not have been a problem.

    While a myocardial infarction ( MI -what we call a “heart attack” in people) is rare in dogs, it can occur. There are other problems that are just as sudden, and just as frustrating. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a congenital condition that has no warning signs until the dog just suddenly dies. I lost a 3-years old Great Pyrenees patient with this just today.

    The dog is mostly in the house, shares the home with other dogs, goes outside to exercise and potty. At noon today, he didn’t come back in, and the owner found him dead in the yard.

    Post-mortem results are consistent with the cardiomyopathy. If your dog’s heart is examined by a pathologist, they will be able to tell if there has been an MI or some other type of heart muscle problem.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  153. steve says:

    My 13 year old female Collie passed away today in the morning. Most likely due to a heart attack or stroke. My mom was in her presence this morning. She was breathing heavily. When my mom came out of the shower she had passed away with a grimace look on her face along with her tounge sticking out.

    Over the past year she was breathing heavily when going outside and going upstairs.

    Do female collies normally live shorter or longer then male collies?

  154. Doc says:

    Hello, Steve,

    I am sorry to hear of your loss. Thirteen is a pretty advanced age for a large breed dog like a Collie.

    Generally speaking, as in humans, females live longer than males. Studies have shown that this is more applicable to intact females. When the ovaries are removed (as they usually are during the spaying operation), the difference between females and males is much less.

    The upside is that when the ovaries are removed, you generally don’t get breast cancer and you don’t have “female trouble”.

    So, you pays your money and you takes your choice.

    Thanks for reading and writing.

  155. Rita Duke says:

    I am writing about my 7 year old Beagle. He systems at first was fast breathing. I took her to my vet and she did x-rays and said it was a cold or allergys, gave her meds and she did’nt get any better.
    A week later she went blind, then the vet said she had a brain tumor. So anyways I took here to a different vet and she look at the xrays and notice that she had an enlarged heart. That was 2 years ago she is now on durics and enalapril. She’s not very active and sleeps alot. But yesterday she was alright the first couple of hours after she got up. I gave her atopica (allergy med) her water pill and her enalapril> About 30 minutes later her eyes look glassey, she was standing but it was like her body was swaying and breathing rapidly. I looked in her mouth and her tonuge and gums were purple. So I lay her down on her bed and start calling vets because mine was closed and in about 30 minutes she was waging her tail, her tonuge and gums were pink and she’s find. Was that a mild heart attack, stroke or what. It don’t make any sense to me.

  156. Doc says:

    Hello, Rita,

    I understand your distress and confusion. This certainly does not sound like a simple case.

    When the gums and tongue turn purple or blue, it means that the dog is very low on oxygen. This could happen if you were choking, or not breathing well for some other reason.

    You could have some type of severe allergic reaction, like a person who is allergic to bee-stings, where the tiny breathing tubes deep in the lungs (bronchioles) spasm shut. Usually that doesn’t get better on its own, though. That’s why people with that problem carry an Epi-Pen to treat it fast.

    With the previous history of going blind suggesting a brain tumor, I would be concerned that this might be an unusual type of seizure. They usually do recover on their own relatively fast. It might be years before you have another, or there might be another one very soon. Seizures can often be controlled with medicine, but it depends on what is causing them. Sometimes you can’t see anything even with an MRI, though that is the best way to look for a brain tumor.

    It is also possible that you could have had a temporary cardiac arrhythmia, where the heartbeat gets so irregular that the heart might as well not be beating at all. This type of episode is often fatal.

    The difficulty is making the diagnosis if it is an intermittent problem. Sometimes the electrocardiogram is normal except during the episode. This requires renting an “event monitor”. The dog wears it all the time, and it continuously records the ECG, but only stores a couple of minutes worth. If the dog has an episode, you punch the button and the monitor stores the recording for that time period. Then you send it back to the cardiologist for a read-out.

    With this history, I would recommend that you call your veterinarian. He/she will probably want to repeat the chest X-ray, do an ECG, and get some blood-work to check for other possible seizure causes.

    I wish that this were something simple, but it may not be. Your description could cover anything from a mini-stroke to a dog who needs a pace-maker for its heart.

    Call your veterinarian and make an appointment for a check-up.

    Good luck.

  157. Christy says:

    I lost my rat terrier September 15, and ever since then I Have been crying. She was my life. It is very hard without her. She died of congestive heart failure. I just wish there was something I could have done differently. I still blame myself and ask the what if’s. I am so empty and lost without her.

  158. Doc says:

    Hello, Christy,

    I am sorry for your loss. Grieving is natural at a time like this. We can always think of something we might have done differently. The question is, would it have been better, or just different?

    Congestive heart failure is a progressive disease. It always gets gradually worse, never better. We manage it until we don’t have enough heart function left to work with. Then it’s over.

    We must strive to create a positive present and future, rather than dwelling on a negative past.

    You need not forget your friend, but remember the good times as you move into the future. Living in the past is not living.

    Best wishes.

  159. Kim says:

    We too are trying to find out what happened to our 4 year old yellow lab. We keep them in the garage they sleep in cages unlocked with patio cushions (thick) as their bedding. They have heartworm medicine and she had ear medicine. They are caught up on their shots. Holly our yellow lab always barks when any car or animal comes onto the property. Two big black labs were in the yard yesterday and she barked and barked, 20 minutes later my mom showed up she barked again. About 30 minutes later I left to go pick up my son I usually go through the garage but went through the front door. When I came back 30 minutes later she was dead. My husband and his hunting buddy looked around her every possible way. No foaming, no blood, no messes on the garage floor, nothing lodged in her throat, checked for broken neck, her stomach was fine. When she was found she looked as though she was asleep eyes were even closed. Unlike your other posts she was not an overly active dog never was. When playing fetch we were happy when she came back twice. For walks we often had to drag her back and with walks without a leash in the woods sometimes would take a break. They did not get that many table scraps because the older one cannot stomach them and so fair is fair she didn’t get them either. She was very good with the kids a bit bad about chewing on things drywall and wires on our quad replaced each items twice, but other than that good. We loved her as much as our older one just for being so different. Is it possible she too had some sort of heart disease?

  160. Doc says:

    Hello, Kim,

    I wish that I could give you some meaningful speculation or insight. This type of sudden death is really unusual.

    As you may have noted from the other posts, even with a complete post-mortem (autopsy), we often draw a blank. With no more information than we have here, it could be anything from some sort of congenital heart defect to a ruptured spleen (with no history of trauma – also unusual).

    We always want some type of closure in these situations and I really just don’t have anything for you.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  161. zach says:

    My 3yo kelpie male collapsed suddenly after retrieving a ball. I was scratching and massaging his neck and he just collapsed. I got him to the er vet within 3 minutes. He was healthy and was not doing anything different than what we do everyday. The vet said he had an enlarged right atrium (2x the size of the left). He said there was no shockable rhythm, but i saw v fib. what are the procedures for cardioversion, could the vet tried? I am just trying to make sense of what happened and if it could have been prevented.

  162. Doc says:

    Hello, Zach,

    I wasn’t there and really can be of no help to you.

    When we have a bad outcome, we always want to do something differently. Since your dog did not survive, it would be easy to say “what did we have to lose by defibrillating?”

    I think that is an oversimplification. I’m no cardiologist, nor do I even have a defibrillator in my hospital. I would be inclined to trust the judgment of someone who has been using the procedure on a regular basis.

    If you have concerns about what happened, I recommend that you start by sharing them with the doctor. Just tell him that the ECG looked like V-fib to you, and you don’t understand why that wasn’t a “shockable rhythm”. Don’t be accusatory, just tell him that you’ve been lying awake missing your dog and wondering about how all this happened.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  163. Trudi says:

    Tonight I lost my best friend of 11 years. My Red Cattle dog called Friday. She was eating her dinner, and stretched her front legs out and collapsed slowly. She was not choking, she simply died. I am devastated and her daughter Milly keeps trying to wake her up, so do I. I have never been so sad. I can’t stop crying. Tomorrow I will bury her but I don’t know how I will cope, as I loved her more than anything in this world.

  164. Doc says:

    Hello, Trudi,

    These sudden deaths are so devastating. The only consolation is that she did not have a prolonged illness and you didn’t have to make that so-difficult decision to euthanize.

    When my father died of his 3rd heart attack, he drove his convertible, rode his horse, ate dinner with his mother that day. His last day was a good one.

    I cried because I wasn’t ready to lose him. I didn’t “have time to get ready”. The thing is, you never “get ready” to lose a friend.

    I’m glad that Friday’s last day was a good one.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  165. Lori says:

    Hi Doc. I need your input. I chose to euthanize my beloved 15 yr old cat and I need to know whether what I did was justified in your professional opinion. For context,

    my cat was last seen for a check up in May, and I failed to schedule his next senior check up which should have taken place early last month. My cat was diagnosed with

    hyperthyroidism in 2008 and never regained the weight that he lost prior to his radioactive iodine treatment. Our vet wasn’t concerned about this and said it wasn’t

    abnormal. He noted that he had a 2/6 heart murmur, but said it was nothing to worry about since his labs were normal and he didn’t present with other symptoms. But in

    the last two weeks or so, he didn’t eat or play quite as much as he normally did, and slept more frequently. I thought his gait seemed a little off, but other members

    of my household disagreed. Then early on Saturday morning, we rushed him to the emergency vet because he wouldn’t put weight on one of his front paws, which he kept

    slightly curled. By the time we actually got to the emergency vet, his other paw had curled under, too. The vet explained that it was an aortic thromboembolism and

    that he likely had a very serious underlying heart condition. She also discovered a large mass in one of his lungs, which a radiologist suspected was cancer. She

    explained that cats’ bodies sometimes reabsorb blood clots, so we asked to take him home to give him a chance to do that. She administered a dose of aspirin at the

    behest of a feline cardiologist and sent us home with the strongest painkiller she could provide. At home, our cat – who was very stressed – walked out of his carrier

    and eagerly ate the tuna we offered him with one of his affected paws. Then I covered him with a heating pad (the vet recommended this because he was hypothermia) and

    I laid down with him, watching him for hours. He seemed uncomfortable but was resting, if not sleeping. He changed position frequently but never stayed on his feet for

    long. It looked to me like his paw pads were regaining warmth and color, and I was heartened by this. But four hours after we laid down, he stretched out and began to

    growl and yowl horribly. We rushed him back to the emergency vet. The vet set him gently on the floor, and he made a stiff-gaited beeline for the space under the

    chairs. She checked his legs and said that one of his hind legs was affected now. We could see that his paw pads were pale and feel that his leg was cold. I put his

    favorite bed down on the floor and he crept immediately into it. I’d also brought a can of food, which he scarfed down from his bed, even putting weight on one of his

    affected front paws. She told us that his “little heart was like a blood clot factory” now. The stool that he passed on the way there was black and when she pressed it

    open, she showed us a bright streak of blood. My heart sank because up until *that* movement his stool was always brown. She explained that if he had lung cancer,

    which she thought was likely now, that secondary tumors could have caused an upper GI bleed. She said it was highly unlikely now that he could be treated successfully

    for anything. Knowing that he was in pain and distress, and taking into account the vet’s assessment, we chose euthanasia. This decision haunts me now. If his front

    legs were getting better, why did his back leg become affected? Does that really mean that his heart was a “blood clot factory” or does it mean that a single blood

    clot traveled through his body to cause symptoms in all three legs? Could the bloody stool have been caused by the aspirin? Was it a red herring? If we had taken him

    home again instead of euthanizing him, is it possible that his body could have reabsorbed the clots, leaving us a window to investigate and treat the possible cancer?

    Could we have had his GI bleed surgically repaired? How could he have eaten and walked if he were really so critically sick? And if I had kept his appointment in

    November, or if I had taken him to vet a week earlier, could his life have been saved?

  166. Doc says:

    Hello, Lori,

    There was a recent review article in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (maybe another journal, I’m not sure, but it was in the last month or so). They discussed the causes (frequently unknown) and treatment of these blood clots in cats.

    While they described a number of approaches to treatment, the summary indicated that these have a grave prognosis, and that recovery is extremely rare.

    The aspirin may have contributed to the GI bleed, but that was really a minor problem compared to the blood clot formation. You were in a no-win situation with that.

    The anatomy of the circulatory system makes it very unlikely that a blood clot in one leg would get to another leg. It would have to be small enough to go through the capillaries – the microscopic blood vessels that make the loop from artery leaving the heart back to vein returning blood to the heart. A clot that small would be smaller than a red blood cell.

    New limbs affected equals new clots forming.

    You can “what-if” yourself to death on these things, but I sincerely doubt you could have changed the outcome by taking your cat in to a referral specialty teaching hospital two weeks earlier.

    You were in a terribly difficult situation, and you did the best that you could have done.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  167. Lori says:

    Doc, thank you for your many kindnesses. Your frank, knowledgeable and conscientious reply freed me from a great deal of mental anguish that would have sent my grieving process on a much darker trajectory. And in your replies to the other anguished people here I find a model of calm, truly compassionate behavior to which I aspire. I can’t thank you enough and hope you fit into size 7 gloves again very soon.

  168. Marta Cordell says:

    Dear Doc,
    We lost our Lab/Chow mix suddenly yesterday, and I am very anxious to know what may have caused his death. He was very old – at least 15 (he was a foundling, full-grown when we found him, and we had him for 12 years). He had been having something like seizures, but not in the traditional sense. His back legs would go stiff, and he would fall over sideways. He would not convulse, with the exception of his legs stretching out behind him, and in a few minutes he would be OK. he had also begun moving slower over the past few months. Our vet said that the lining between a couple of the vertebra in his neck had degenerated, and he was likely experiencing a pinched nerve, and put him on an anti-inflammatory, which seemed to help greatly. His episodes decreased in frequency, and he seemed to move more easily, even running around the back yard with our other dog. Yesterday, he was panting and drooling, as if in pain, and we gave him baby aspirin as the vet had instructed to lessen his pain. He would not take water or food, and we were droppering water into his mouth to help him dissolve/swallow the baby aspirin pill. He suddenly had one of his episodes, fell over sideways and died instantly. A trickle of blood ran from his mouth, which made me wonder if it may have been an aneurysm. I am very sad to have lost him, but can accept it as he was a rather old dog for his breed. I would love to have a better idea of what caused his death, though, and if there are any suggestions as to how he might better have been treated to prevent it. Any insight is so very appreciated.

  169. Doc says:

    Hello, Marta,

    As you mentioned, fifteen is a phenomenal age for a Chow Chow. You guys must have taken super good care of him.

    While the signs of hind-leg stiffening are not a common type of seizure (usually it is an all-over stiffening, front legs, back legs, neck, etc), I would be suspicious that there was some central nervous system involvement.

    It is possible that it was just in the cervical spinal cord, but one would expect that to affect all four legs, ordinarily.

    I’m pretty suspicious of seizure activity. When this begins at an advanced age, most neurologists put brain tumor at the top of the list.

    If there were such a tumor, it wouldn’t have to do much bleeding to pretty-much short-circuit the brain and stop things pretty quickly.

    From your description, I don’t think that anything short of a full body MRI workup could have found out more about the problem. Even then, it is unlikely that it would have been operable.

    It sounds like your buddy had a pretty good quality of life right up to the end, and that’s the best any of us can hope for.

    Best wishes.

  170. Tim says:

    So many sad stories on here. My healthy Germain Wirehaired Pointer died yesterday morning. I let him outside first thing after getting up he played in the yard, everything perfectly normal. Absolutely no signs or symptoms of a problem. 10 minutes later I went to the door to let him back in and he was lying down in front of the door like he was sleeping. He was dead. I don’t understand how that could happen with absolutely no signs or symptoms. I now feel worse because I don’t think I gave him mouth to mouth in the correct way, I just didn’t know how, and he had only been there maybe 2 minutes.

    He was my best friend.

  171. Doc says:

    Hello, Tim,

    Don’t beat yourself up so much. Even in a veterinary school teaching hospital, CPR has a low success rate when a patient suffers cardiac arrest.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  172. Chelsea says:

    My German Shepherd passed away yesterday at the age of 10. He seemed to be perfectly healthy and he didn’t act like an old dog. Is it unusual for a 10 year old male German Shepherd to suddenly die like he did?

    The night before he died it was raining outside and he started acting weird but we didn’t think anything of it because he usually acts weird when it’s raining or going to storm. Then, yesterday my dad let him outside and a few minutes later he heard something fall outside and when he looked about 20 mintues later he found Duke lying there dead.

    Do you have any insight into this?

  173. Doc says:

    Hello, Chelsea,

    I fear that I do not have any very good insights for you. While ten is much older for a big dog than a little one, it is quite a shock to lose a friend so suddenly.

    Without a complete post-mortem and pathologist’s exam, it is usually impossible to sort these things out.

    I am glad that your dog’s last day was a good one. It is in many ways even harder to watch your friend slipping away from you, and having to make a decision about euthanasia.

    Best wishes.

  174. Gregory Coyne says:

    Last night our thirteen year old chow died after a six hour spell of restless discomfort, collapse and rapid, labored breathing that finally subsided entirely at 4:30 in the morning with my wife and I at her side. Her pulse was hard and rapid through most of the early morning hours before fading to a weak, rapid, flutter shortly before her death. She’d shown no previous health issues beyond nocturnal incontinence, removal of a bladder stone and arthritis. She was normal most of the day, eating a good breakfast, but little in the evening (not unusual). Her appearance and behavior showed many similarities to the second of two wolfhounds we had lost previously, the first to congestive heart failure at seven and a half, the other, at five and a half, undiagnosed, but with the unexpected and rapid progression evidenced by our chow.
    On a happier note, a response to your earlier comment on splenetic masses: A few months ago, our eight year old Airedale, Jack, was losing weight and growing increasingly lethargic. X-rays and an ultrasound showed a splenetic mass, but no evidence of other tumors. His spleen was removed a couple of days later. Jack’s rapid return to his active, vigorous, goofball self was nothing short of dramatic.

  175. Doc says:

    I am sorry for your loss. Those last difficult hours are difficult indeed. On the other hand, it sounds like her last day was a good day. We should all be so lucky.

    Great to hear about the good results on the splenic mass.

    Thanks for reading and writing.

  176. julie sellenberg says:

    My dog of 9yrs jest went over to her bed and died.She was a blck lab/sheppard mix and pretty healthy.She had allergies we were trying to figure out and she developed a hematoma in her left ear and after two months it still was open after her surgery.
    Do you think it got infected and killed her even though it looked okay to us?
    We were going to do surgery again to close it but she died before we could do anything.
    She was out with the kids that eve. and came in sat on couch for awhile then went and begged my husband for a peice of pizza which he did not give her so she went to her bed and alittle while later noticed her dead.
    We are all sad and confused.Her eyes were open tonge out and fluids coming out her back end.
    Please try to give me a reason.I was giving her rimadyl for hip diplasia could that have anything to do with it?She made no sounds.

  177. Doc says:

    Hello, Julie,

    I wish that I could give a definitive answer for you. Even with a post-mortem exam it might be hard to say.
    With such a sudden death, a heart problem seems very likely.

    I do not think it likely that he death was related to the ear situation or the Rimadyl.

    I am glad that her last day was a happy one.

    Best wishes.

  178. catina werry says:

    i dont get it though.I cam hme one fine day and i went got me some milk, i spilled the milk as i went to clean it up i seen my 5 year old golden retriver lying on the floor not bretheing. but the thing is i didnt see any signs of anything that happend he was wild and healthy when i left that day i left at ten in the moring came back at two thirty in the afternoon and sam he was gone this happened on May,2,2011. I was devistated i thought to myself my big loving dog sam was gone. how could this be he was fine when i left. So if anyone had ths happen before please contact me at kboowerry@hotmail.com please help me find out what happened to sam?

  179. Doc says:

    Hello, Catina,

    I can imagine what a shock this was. Unfortunately, without a post-mortem exam, it is pretty hard to tell you what actually happened.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  180. Christine robb says:

    I just lost my 8year German Shepard the vet said it was a heart attack we found her beside my bed where she sleeps but her breathing was hard and she couldn’t get up so we rushed her to the hospital the vet said she needed to do some test so we left her there and went home. Not long after that we got the call she died of a heart attack they couldn’t save her I didn’t get to say goodbye I lost my best friend I feel so guilty what did I do wrong I looked after like a queen she was never sick I am so sad could I have saved her ? Loving owner chris

  181. Doc says:

    Hello, Christine,

    When these sudden deaths occur, it is difficult to decide to have a complete post-mortem performed. It is an emotional time, and often we (as owners/parents) don’t even want to discuss it.

    Unfortunately, there is no other way to truly determine the cause of death. Sometimes even a complete pathology exam cannot give us a satisfactory answer.

    These sudden death cases are devastating to all concerned. I sincerely doubt that there was anything that you did or didn’t do that contributed to your dog’s death.

    While this is very hard, I can assure you from personal experience that it is no easier to watch them die slowly from a debilitating disease. You never really “get ready”.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  182. Scott says:

    My 4 year old dog died suddenly yesterday. She had been to the vet for an ear infection, and I had just put an ear cleaner in her ear when she just yelped, fell down, and urinated and defecated. She was gone in about 10 seconds. I looked at the ingredients on the ear cleaner and it looked like a routine ear cleaner. She had a few seizures (which the doctor had diagnosed as epileptic), but I’m now wondering if those seizures weren’t more than that (perhaps a tumor). The first time we took her in for a seizure the vet said that unless she has them frequently to not worry about them (obviously, take care of her and follow the proper protocols but nothing other than that). Her last seizure was a few weeks ago and seemed to last a little longer, but was over before we got her to the vet. Now I’m kicking myself for not taking her anyway. When she died it wasn’t like a seizure, she just basically keeled over and died in a matter of seconds. Any thoughts? It is terrible to lose a 4 year old dog – that is too young.

  183. Doc says:

    Hello, Scott,
    Quit kicking yourself. This wasn’t anything that you did or didn’t do.
    This is just my best guess, but with that kind of history, I would guess that your dog had a brain aneurysm. Swelling in the area could have produced the seizures, and then a sudden rupture of the blood vessel could have caused sudden death.
    This could not have been diagnosed without an MRI, or treated without radical brain surgery. Even then, the chance of successful treatment would have been far from 100%.
    I agree that four years is too young, but sometimes we just have to play the hand we are dealt.
    I know you will miss your friend, and I am sorry for your loss.

  184. Clive says:

    Hello Doc. What am amazing blog this is – I have been reading many of the entries.
    As for my question:
    I have a male St Bernard, a little more than 8 years old. He’s always had a problem with spondylitis, occasional attacks, that I’ve controlled with prednisone and meloxicam.
    Yesterday though, he had what looked more like a fit, but I couldn’t get a vet to come out at the weekend. 🙁
    The dog fell on his side, was stretching his front legs, panting hard, and with arched back. Foamy mouth; lots of slobber.

    I stayed with him and after several minutes was able to get him into a more normal position and gave him 5mg prednisone in a treat.
    At first I assumed this was another ‘wobbler’ albeit much more severe, but now I am wondering if this is a heart problem; overnight he was making retching sounds (but didn’t actually vomit). In the morning he was on his feet and ate a good breakfast, went into the garden for the usual.
    It’s pretty much impossible to get a vet to examine hime while he’s conscious because he is really ‘difficult’, a very strong personality. That’s why I am looking for advice.

  185. Doc says:

    Hello, Clive,

    First, it is not a good idea to give steroids (cortisone, prednisone) at the same time that you give NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, like Meloxicam, Rimadyl, Deramaxx, Previcox, etc.). The combination is quite likely to cause stomach ulceration and bleeding. Most folks recommend at least a 48 hours “wash-out” period when switching from one to the other.

    Second, this does very much sound like a seizure episode. When seizure disorders develop in older animals (and eight IS old for a Saint), it is usually not true epilepsy. It is more likely that they have some metabolic problem (liver, kidneys, blood sugar), or a brain problem that is anatomical, like a stroke or a brain tumor.

    Seizures can cause additional brain damage, making the next seizure more likely to come sooner, be more severe, and last longer.

    I am sorry that he is “difficult”, but he really should have some bloodwork done to rule out some of the seizure causes. Others cannot be ruled out without going to a referral institution for an MRI, and possibly EEG.

    Even when seizures are caused by tumors, then can often be controlled with anti-seizure meds like phenobarbital (at least for a time).

    You’ve got a tough situation there with such a large dog that is apparently unreliable when stressed.

    Good luck.

  186. Linda Novak says:

    My fifteen+ year retriever mix dog died suddenly yesterday. She had just come in from her last bathroom trip for the evening. It has been extremely hot here, and I have been diligent in limiting her exposure to the heat to the bare minimum. She had been outside in her fenced yard for approx. 10 minutes, and the sun was down.

    She came in and went to one of her dog beds. She was exhibiting the following: (1) increased closed-mouth respiration — approx 60 breaths per minute (no coughing, no gasping, no gagging, and almost no panting), (2) eyes open and fixed but with reactive pupils — almost like she was seeing something that wasn’t there, and (3) pale gums (they always ran pale). Despite this, she truly did not seem distressed — there was no vocalizing, no circling, no pawing. She lay on her bed quietly. Her heart beat seemed steady and strong.

    Thinking things might be heat-related, I attempted to cool her down using cool wet towels on her paws and body. This seemed to perk her up a bit. Over the next several hours, however, she could not hold herself up when I attempted to stand her up, her head would intermittently loll to one side, her temperature dropped to approx 98 degrees, and her gums became tacky. Her breathing continued to be about 60 bpm. I finally put her in the car to take her to the emergency clinic, and she stopped breathing on the way.

    The doctor at the emergency clinic intubated her to provide her oxygen and discovered that she still had a slow heart beat. The doctor administered a bit of epinephrine. After several minutes however, her heart stopped. Since she was not breathing on her own, I decided that it was time to let her go.

    She had just received a clean bill of health at her annual exam one week ago. This dog went out for her final bathroom run of the day happy as a clam and was dead hours later. I realize that with older pets, bad stuff can happen very quickly, but I’m questioning whether I did everything I could have.

    As described, does this sound more stroke-like than heat-related? The lack of panting with increased respiration seems to be unusual. What could I or should I have done differently? Do you think a post-mortem exam would yield anything useful?

    Thank you in advance for your response.

  187. Susan Ryals says:

    We were coming home from a 10 day vacation, and recieved a call from the kennel where we put our 3 yo Great Dane, Vader. The kennel staff was very worried and said Vader just was limp and they wanted to take him to the vet.

    As we were boarding the plane to come home, we told him to take him. We thought heat exhaustion, since it had been so hot. Vader was very attatched to me, and whenever I would leave would mope for a couple days, so we also thought he was upset since we left him.

    We drove straight from the airport to the vet hospital, thinking we would see Vader and all would be alright. We got there and he was so unresponsive, eyes not focusing, couldn’t hold his head up, no movement of his legs or anything.

    We got him in our car, and was going to take him home to watch him and see how he would respond in the morning, as the vet was thinking vestibular ear issues but wanted us to take him to a neurologist but after seeing him I was thinking stroke.
    On the way home, he started making partial barking/whining noises. So we got him home, he was making all sorts of noises, but you could tell that his jaw and tongue just weren’t working. My husband decided to take him to the emergency care hospital, which was about 25 minutes away. On the way, he was making the same type of noises and then just stopped.
    When they got to the emergency care place, they wheeled him in and said that he had no pulse, and that they could do CPR but he had a very small (2%) chance to survive. Plus they said he would have some brain damage. We didn’t want to put him through that, so we just let him go.
    They said that they couldn’t really explain how a healthy 3 yo dog could get a stroke, and nothing else was wrong, they checked his heart with the ultrasound. We are not going to get a necropsy done. I am glad our whole family got to see him before he passsed, and I feel like he knew were were there (the vet said he wasn’t making as much noise before we got there). I know strokes are a recoverable issue, but could he have had a massive one, and that is why he went so fast? Our family is distraut over his quick passing, but glad that he didn’t seem to suffer! Thank you for any response!

  188. Doc says:

    Hello, Linda,

    Sorry to be so late in replying, but I have been out of the country for two weeks visiting my daughter. She is a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zambia, and we had not seen her for 17 months.

    This does not sound heat-related to me. I think most people would feel your response was reasonable and appropriate. It seems more likely to me that there was an age-related organic failure.

    It is frustrating to get a “good checkup” and then lose a friend in such short order. It reminds me of a friend who had a heart attack and died in the hospital parking lot after getting a “good report”.

    A complete post-mortem exam is always our best chance of finding the cause of death. Sometimes even this is not definitive, though.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  189. Doc says:

    Hello, Susan,

    Sorry to be so late in replying, but I have been out of the country for two weeks visiting my daughter. She is a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zambia, and we had not seen her for 17 months.

    These sudden losses are always devastating and hard to understand. It reminds me of a friend whose athletic, beautiful daughter was found dead in her dormitory room at college. A brain hemorrhage “out of nowhere”.

    Even with an MRI, these things can be hard to define. Without one, I don’t know how you could have narrowed it down.

    It sounds like you and everyone involved worked very hard to help Vader, but his problem was just too severe.

    Best wishes in this time of loss.

  190. Mauricio Perez says:

    Today September 6th my only 11 months old Mountain Bernese died suddenly. He was only walking and suddenly fell down and died immediately. I do not have a clue of what happened and did not authorized to open him. This is really something very strange and very very sad for our family. He was just a healthy and happy puppy.

  191. Doc says:

    Hello, Mauricio,

    I am sorry for your loss. These cases are so frustrating. Sometimes we cannot find the cause even with a complete post-mortem examination.

    Best wishes.

  192. karen town says:

    yesterday my 13 year old tibetan spaniel, didnt greet me. i heard two yowls and rushed to him in his basket. he was arching his neck and straining his body as if trying to get up. not knowing what to do, i tried to help him up, but he flopped back on to the floor. there was a small wet patch in his basket where he had urinated. he carried on straining his neck, his eyes were glassy,he was unresponsive and his bowels opened. we sat with him and about half an hour later, he tried to get up. we didnt want to restrain him and he moved across the floor using only his front legs. while he was doing this his bowels opened again. he got to the water bowl and had a long drink, we put him in his bed and he slept. a couple of hours later he was up and walking around, but one of is back legs was held up high in an unnatural position. i fed the other two dogs, but skip did not want anthing. oh during all this he was sick several times. a little later i offered him a little food, which he ate, but he was sick again. this started at 3 in the afternoon and now it was about 7pm. in the evening he saw a cat in the garden and ran after it. his leg that had been forced in such a weird position found its way to the ground and it looked like he had a new lease of life. he came to bed with us at night and scrounged at me when i was eating a biscuit. glad to see some life in him i let him have it. he was not sick during the night and if i hadnt witnessed the trauma yesterday, it like nothing ever happened. he is going to the vet on monday but reading the other posts i feel extremely lucky as all the other dogs with the same symptoms appear to have died. its like a miracle, but could you explain why the legs (back) were so affected? also could seeing the cat have produced addrenalin enough to aid recovery? i know it seems random, but i cant explain how almost dead he seemed and an almost instant recovery a few hours later. im not so stupid to presume there is not a problem somewhere, and that he will probably need medication. but if the is anything we can do to stop this happening again til we can get him to our vet. thanks

  193. vicki buttray says:

    This morning my pug Lola woke up and did her morning routine. She went outside and did her business. True to form, upon returning inside she went straight to the food dish. She ate like normal, wandered around for a couple minutes to check things out the vomited a few times and laid down on the floor. Her breathing became very labored and she continued to dry heave for about 5 minutes. When she stopped heaving, she became completely unresponsive. She was still breathing so we gathered her to rush her to the animal hospital. Sadly, she died before we got there.
    She was positive for heartworms but the vet didn’t want to treat her until October when the temperatures dropped. (I live in Texas) Since pugs are especially sensitive to the heat, he didn’t want to add any more stress to her little body. At first, I thought maybe the heartworms had gotten the best of her, but I’ve been told that she would have shown other signs and not died so suddenly. She passed approximately 1 hour after waking up.
    Do you have any insight on what may have caused this? I don’t think she could have gotten into anything poisonous and we have 2 other dogs that are perfectly fine. I appreciate any input you might have. Thanks

  194. Doc says:

    Hello, Vicki,

    It is unusual for dogs with heartworms to experience such a sudden collapse. On the other hand, they are inside the blood vessels in the lungs, and sometimes in the heart chambers themselves. It is certainly possible for them to cause an embolism (a piece of junk that clogs up a vital blood vessel).

    That would be my guess, from what you have described.

    These events are always so hard to deal with.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  195. Diana Swisshelm says:

    After reading everything here, I don’t think there is an answer to what happened to my dog. He was fine, got up off the couch, let out a scream and fell over dead. He was 7 years old with no problems. The only question I have is I had given him his heartworm, flea and tick triple medication(tri something or other)2 hours earlier. It may just be coincidence as he had it before, but it was a Sunday night and vet was closed so I couldn’t take him for a post. I want to know if these medications can cause sudden death. I got on the website and no adverse affects had been reported, but what could cause this?

  196. Doc says:

    Hello, Diana,

    As you surmised, I have no answer for you. Heart attack? Stroke? Aneurysm? Embolism?

    However, I do think that you can rest assured that the medications you administered had nothing to do with it.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  197. paul says:

    got the worst phone call on tues my parther rang me to tell me my 2yr old english springer had dead sudden it was out walking and running mad as usual fetching sticks from river then she says he never returned then my parther found him dead and says his gums where white what do you think happened could it of been a heart attack??miss him so much cant even face work at the moment!

  198. BriannaNicoleK says:

    I appreciate where this article is coming from, but dogs can have heart attacks, the vet probably isn’t “being lazy” vets dont go to school for so long and pay money to go to be lazy about animals’ health. my dog stopped eating and has been breathing heavily for the past few days so we took him to the vets. He doesnt have plaque build up but he has a tumor thats compressing his heart and esophagous, and if we dont put him down, sadly, he will have a massive heart attack. so its not impossible, and your veteranarian probably wasnt lying to you. it wasnt anything we, or the dog did. its just common with his breed(golden retriever).

  199. Doc says:

    Hello, Brianna Nicole,

    It is true that dogs can have heart attacks. I have documented it in a few patients. It is also true that it is not common, the way it is in people.

    What I object to is the casual dismissal of a patient’s demise with “he probably had a heart attack”.

    There are so many times when we cannot determine cause of death, even with a complete necropsy and full pathology workup. This frustrates the heck out of me.

    I hate to “not know” and I hate to have tell people that I don’t know. But that’s what I tell them.

    The “laziness” I object to is when we fail to talk the situation out with the client and just make something up, as though we have some psychic knowledge of the case.

    Thanks for reading and writing.

  200. Doc says:

    Hello, Paul,

    While heart attacks like people have are uncommon in dogs, then can occur. There are other heart problems that can be congenital (birth defects) that don’t cause a problem until later in life.

    Sudden death cases are very frustrating. Sometimes a complete post-mortem exam (“Autopsy” or necropsy) gives us the answer, but sometimes not.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  201. Grant says:

    My dog died while I was on mini vacation. He was being kenneled at home, and apparently within 5 hours of my roommate being at work and coming home, he had died. According to my roommate, everything seemed normal when he left. It looks like my dog may have had some sort of seizure as there was vomit, urine, and feces… He was young, only probably 3 or 4, and showed no signs of anything being wrong. He did battle anxiety quite badly, he would scare easily (sounds and such) and always barked when no one was home or even if we went outside for a few minutes and left him inside. I always felt bad leaving him, but obviously we couldn’t be there 24/7 and had tried a drug and other techniques that never worked for him. Could he have literally worried himself to death?

  202. Doc says:

    Hello, Grant,

    I do not think that your dog “worried himself to death”. That is, I think it very unlikely that he died from separation anxiety.

    Seizures are caused by something having a bad effect on the brain tissue. While a stroke would be unusual in such a young dog, they do occur in dogs (have been documented on MRIs).

    It is always so difficult to deal with these sudden-death cases. We speculate on the cause, and second-guess and what-if ourselves while we lie awake at night.

    I can speculate that he had a fatal stroke and had a seizure when he died, but it’s just speculation.

    I wish I could be more help to you, but I think the outcome would have been the same if you had been home with him. Don’t feel guilty about your outing.

    Best wishes.

  203. Liz says:

    On May 31, 2011 my 12 or 13 year old golden retriever suddenly collapsed in our backyard. We’d had her for 7 years when she died. For several weeks prior to her death she acted lethargic and one of her front legs seemed to be bothering her. She often limped on it, even though we could find no evidence of any injury to her paw. Our veterinarian believed her to have arthritis, a diagnosis we believed even though it was only one limb that seemed to be causing her pain. When she finally collapsed, she became extremely stiff and had difficulty breathing. Within fifteen minutes she was dead. Although we never had an autopsy done on her, it has been my belief that Bailey died of a heart attack or stroke.

    To be fair, I’m hardly an expert on heart disease in dogs but I’m inclined to believe that the pain in her leg may have been a blood clot.

  204. Doc says:

    Hello, Liz,

    Certainly, any of those things are possible. Golden Retrievers also have a high incidence of cancer. I lost my own to hemangiosarcoma. Tumors could certainly cause an embolus of some type to form.

    It is always to hard to lose a friend.

  205. scott says:

    I am a groomer and had a dog die on my table yesterday with absolutely no warning. She was an 8 year old sheltie who came in every 4 weeks for a groom. She was a rescue dog that they had gotten 2 years ago and prior to that she was a breeder dog in a bad situation from what we understand. Now however she seemed to be in great health. They just had bloodwork done on her last month with everything in normal ranges. When she came in yesterday, I bathed her, blow dried her and had her on the table about 90% finished. She was acting like her normal self, she would always sit there giving me her paws to “shake” and she was always so sweet and calm that I never put her on a noose. All of a sudden she started to breathe heavily and vomited. I took her off the table and put her in a kennel to clean it, turned back around from grabbing a towel and she vomited more in the kennel. I got her out of the kennel, put her on the ground to get her a bowl of water and she whined a few times and collapsed. This all happened within 2 minutes. I got her to the vet in 7 mins, and she was gone. The vet gave her a shot of epinephrine and did compressions for 20 minutes and we couldnt bring her back.The vet told me that it was nothing that I did and there was nothing I could have done to save her, she just had heart failure. I feel so guilty and I dont understand why it happened, if it was stress induced or what? She was a happy dog when she got groomed I think she just liked the brushing and attention so I just dont know. This has just been devastating for me. Can you give me any ideas?

  206. Doc says:

    Hello, Scott,

    I can appreciate your shock and frustration. These events are always very difficult for all concerned.

    It is good to know that you didn’t do anything wrong and that there was no realistic way to predict this. On the other hand, it doesn’t make any of us feel a lot better.

    Truthfully, we just don’t do echocardiograms and ECGs and full-body C-T scans on a regular basis. Really, we can’t. Nobody does, even for themselves.

    For the stress of grooming to “tip her over the edge”, she would have to have already been “leaning over the edge”.

    You certainly don’t need to feel guilty. It sounds to me like you did everything that anyone could have done.

    Best wishes.

  207. Susan says:

    My almost 6 month old Rottweiler was playing like normal yesterday morning and was standing in the kitchen behind me while I was making breakfast, he made a relatively short howl and before I could turn all the way around he was stiffing his legs, and was dead. One of the most devastating days in my life. I read that Rottweilers tend to get subvalvular aeortic stenosis and I am wondering if this is what killed him. One of the litter mates did have a heart murmur as well.

  208. Doc says:

    Hello, Susan,

    I wish that I could give you a meaningful reply.

    When we try to determine the cause of a sudden death like this, a complete post-mortem is required. In addition, the pathologist usually asks for the entire heart, along with samples of other tissues.

    Any speculation I might give you would be nothing more than speculation.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  209. Kristine Moore says:

    Yesterday my beloved little girl dog Pepper passed on unexpectedly. We took her to the Vets with what I thought was an intestinal virus as she had vomited the day before a foamy phlegm. The Vet noticed she was very tender in the upper quadrant area and asked if she had fallen. She hadn’t. I brought her home with antibiotics and by night time she could not even raise her head to eat… I took her back to the Vet’s the next morning and we had to rush her to the Vet’s Hospital . They were going to admit her for further testing overnight, about 20 minutes later I received a call she had gone into cardiac arrest and after over 45 minutes of trying they could not revive her. Two days prior to that I had her out for a walk and she was lively and playful. I couldn’t imagine the thought of cutting her open for an autopsy so we opted not to have one. Since you are not convinced about What does this sound like to you? I know it would only be an opinion or educated guess, but it is better than living with , cardiac arrest for no apparent reason. Thanks.

  210. Doc says:

    Hello, Kristine,

    Dogs rarely have coronary arteries blocked by fatty plaques (or anything else, like a blood clot). This is what we think of as a heart attack in people.

    Cardiac arrest occurs in everybody who dies.

    With the vomiting and the tender abdomen, you could have had anything from a virus to a foreign object to a tumor to pancreatitis or liver problems.

    While unusual, diseases like these can cause tissue death, and the resulting toxins can certainly affect the heart function.

    I wish I had some way to narrow this down for you, but I do not.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  211. Aaron says:

    Hi, i had a Boston Terrier for about 8 years until last night. The night before, he was completely normal. And then yesterday I let him out in the backyard, and he peed, but then laid down in this spot, and wouldn’t move. So I left so see if he’d come back in the house on his own, and after about 5 minutes he wouldn’t come, so I went out and finally he came back in the house. Shortly after, about 15 minutes, he was laid down on his side and he had pooped on himself, and my brother tried to get him to move away but he wouldn’t. He was moving his head around, and looked sad. About 2 minutes later he threw up, and still wouldn’t move. I left the room and then heard him let out a loud wail, and about 5 minutes later he died. I’m not sure why, and I wish I knew because it was random, and sudden.

  212. Doc says:

    Hello, Aaron,

    As you have probably gathered from reading the other posts in this discussion thread, we all find these sudden deaths very frustrating and sad.

    I can only say that this is unlikely to be the result of any neglect on your part.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  213. Celia says:

    My 8 years old minature poodle died suddenly. She was fine this morning happy and attentive. I let her outside for 15 minutes. I heard her barking about 2 minutes later I go outside. She is lying on the ground like she is napping. I called to her and she didn’t response. I pick her up and brought her in the house. She was still warm and nose moisted. Her eyes were half cracked and mouth open a little. She didn’t look to be in distress. She sufferd with seziure. The last one she had was a month ago. It didn’t look like she had one this time because the way she was lying on the ground. There wasn’t any saliva around her mouth.There wasn’t any feces or urine she just died. I am wondering what could of killed her. I am shocked and sadden.

  214. Doc says:

    Hello, Celia,

    If you have read many of the previous comments on this thread, you know that others have had similar experiences.

    While we greatly desire closure when something like this happens, I really don’t have any way to give you anything other than random speculation.

    The best thing I can tell you with the story you have told is that I cannot imagine how this could be linked to any lack of care.

    Something internal was weak and failed – heart, brain, stroke, aneurysm – we don’t know what.

    You gave her a good life, and you will miss her.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  215. Lee says:

    My female boxer dog, started vomiting and having diarrhea eight days ago, I took her to the vets and they put her on a drip to rehydrate her. Next day, the vet wanted to perform surgery to see if there was anything wrong, so abdominal surgery was performed and a hole in the stomach was found, and then fixed. Anyway she stayed at the vets recovering for the next four days, the vet said she was very weak and might not make it. Her breathing seemed bad, like snoring and we asked the vet, who said it was normal after an operation. Then yesterday, Monday 26th, the vet phoned and said we could take our dog back home and care for her there, and that we should feed her liquid food and water in small portions every few hours, which we did and she was taking this fine. Her breathing was bad all of yesterday and again this morning. Anyway she died 1.00pm today, I can only assume of a heart attack, caused by lack of oxygen from her breathing difficulties. I feel like the vet was too hasty letting her come home so quickly after an operation when she was obviously not in any condition to come home and still needed expert care and attention. Saying that the vets have been closed over the holidays, so they were only popping in to care for the animals a few times a day. Anyway do you think this was a heart attack due to lack of oxygen that killed my dog in the end ?

  216. Doc says:

    Hello, Lee,

    I wish that I could give you some help on this, but I really cannot. It sounds like your dog had been very seriously ill to require such a major operation.

    It is really hard to say why the poor dog deteriorated at the end.

    I know this is heartbreaking.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  217. Dayna says:

    Poki died so sudden this morning just after he stood up and greeted my mom, then he stretched himself and suddenly he seems like seizure and just collapsed down for a moment, then held up his head and shriek out bubbles and collapsed again this time not waking up. This tragedy only takes about 5 seconds. I called our vet and they say Poki might have a heart attack or stroke. I adopted Poki from the pound for a year and had know little about his past. He was eating fine and healthy all along. Vet says he is only about 5 to 6 years old. I am devastated by this sudden death. It reminds me of how fragile life can be .

  218. Viktoriya says:

    Was wondering if you could help answer something. Our 10 year old Chihuahua Paco died less than a week ago. We knew it would be coming, as he had mitral valve regurgitation and a couple of weeks ago were told he now had heart arrhythmia. Were told it was the progression of the heart disease and we knew he was towards the “end”. He had a difficult night the morning before he passed. Was breathing really fast, mouth open, but not panting. My question is this – after he passed, which was very quiet and pretty quick, he had white foam come out of his nose. Is this normal? Does it mean he was in heart failure and had fluid in the lungs? Thanks for any insight.

  219. Doc says:

    “My question is this – after he passed, which was very quiet and pretty quick, he had white foam come out of his nose. Is this normal?”

    It is not uncommon, you see it every now and then.

    “Does it mean he was in heart failure and had fluid in the lungs?”

    That seems the most likely explanation, given the medical history. I have also seen the foam when there was no history of heart problem.

    Sorry I cannot give you a definitive answer.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  220. Debbie White says:

    Oh my god.my baby died two days ago.black lab mix.he just dropped dead.i called the vet he said he died of a heart attack.1mim he was here 10mims later he was gone he was healthy.im lost with out him

  221. Doc says:

    Hello, Debbie,

    I wish that we could give simple and realistic reasons for these devastating events, but often we cannot.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  222. John says:

    My dog Rusty died this morning. My parents had been awakened by a loud thud downstairs followed by Rusty’s yelping. He had done this previously after getting paws stuck in chairs. My parents thought he had knocked a table or chair over and had gotten a paw stuck in it. They rushed downstairs and discovered him laying next to his bed, his legs stretched out all facing one direction but not stiff. He was breathing heavily and had emptied his bowels. In less than five minutes his eyes had glazed over and he had died. His mouth opened, his lips became limp, and his tongue fell out of his mouth and rested against the floor. His eyes did not shut on their own. Around ten seconds after he died, his head snapped upward twice and his mouth snapped at the air. I believe this was the last of the energy stored in his body giving up through his nerves. I have questions I would greatly appreciate answered to the best of your knowledge, and I would be extremely pleased with any and all information that can be provided regarding his death. He had been drinking alot of water in the week leading up to his death, so much to the point that he had began urinating in the house. As a result, my father began limiting his daily water intake, as he was drinking much more than usual. My father is now questioning this action, and I would like to know if this could have possibly contributed to his death. My father also believes that he should have given Rusty a nitroglycerin tablet, as this may have been enough to counter-act the apparent heart attack. I believe that this would not have worked, as the dose was meant for a human and would have had too great of an effect on a canine. This action would also have resulted in my father believing that the tablet killed Rusty, which would have made his death even harder on our family. Furthermore, I believe that Rusty may have been dead even before my parents arrived downstairs. I find it probable that the yelping was not a result of any pain he was feeling, but simply an expression of the energy left in his body acting out through his nerves in a similar fashion to the energy that moved his head. Is it possible that he had died before even hitting the ground? Again, any and all responses you may have to this situation would be appreciated so much, and I thank you for your time and effort in reading this. Thank you.

  223. gail says:

    i lost my toy poodle yesterday and am devastated…i came home late to find her curled on the bed and i thought she was asleep….i went to hug her and found her cold. she was only 1 year old. she had vaccinations, heartguard and everything and a few hours earlier was the picture of health..there was no vomit or foaming at mouth or urine or faeces….she seemed very peaceful….i am so confused…she did have a very fast heart rate and was extremely excitable but a check up a month earlier said she was in best condition….her tongue was in her mouth not hanging out and her jaw closed tight…could she have just passed in her sleep….i pray so as i cant stop crying at the thought i was not with her and that she may have been in pain…..if she had choked would there have been a sign in her death state???i dont know if its something i left out and she choked on…..please help me find an answer….i am missing my Louie so much i cant get out of bed or leave the house….

  224. Doc says:

    Hello, Gail,

    In situations like this I suspect a birth defect of the cardiomyopathy type. This means that something has been wrong with the heart muscle since birth. There are usually no warning signs of any kind.

    A pathologist’s examination of the heart muscle under the microscope is the only way to confirm this.

    I really doubt that she choked on something and then just died in her bed.

    You should not feel guilty about this. You have done your best.

    Best wishes.

  225. gail says:

    Thank you Doc, this gives me some semblance of rest….and that there would have been nothing i could do…thank you for your kind words and god bless.

  226. Doc says:

    Hello, John,

    I wrote a reply, but it evidently did not “stick”.

    Nitroglycerine is a vasodilator. It opens the blood vessels. When the coronary arteries (the blood vessels that actually give nourishment to the heart muscle) aren’t letting enough blood through, you get chest pain – angina pectoris. The nitro opens those vessels and gives the heart muscle better circulation. It also opens other vessels, giving the heart less resistance to pump against.

    Given your description, I do think it likely that the dog was beyond help when they found it. The nitro would neither have helped nor harmed.

    The so-called “agonal cry” is a common feature of a dying animal, no matter what the cause. I do not think it necessarily represents pain.

    Excessive water drinking is usually the result of excessive water loss through excessive urination. This occurs with diabetes, kidney disease, adrenal gland problems and some others.

    Restricting access to water can put these dogs into a crisis. However, there would have to be a pre-existing problem. Without a lot more data (lab work, post-mortem, etc.) I certainly would not lay the blame for the dog’s death on the restricted water intake.

    This is a real problem, though. When we have the occasion to do a water deprivation test (can the dog concentrate his urine or can’t he?) in the hospital, we have to monitor them very closely. You can certainly make them sick. A patient with poor kidney function who become deprived of water will deteriorate quickly.

    I am sorry for your loss, and that I cannot give you a definite answer.

  227. Vee says:

    After reading the posts on this page, I feel so much better. I know now that there are so many people out there that are lost in grieving for their beloved pets. I lost my beautiful dog Cookie one week ago and I haven’t stopped crying since. He was amazing. But all dogs are amazing. I wish you all that your hearts will heal quickly and the pain will lessen with time. Dogs are God’s gift to us and I am so thankful to have had 12 wonderful years with Cookie. May he and all our pooches rest in peace.

  228. alyce says:

    We recently lost our 4 year old staghound x greyhound quiet suddenly. I had fed him at 6.30pm the night before and he seemed normal and checked on him again at 10pm and he was fine. The next morning when I got up to feed our 3 dogs he was missing which was unusual as it was raining heavily and he hated even getting his feet wet. I searched for him everywhere on our 5 acres and could not find him and knew instantly something was wrong. Finally at around 9am I checked and he was back in his bed he was breathing very heavily, had white foam all around his mouth which remained open, there was a small patch of vomit next to him but was just foam and he stared at the wall with glazed eyes did not respond to me at all. He was completely dry though apart from his legs which meant he hadn’t been out running because the rain was very heavy. I got him straight to the vet thinking it was a snake bite but he did not have one single mark on him and the vet seemed to dismiss this idea. The first thing the vet said when he seen him (and I can’t remember the word he used) was that the way his eyes were moving up and down that he had an onset of brain damage. We got him inside and the vet checked him over but could not come to any conclusion apart from seeing this in other deep chested dogs. He said that his body temperature was sub zero and that his body was in shock and shutting down. He eventualy said he couldn’t do much more then give him some antibiotics etc and see how he goes for 24 hours or put him to sleep. As my husband was away, I called him and asked what he wanted to do but he wanted to give him 24 hours as we could not bare to not try and regret this last chance. He went downhill quickly once we got him home. He could not close his eyes so we did this for him to keep them from getting dry, he kept shifting from the bed we made him but could not stand up and could only sit up for a few seconds at a time before falling back down. His lip on the right hand side of his face was drooping and he drooled alot from this side, it basicly poured out. His eyes were glassy and even though he was still alive I could tell there was nothing left. His breathing was very laboured, he seemed ok at breathing out but struggled to get a breath in. For a few hours on returning home he would swallow small amounts of water that we would drip into his mouth and try and drink from his bowl when we put it under his mouth when he sat up he stopped attempting to swallow around 3 hours before his passing. He tried standing twice but shook terribly and then fell down. He did start making a raspy sound when breathing and that lasted a few hours. He did not seem responsive to anything we did. Later that night he had what seemed like a fit when his muscles would all contract and get tight and he would make a strange grunting sound this happened probably half a dozen times and had a few smaller ones. My husband said that his skin felt very tight like rigamortis was already setting in but felt like this quiet early in the day also probably 4 hours after finding him. He went to pass probably 3 times and would stop breathing but then gain a breathe. He could not seem to breathe if he was standing or sitting up and would just continuously try to get air in but could only breathe out. Eventually after a long fight he passed away and I worked out he had basicly lasted exactly 12 hours from the time I found him til the time he passed away. We are both shocked as he is such a healthy loving dog and it happened so quickly. We found the next day that he had been laying under a tree when missing and kept dry and we found around 4 puddles of foam spew from where he had been making it back to his bed. The foam spew I found beside him had a slight yellow colour in it. I spoke to the vet yesterday (2 days later) and he told me he had been speaking to a vet friend and breeder of these dogs and they both thought it was a heart attack. What do you think. He was a very active, healthy dog but liked to comfortable in his bed most days and would take coaching to get him out but then he would run around like crazy ones he was up and more awake. He never had any health problems and was only 4 years old but apparently these breed of dogs aren’t uncommon to heart problems. Would love a response even just to provide some advice as I cannot keep thinking about it and what could damage such a healthy dog like him. If anyone else has heard of anything similar please email me at ajordan@live.com.au do these sound like symptoms of a heart attack or stroke?

  229. alyce says:

    Also he kept dry reaching and going to vomit but nothing came out he did this once or twice every few hours but did not bring anything up and I’m certain he did not urinate at all from the moment I found him until he passed away. I thought he had wet himself in the car but I think it was just from his drool

  230. Doc says:

    Hello, Alyce,

    Since you veterinarian felt that there were neurological signs, a stroke is certainly possible.

    There are a lot of things like this that you cannot accurately diagnose without being at a referral institution ( a veterinary teaching hospital) where they can do an MRI or other more sophisticated diagnostic testing.

    If he could not have been traumatized (hit by a car, for instance), and there was no exposure to toxic substances (weed killers, insect poisons, rat poisons, cleansers, etc.) then it is very difficult to pin down the source of the brain difficulty.

    Strokes can occur out of the blue. Meningitis or encephalitis are uncommon, but can strike quite rapidly. They are difficult to diagnose without a spinal tap and a good clinical pathologist to interpret it. Again, this is something that the average veterinarian is unlikely to be able to do.

    With the very sudden onset and rapid deterioration of your dog, I have to feel that it is unlikely he would have survived, even if you had taken him to a veterinary college and spent thousands of dollars.

    I am sorry for your loss, and sorry that I cannot add much light.

  231. Jen says:

    My papillion died today. She lost quite a bit of hair, had labored breathing, wouldn’t move. She got cold, and died within 15 min. We live out in the country (about an hour from town) so she died before we could get her to the vet. Right after she died foam and a little blood come out of her eyes. What could that be?

  232. Doc says:

    Hello, Jen,

    The labored breathing could certainly go along with the foam and blood. The tear ducts connect with the nose and throat. If there were hemorrhage or fluid in the lungs and windpipe, then you could see foam in the nose, mouth and eyes.

    That would, however, be more unusual to see it in the eyes, versus the mouth and nose.

    I wish that I could give you more closure on this. Sometimes we have a difficult time, even with a complete post-mortem exam (autopsy).

    I am sorry for your loss.

  233. Nancy Thompson says:

    Hi. We have a 14 year old mini schnauzer. Yesterday when she came back from her walk with my daughter, she literally fell over sideways in the doorway. Her muscles stiffened, and I thought she was dying although she was still breathing. She was unconscious and inert. No foam at the mouth, no loss of bowel or bladder control, no convulsive spasms like in a seizure. After several minutes of being out of it, she struggled back up and now seems fine although a little subdued (eating and drinking normally). We know it wasn’t poison. We’re awaiting results from a blood panel, but her blood panel last Sept. was normal. She has a grade 3 heart murmur, but her doctor doesn’t hear any sinus arrhythmia. Her doc doesn’t think it was a seizure. She hadn’t been stressed by the walk (no hills, no big stairs, no running). What’s a reasonable way to proceed with a geriatric dog? Thanks, Nancy

  234. Nancy Thompson says:

    Update on Sally the schnauzer: we got the blood panel back, and almost everything is within normal ranges. Nothing to indicate kidney or liver disease. However, her triglycerides were over 1400. It wasn’t a fasting blood test, and she had eaten 2 hrs before the test, but she eats low fat senior food and no table scraps except for occasional plain white rice. We’re not sure whether to wait and see or go the cardiology route…

  235. Doc says:

    Hello, Nancy,

    Sorry to be late in replying, but I’ve been out of town and trying to catch up.

    I have had one Schnauzer patient who suffered seizures due to high triglycerides. The condition of having really high fat levels in the blood is called “hyperlipidemia”.

    Here is a comment from one of the neurologists on Veterinary Information Network concerning a similar case:

    “It is possible if the triglycerides are really really high….my experience has been in cases over 1500 and most over 2000. But theoretically any case with values over 800 (assuming normals are under 300-400) could be at risk. But then again there’s lots of lipemic Schnauzers and other breeds that don’t seize and since this is an older dog, brain neoplasia is just as high (maybe even higher?) on my list as a potential cause of the activity. And keep in mind also insulinoma with hypoglycemic induced weakness/seizures.”

    Really, in a situation like this, you start by ruling things out. With her age, and heart murmur, she could also be having episodes of temporary irregular heart rhythms that could cause her to pass out.

    An electrocardiogram and echocardiogram (ultrasound) are non-invasive and pretty non-stressful. They are also relatively inexpensive compared to an MRI, which is what you would need to rule out a brain tumor.

    I’d keep the high triglycerides in mind, but I believe that your veterinarian is probably on the right track in working on ruling out one thing at a time.

    Good luck.

  236. Diane says:

    Last night my westie went out to use the bathroom before bed abd shortly after coming back in she atarted vomiting foamy slimey throwup. Then she had diahrea. This went on for over an hour so we put her in the bathroom to sleep thinking she just got hold of a frog, which she has before. I checked on her at 1:30 and she was stretched out on the cool tile floor, breathing, so I left her thinking she was asleep. the next morning my husband came to me and said.”she died” She was abouot to be 14 yrs old but was very healthy and active with our 6 yr. old westie. That day and night she showed no signs of a problem. She ate well and even had a anack. I am concerned about what killed her. Thanks, Diane

  237. Doc says:

    Hello, Diane,

    With the information that you had, I think that most people would have done exactly as you did.

    I wish that I could narrow this down for you, but I think of anything from eating something toxic to a weird form of stroke. Even with a post-mortem, it might have been difficult to say.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  238. Diane says:

    Two nights ago I let my 14 yr old Westie out to use the bathroom before bed. About 10 minutes after she came back in she started throwing up brown mucus like stuff and having bowels movements that looked the same. This went on for about an hour then she relaxed and I thought she was sleeping. The next morning my husband found her dead. She was such a healthy dog, more playful than our 6 yr old Westie. She was fine that day. Ate both her meals and had a snack. Was jumping up on the sofa before she went out to bathroom. I cannot afford an autospy, but would like to know if these symptoms indicate anything. This is really bothering me, because of the other Westie I have.

  239. Doc says:

    Hello, Diane,

    The only thing that occurs to me is the possibility of some type of intestinal blockage with internal bleeding. This would be the type of thing that would occur with a tumor most likely.

    This is just speculation, of course.

    I sincerely doubt from your description that this is something likely to affect your other dog.

  240. Jan McClintock says:

    My 7 year old Siberian Husky had her vet check up yesterday mornning. She was given her dpt vaccine and blood was drawn to check her blood chemistry. When we got home,I gave her a Trifexis heartworm/flea pill inside her usual peanut butter sandwich. This was a new drug as Sentinel has become hard to get. We then went for a 30 minute walk. I left her on the screened in back porch with her doggie treat. When I returned 2 hours later, she was in her usual sleeping position but had died. Other than her tongue hanging out, she looked peaceful. The vet said she died quickly and showed no signs of a struggle. She did a necropsy and heart, lungs, kidneys looked good. The blood chemistry was normal. What happened? She was so healthy. Was it the new pill? A reaction with her vaccine? Did we overexercise her? She had only one walk a day throughtout the winter.This past week with the warmer weather she had several walks a day and my husband also ran her a few times beside his bike. She seemed to wear out within a block so he backed off riding with her. Too much exercise too soon?

  241. Doc says:

    Hello, Jan,

    Sometimes even microscopic examination of the tissues fails to yield an answer for us.

    The drugs in Trifexis are a combination of milbemycin (same as in Interceptor and Sentinel) and spinosad (same as Comfortis). Milbemycin has caused no problems for your dog in the past.

    The spinosad usually has no visible side effects, other than the occasional dog that vomits it. I have had one patient whom the owners described as “having the shakes for a couple of days” after each pill. I assume these were mild muscle tremors, “mild” because the owners didn’t bother to tell me about them for six months.

    I think it is unlikely that this was a drug reaction, though some type of one-of-a-kind reaction is possible.

    I wish that I were able to give you some closure here, but I cannot.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  242. morgana te pauae says:

    Hello I lost my beautiful girl just a few days ago. She was a Rhodesian Ridgeback x Mastiff, 13 years old and approximately 58kg. I didn’t have the heart to send her off to investigate the cause of death but I am curious still.

    She was on my bed and let out a deep cry, I thought she had a leg cramp as she stretched out one leg kind of arching (I hope that makes sense) I massaged her leg she looked at me and then she was gone, I think it took about 30-40 seconds.

    I understand that its rare for dogs to have a heart attack (as we perceive a human heart attack) but I need to try to understand the nature of such a catastrophic event that could kill her so quickly. She had her vet checks just recently and all her blood and urine test came back normal, generally she was a healthy girl for her age, a little arthritic and a few benign lumps but healthy.

    The only clue I can give is that approximately 8 hours after death blood began to discharge from her nose although her mouth was also bloody. A little like a foam/froth that bubbled out but then it settled into an slow weep. 18 hours after death the blood was dark and clotted. Although there were pools of blood there was enough to soak through 2 thick quilts and into the mattress.

    Could this be an indication of aneurysm? What could have killed her so quickly? I know that I will never get the exact answer but I am hoping that someone could at least give me an idea of the physiological processes that might be linked to the bleeding. Could it also be just a natural process?

    Thank you for your time.

  243. Doc says:

    Hello, Morgana,

    Foam or fluid coming from the nose and mouth some hours after death would not be considered unusual.

    Large quantities of blood would certainly be considered unusual. At that point, it could be coming either from the lungs or the stomach.

    It does sound as though a blood vessel had ruptured, causing internal bleeding. This then led to collapse of the circulatory system (the blood vessels, and then the heart), which caused unconsciousness and then death.

    An aneurysm is a plausible explanation. Most people are unaware that they have an aneurysm until it is found with other imaging studies, or at autopsy.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  244. Ruth Dunbar says:

    I’m hoping you might be able to give some explanation to my friends dog dying. Trina was a 16 year old Bijon, we were at our cottage, it was very hot outside up to 28C.
    Nothing unusual, the owner of Trina carried her down to the lake, and set her in the water. As he was gently setting her into the water, she slipped out of his arms. Of course her got ahold of her right away out of the water, she started convulsing and died shortly thereafter. Of course the owner feels horrible and I’m wondering if the cold water would have triggered a heart attack?
    Trina was so close to her owners and this sudden death is devastating…Thanks for your time.

  245. Doc says:

    Hello, Ruth,

    I wish that I could give you a real explanation here, but I cannot. I would have to say that if a quick dip into cold water put her over the edge, she wasn’t very far from the edge.

    When a pet lives to be 16 years old, we think, “Why not 17?” Still, this is quite a long life.

    Knowing that a friend enjoyed a long life right up until the very end is a great thing, but not much consolation in one’s time of loss.

    Your friend must have been doing a lot of things right for his dog to enjoy a long and happy life.

    I doubt that her death is due to something that he did wrong.

  246. Shirley Fischer says:

    Our 13 1/2 yr. old Sheltie died 3 days ago very suddenly. She seemed completely normal earlier, but we found her dead and still warm. The only problem she had so far as I know was some arthritis. We, of course miss her terribly. But the thing that haunts me most is she was lying very near to where I had earlier backed my car out of garage, and I can’t help but feel maybe I did it. She had no marks at all, her mouth was closed and eys open, and no bleeding from anyplace. Is this possible if I had backed over her?

  247. Doc says:

    Hello, Shirley,

    I really feel you would have noticed it if you had backed over her. While there are often no visible outer marks with an auto accident, if you had mashed her body there would have been blood from the mouth, or wastes evacuated from her rear, or both.

    I think it was just her time. I know you will miss her, but I don’t think that you should compound your sorrow by blaming yourself.

    Best wishes.

  248. Janet Facette says:

    Molly died at 12pm on Wednesday evening, she had been fine all-day been out as usual had her tea sat on the couch with me for cuddles. At 1.45 she came up to bed with my husband as usual, lay down and gave out two horrible cries,I dived out of bed to find her unconscious, her breathing was laboured, within 15 minutes she had dies age nearly 11 years old. Within 15 minutes she had dies age nearly 11 years old. why

  249. Doc says:

    Hello, Janet,

    I wish that I could answer your question. Your pain is obvious. It could be anything from the very rare actual heart attack to the rupture of an aneurysm. Without a post-mortem there is no way to tell.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  250. mike says:

    Please help. Yesterday after washing and towel drying my 11 yo Akita mix she immediately became very lethargic and and vomited a small amount of soapy looking foam and also a little bit of bile. i had her lay down inside and she got up and moved from room to room with me and then she laid down and made a terrible painful sounding cry and then died. this all happened within 2 hours of her bath. Earlier that day she was fine-her happy over active self and everything was normal. i used baby shampoo on her because i was out of dog shampoo. i didn’t get any in her mouth. why did she die?? this is such a sad and difficult time for me. She was very healthy and loved to run and play.
    thank you.

  251. Doc says:

    Hello, Mike,

    Sorry to be so late in replying, but I’ve been out of email range since July 5.

    First of all, the bath and shampoo and so forth could not have been a factor. Don’t waste any time beating yourself up over that.

    Eleven years old is a lot older for a big dog like that than for a little one. Things wear out. You can have a blood clot, an aneurysm rupture, a stroke, even (though rare) a heart attack.

    We are never ready to give up a friend, but it was just her time, not something you did or didn’t do.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  252. Dianne Sealander says:

    I lost my 14 year old toy poodle yesterday. She was very healthy, had all her shots and teeth cleaned annually. Her blood work came back great last year. Yesterday morning she came to me standing with her neck stretched out in a stiff position with her nose pointing upward. I knew something was wrong and immediately called the vet and told them I thought she was dying. I had seen the stretched out neck position in my other poodle, I lost two years ago. Crystal started bleeding from the mouth and then went limp. My husband told me she was gone. We put a towel on the ground to wrap her up and she had three seizures and then began breathing again. After several minutes, she stopped breathing again; then more blood came out of her mouth, three more seizures, and then started breathing again. This went on for about 2-3 rounds. She had no movement in her eyes and her tongue was hanging out of her mouth. She then lifted her head, blinked and got up on her front two legs; then she went down again. We had a couple of rounds like that. After 90 minutes of on again off again breathing, seizures, and blood, she passed away. She just didn’t want to leave us. Even at 14 years old, she still acted just like a little puppy, with so much energy. I don’t understand where all the blood in her mouth was coming from. Could it have possibly been an aneurysm? She did have a little cough which sounded like she had a fur ball. I had two appointments with vets for that day, but she passed just before we could get her there. It was absolutely heart-breakening to watch something so special to pass away.

  253. Doc says:

    Hello, Dianne,

    I would be very suspicious of an aneurysm in the lungs. She would have basically been choking on her own blood. The seizures could have come from a stroke associated with the event, or poor circulation to the brain.

    This is the sort of thing that we are very limited in our ability to diagnose and treat. With people they sometimes do ultrasound screening, but this can only detect an aneurysm that is pretty huge, like one on the aorta.

    In the lungs, it wouldn’t have to be very big to be fatal.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  254. barbara v says:

    My amazing Jack was 13 and diagnosed a month ago with conjestive heart disease. Vet gave us all medication and we did everything for a month to try to improve his condition and quality of life. We ‘ve had 10 dogs all loved and missed but this boy was beyond special. I took him monday for a recheck and the xray showed about a 20% change for the better. Heart was smaller and the his lungs were clearer. I felt optomistic that we would have him with us for a while. Yesterday he woke very weak. His back legs were not steady and I was concerned about joint pain ( age related) . I called vet and they said they would give me something to help, like a glucosamine product. I had to do my errand running , kissed him and did my thing. When I arrived home a few hours later he was on his side near the water bowl. His beautiful body was warm, he had voided and there was a large amount of foam around his mouth. My boy was gone and I wasnt there for him. I’ve lost many dogs but never saw the foam around their mouth. Was he trying to breath, could I have helped save him if I was home? I cant stop feeling that I might have saved him. My heart hurts so much and the guilt of not being here is tearing me up. Can you please share your thoughts with me.

  255. Doc says:

    Hello, Barbara,

    Congestive heart failure is a disease that progresses. We can often slow the progress and help the dog compensate for the poor heart function, but it is not something that heals up and gets back to normal.

    It is more common for the patient to lose ground gradually, but sometimes they are so close to the edge that they have what appears to be a sudden problem. They have been compensating for a failing heart, and one day they can’t compensate with either their body mechanisms, or the help of the medicines.

    I sincerely doubt that there would have been anything you could have done to change things, even if you had been by his side.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  256. Jacob says:

    I was walking my 120lb 7 year old German Shepard yesterday and just a couple of blocks away from my house he died. Happy go lucky to dead in one second. I tried CPR for 10 min but it was apparent it was not working. That dog loved me more then anything. He waited by the front door everyday for me till I got home from work. He was more then just a family member. He was my best friend. I haven’t cried in 10 years and now I can’t stop.

    Sorry to you all


  257. Doc says:

    Hello, Jacob,

    I would be very suspicious that your dog suffered from cardiomyopathy. This is a genetic defect in the heart muscle. There are often no warning signs, just sudden death. It just quits working and down they go.

    It has been a “time bomb” since puppyhood. It is very unlikely that anything would have shown up on any kind of testing.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  258. Doreen S Gluck says:

    My Golden Retriever died to day. everthing was the same as all the 6 years that we had him. He had the best vet care . And he just layed down and died to day.We call the vet and she took blood and we have to wait to see what that shows. What happen?

  259. Doc says:

    Hello, Doreen,

    I hope that your veterinarian will be able to shed some light on what happened. Even with a complete post-mortem examination (autopsy) we sometimes cannot understand what happened.

    There some dogs with cardiomyopathy who are born with a defect in their heart. They seem fine for a long time, then suddenly it quits working.

    I wish that I could give you an answer that would help. I am certain that there was nothing that you did or didn’t do, or should have done, that caused this.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  260. Vanessa Faran says:

    Please please I need help I myself am very sick awaiting a kidney transplant and my best friend of 10 years just passed before my very eyes . My Dalmatian did have hyperthyroidism , but what happened was unbelievable all the sudden my Sam let out a screaming howel I could tell he was in pain so I ran to him then he started to shake vigorously howelled again and he was gone please help me know what happened

  261. Kathryn Herbst says:

    Please help give me some closure. My 12-1/2 yr old sturdy healthy female spayed chihuhua mix’s only ailment in life was quickly detected lyme disease when she was 2.
    On 8/12, she ate her dinner and within 5 minutes keeled over on her side, her legs out stiff, her eyes shut. I picked her limp body up and brought it inside. Pee and firm stools came right out of her. I laid her down and thought hey, she might have choked on her dinner. I stuck my finger down her throat in sheer desperation and her little eyes slowly opened up and she was actually better and breathing. I still rushed her to the hospital. An EKG and chest xray showed NOTHING.
    The vet asked if she had any other symptoms and I said none whatsoever. He said he was going to order a blood test, but since she appeared fine, he wouldn’t and we should chalk it up as a “mystery.” I didn’t press the issue. I watched her like a hawk after that and she was PERFECTLY FINE – eating, playing, long walks, yapping, the usual. Then, 8 days later she had the exact same attack. I sped to the vet 10 minutes away, but 20 yards before bringing her into the emergency vet’s office, she breathed out 3 heavy breaths and stopped breathing. Attempts by them to get her breathing failed. I feel like the first attack was a warning that I ignored. I should have realized that she needed testing done after the 1st warning attack to see what was going on, but my other dog is undergoing chemo and I have a huge bill from that and let that influence my decision. I am devastated because I may have been able to save her. So many of the others who write to you didn’t get the first warning attack like I did. 🙁

  262. Doc says:

    Hello, Kathryn,

    What you describe on 8/12 sounds like a seizure episode.

    Seizures can occur as a result of biochemical abnormalities, like liver problems or blood sugar problems. Those would be unlikely to appear healthy for days, then have a second seizure and die.

    Idiopathic seizures (also called epilepsy) are seizures that occur for no apparent particular reason, and usually begin quite early in the animal’s life. While they respond to medical treatment, we don’t really understand what is causing them, as all tests look normal: MRI, C-T scans, EEG, you name it. We also don’t really understand how the anti-seizure medicines work. We know how to use them, but not really what they are doing.

    In the case of an elderly dog (I know she looked great for 12 &1/2, but that’s still old) who begins having seizures, the top of the list is a brain tumor. A stroke-like event is another possibility. I would also consider an aneurysm (a weakness in an artery that causes it to balloon out, like a “bubble” on a tire).

    While a tumor might have been seen on an MRI, it certainly would not have shown up on a blood test.

    I really think that a brain tumor is the top of the list in considering the cause of your dog’s death. Chances of detecting it and successfully removing it would have been very small, even if you had unlimited resources at your disposal and had gone straight to a university teaching hospital.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  263. Doc says:

    Hello, Vanessa,

    I continue to be surprised by the number of stories like yours: dogs where there is no apparent reason for their sudden demise. In addition to the pain of loss, we also suffer the shock: no expectation, no preparation, no explanation.

    If you have read some of the other posts, you know that even with a complete post-mortem examination we sometimes have difficulty pinpointing the cause of death.

    While true heart-attacks like people have are rare, so are the other things that we think of in this context: strokes, ruptured aneurysms, internal hemorrhages, and so forth.

    I wish that I could tell you what happened. The only thing I can say with confidence is that I am sure this did not happen because of something you did or didn’t do.

    I know you will miss your friend, and I am sorry for your loss.

  264. Kathryn Herbst says:

    Doc, You are a Godsend.
    Thank you for giving me some plausible reasons as to the cause of death of my Rosy in your plain clothes language that we can all understand. You gave me closure when no one else could.
    Thanks for doing what you do – you are a very special human being! Kate Herbst

  265. Frank Caputo says:

    Hello, I’ve read through many of the posts and a lot of them sound like what happened to my son’s German Shephard, Laux. He passed away on August 22, 2012 and would have been 10 years old in October. He was a healthy playful dog who loved to be around people and was full of mischief. Aound 1:30 in the afternoon my son called me and said he needed to take him to the vet right away, he was just laying under the kitchen table and wouldn’t eat. I called the vet and got an appointment for 3:45. Shortly after 2 my son called me back and said he couldn’t get him up, I said I would be right down and we would wrap him in a blanket and put him in the back of my SUV and bring him to the vets. By the time I got there around 2:30 he had passed away. This was very hard to except as he had no signs of being sick before hand and had been out playing in the back yard with my sons other dog a Golden Retriver just an hour or so before this happened. I know you can’t give me an answer as to what happened, I did suspect a stroke or heart attack but in reading your responses I’m not sure. We took him to the vets for cremation and are waiting for his ashes to be returned. My son took his loss very hard as did I. There was just no time to prepare for it.

  266. Doc says:

    Thanks for sharing your story. It is certainly a shock when a pet dies suddenly. On the other hand, I’m not sure how much easier it is when we know it’s coming, especially if we have to make “the decision”.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  267. Jennifer E says:

    Hi…I don’t know if you could give me any answers…but I’m hoping. On Sunday April 29th, 2012 our 6 y/o Great Dane bloated with torsion. He had emergency surgery and lost his spleen but we caught it almost immediately and he recovered. We’ve always had issues with keeping weight on him he’d go on hunger strikes. He looked like one of those dogs on the ASPCA commercials. Ran all kinds of tests everything always came back normal. He was 95 lbs before his surgery. After his surgery he thrived. He gained 20-30 lbs within a couple of months and finally looked and acted like a healthy dog. Yesterday (9-9-12) was like any other day. He was happy, playful, he ate. We let him and his brother out they came back in and Thor was breathing heavy then started to kind of retch this was @ 8pm. Even though his abdomin wasn’t distended I thought maybe he bloated again (he was pexied the last time so I didn’t worry about torsion). We loaded him into the car, he was able to get in on his own. And literally within the 10 minutes it took us to drive him to the e-vet he was dead before we pulled in the parking lot by 8:15. The e-vet said it was probably pulmonary and/or respiratory failure. But we’d have to send him to Cornell University (3 hours away) for a necropsy to try to confirm. Which I can’t bring myself to do. He was never diagnosed with a heart murmur or enlarged heart. How could this have happened? What happened? What could we have done to have saved him?

  268. Doc says:

    Hello, Jennifer,

    Pulmonary refers to the lungs, and so does respiratory, so it’s possible that in the emotion of the moment you guys did not fully communicate.

    Without the necropsy, I fear we’ll never know exactly what happened. I would think that if your dog had a congenital cardiomyopathy (heart muscle defect), he wouldn’t have done so well with his previous surgery.

    I cannot give you any meaningful answer as to how this happened.

    I can say confidently that if your friend died in such a short time, it is unlikely that he would have had a better outcome if it had happened right in front of the doctor. There was some type of major organ failure.

    Unless you routinely had a full-body C-T scan and MRI (and nobody does), you just can’t predict these things.

    This certainly wasn’t something you did or didn’t do.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  269. kevin carroll says:

    my cockerspaniel was diagnosed with cushions disease last night he suddenly passed away i dont know if it was from the cushions or somthing else he just suddenly started panting hard his nose lips got cold his tongue turned white he still looked at you while talking to him but he finally passed away could this be from the cushions or could it have been somthing else it was a sad night such a bad feeling not bieng able to do anything for him he was truly my best friend and im going to miss him i just felt so helpless any ideas of what may have happened might help ease my pain

  270. Doc says:

    Hello, Kevin,

    Cushing’s disease refers to the adrenal glands over-producing cortisol, the body’s natural form of cortisone. It would be very unlikely for this to cause sudden death. Even when it goes on for long periods of time, the outward signs are things like thinning of the hair coat, and excessive urination and water drinking. More severe effects do not generally show up until the dog has had the problem for years.

    The tongue turning white suggests very poor circulation, which could be a failing heart, or it could be internal bleeding (no blood in the vessels, so the tongue turns pale instead of pink). You have to have the equivalent of 50% blood loss to start turning pale.

    A ruptured aneurysm (weak blood vessel) or a bleeding tumor in the spleen can present like this.

    I certainly do not think that it was anything that you did or failed to do.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  271. Alex says:

    I need help to figure out why my 9 year old German Shepherd died. I found two small puddles of throw up which looked foamy and clear bile. And found his body in our house crawl space. He was fine and never noticed any health issues. Just three to four hours before I found him dead my son saw him and he looked perfectly fine. Was he poisoned? Did he have a heart attack? Not knowing is killing me. Please help ….

  272. Doc says:

    Hello, Alex,

    I wish that I could give you some closure here, but I don’t know how.

    Poisoning seems unlikely. Insecticides and rodenticides are the most common poisons available. Some rat poisons are very slow-acting, causing the patient to be a free bleeder. Others act on the nervous system, as do the insecticides. These would usually produce convulsions before death. It certainly doesn’t sound like you have evidence that there was any struggle.

    The little spots of vomit don’t really indicate anything specific.

    This could have been anything from a ruptured aneurysm (weak blood vessel), to a stroke, to a heart attack.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  273. Singh says:

    Hi my 1.5yr old rott died last night. He was healthy and cheerful, he played around and as he stayed most of the time outdoors he was outside in porch and next morning when we saw him he had white foam in his mouth and was dead. Can you tell me what the reason could be, as I am very worried as this has happened to one of my rott earlier also like 2 years back the exact same thing. Is there a possibility of some one poisoning my dogs, as both of them were healthy as fit and cheerful.

  274. Doc says:

    Hello, Singh,

    We don’t have anything specific to go on here. With the young age of the dog, congenital cardiomyopathy would be possible. This means a defect in the heart muscle. These can have no outward symptoms at all until the day that the heart just fails.

    I share your concern about poisoning with the loss of two young dogs. A post-mortem exam (“autopsy”) is always recommended in a case of sudden death. Sometimes there is nothing to be seen, but sometimes there are obvious unusual stomach contents.

    Microscopic examination of the heart muscle by a pathologist would be necessary to confirm the cardiomyopathy.

    Testing for poisons can be extremely sensitive, but also extremely expensive. We are so used to hearing the detective on a TV show ask for the “tox screen”, but the laboratory examining your dog’s blood or tissues needs a clue as to what to look for. Given a substance to look for, they can say yes or no. To ask them to check for “poison” is like asking someone to check for “groceries” in a market. What kind?

    I am sorry for your loss.

  275. Dave B says:

    My 4 year old male beagle mix died suddenly yesterday. He had juvenile renal disease which was found in a routine blood test when he was a few months old. We put him on special diet and things were ok until Feb ’12. He started throwing up and had no energy and wouldn’t eat. We took him in and his counts were getting real bad and he was a low pack blood count. Took him to the vet hospital and they did the fluids flush and a blood transfusion. He was real sick for 4-5 days afterwards. After some research, I had my vet put him on Mirtazapin. That did the trick for curbing his throwing up and he regained a pretty normal appetite. I also had him get two courses of erythropoietin over the summer months. He did pretty well with mostly good days and some bad. Then in the recent 2 months, he started having seizures. Turns out that those were at least partially caused by calcium deficiency. Over a period of couple weeks he got IVs with calcium at the vet hospital. They prescribed Calcitriol. Also at the start of the seizures he developed vestibular disease and his balance was off, head tilted, walked like a drunk John Wayne. He still had seizures especially when he didn’t eat as he had good and bad days. I also had been giving him subcutaneous fluids daily for the past 2 weeks. Yesterday he came in from being outside and ran into the living room and began to seize up. then he ran like 2 steps forward and his mouth opened all the way, and he looked like he was struck by a bolt of electricity and his whole body went stiff and he fell over dead with foam coming out of his mouth. He did not breath nor did his eyes respond. He was dead when he hit floor. While I know he was in end stage renal failure and was nearing being put down, any ideas what finally took him so suddenly?

  276. Doc says:

    Hello, Dave,

    The thing that comes to mind are the problems he was having with his electrolytes: calcium, and probably phosphorous, sodium and potassium.

    An imbalance of these can really affect the electrical properties of the nerves and muscles.

    I would guess that a problem of this nature resulted in a cardiac arrest.

  277. Ashley says:

    Hi there,
    My dog passed away last night in her sleep. She was a 3 year old pit bull mix and seemed fine yesterday. She crawled closer to me and then I realized the sheets were wet and I tried to get her up to take her outside and she had passed. Do you think we should get an autopsy done? The only thing that had been strange but this had been for the past few months at least that when she fell asleep she had a hard time holding her bladder. I’m just very confused. Although my vet said he does not think that an autopsy would show anything I would love to hear a second opinion. Thank you in advance. Ashley

  278. Doc says:

    Hello, Ashley,

    These sudden losses are so frustrating and heart-breaking. Your veterinarian is being realistic in saying that an autopsy may not reveal the cause of death.

    On the other hand, it is the only approach we have to look for the cause of death.

    When the problem is not immediately obvious from a visual examination of the organs, then a microscopic examination is needed. The laboratory usually charges by the number of tissues that are examined, so taking “a piece of everything”, can be quite costly.

    More than once I have had the very frustrating experience of “checking everything” and finding nothing helpful. Many times we can determine the problem, but there is no guarantee.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  279. Daisy says:

    We lost our dear sweet Clifford Sat 12-29-12, He was a Rhodesian Ridgeback, had been adopted in 12/05 w/ no known history at that time the vet guessed His age to be 3 years. We choose 3/2002 to be his birth date…no health problems, very active, smart, friendly, every quality a family wants in a four legged member, just the best! With out prior warning (eat, drinking, pottying, playing normal) he passed away. We were visiting family, he was enjoying time playing outside with the other dogs. Prior to us leaving for the park I noticed Clifford was laying in the yard on his side (as he does when he suns himself during summer) which I found a bit odd as it was in the 40’s & a bit chilly. I called His name, He lifted his head & wagged his tail so we left. Sadly upon returning home my Husband found Clifford had passed away, He had moved to a different spot & appears to just went in his sleep (in his normal laying position, on belly, head resting on front legs). We are DEVISTATED! Racking our brains as to what happened…only a few odd things in hindsight. Last month he limped for about 3 days, keeping back left leg up or straight, no apparent injury. I was not to concerened as he had a habbit of spraining his ankles (kind of a clumbsy guy)after that 3 days he was fine. Now to december, three days before he died a family member picked him up like a baby (yes, big dog, yes big man, yes Clifford did not like it but always tollerated it) and he let out a yelp & was put back down, a bit later I saw bubbles from his mouth & snot from his nose as he napped (thought it was maybe a cold as we all had one). Two days before he died he licked a vomit bucket of another sick family member (quick & sneaky) but never got sick himself. The night before he died he kept wanting to lay by me (he normally sleeps on the floor) and kept getting on the bed, so I would tell Him to get off, that happened multiple times. That morning he got up w/ my husband & went out to potty, barked to come in, ate breakfast as normal, had a drink & went back out. My Husband told me (after the fact) that a while after that He went out & found Clifford laying on the cold cement so he called Him over to lay with the other dogs in the hay on the dog beds, Clifford came but seemed wobbly, disoriented & slow to respond, as if moving was VERY difficult for him but my Husband figured maybe Clifford was just tired from playing. One last thing…Clifford did pilaties (as we called it) always stretching, back legs out, front legs out, head stretched forward, etc. Also did other types of stretches, we always figured it was just a quark bt Him & was another reason we loved Him (now I have read it may have been a sign of undiagnosed heart problem/pain). Any thoughts from you would be greatly appreciated, we are feeling really guilty bt not seeing Clifford’s death coming, we are still in shock & miss his every day presence in our lives. Oh no vet visit nor autopsy, he is burried on my in-laws farm. Thank you

  280. Doc says:

    Hello, Daisy,

    Clifford sounds like one great dog. No wonder that you feel his loss so keenly.

    I doubt that Clifford had been suffering. It really sounds like he had a major organ failure, whether it was a failing heart, a stroke, or a bleeding spleen tumor.

    This really doesn’t sound like you should have been able to see it coming and prevent it.

    Ten years is a lot older for a big dog than a small dog. I am sorry for your loss, but I am glad you were all spared the ordeal of watching a friend slowly deteriorate until euthanasia is your only real choice.

    Best wishes.

  281. Daisy says:

    Thank you for your reply. Time will heal & we will love Clifford for ever as He lives on in our memories. Any advise on helping our two cats? Zeek the older one (6yrs)keeps looking for Clifford around the house & meowing, Zane the kitten was Cliffords cuddle buddy…His aggression has esculated, especially biting. Sadly they are not the best of friends with each other, maybe this will change in time. Thank you

  282. Doc says:

    Hello,again, Daisy,

    I would be sure that the cats have room to be “safe” from one another. Places to hide, separate litterboxes, and so forth.

    You might also look into Feliway diffusers. It is also available in a pump spray. This the feline “comfort pheromone”, and it can really help relieve anxiety in cats.

    This is a terrific resource site for indoor cat owners:


  283. Marianne says:

    A few months ago my Lab had a check up and all was good and normal. Yesterday my 10 year old Lab had a normal day. Ate normally and took her strolls outside as she does every day. She came in from her afternoon stroll and climbed up on the couch as normal and laid down. My husband went into the other room and instantly heard her yelp and whimper. He instantly went to her and found that she wasn’t breathing and jaw seemed to be locked with her tongue barely out of her mouth. I immediately rushed home which took me 15 min, she was still warm and limp but her tongue was pale and slightly blue and cold. I couldn’t see any breathing movement and when I tried to close her eyes they wouldn’t stay closed. I called the vet and they asked if I was sure she passed and informed them was she looked like and they presumed her passing away. Never said anything of possible severe seizure or congestive heart failure. After reading all these blogs – I am feeling so heavy. By the time I reached funeral home she was still warm and limp but no movement etc… Even funeral home said her long warmth was unusual and dbl checked eyes and gums for discoloration. Could my dog have Ben saved?

  284. Doc says:

    Hello, Marianne,

    With a sudden and complete collapse like that, it is unlikely that your dog could have been resuscitated. Even if she had collapsed in an emergency clinic, I doubt that anything could have been done.

    CPR has its greatest success rate when the animal is basically healthy, but suffers some insult like trauma, bad drug reaction, etc.

    I am sorry for your loss.

  285. Marianne says:

    Thank you for your response. My heart is so heavy because I wanted so much to save her. She was such a happy joyful dog. After reading all these stories my heart breaks for them to. I recognize now that over the past couple months some of the things Shelby was experiencing were symptoms of CHF. I wish the vet would have diagnosed her when they were told of these small things she experienced. I know I can not change that but I have better knowledge of it now and know what to look for to care for our two smaller dogs. Again – I just wished I could have done more for our Shelby and saved her. 🙁 thank you again.

  286. Todd Bryant says:

    We lost our dear sweet boy “Meatball” less than 48 hours ago, and it is still very painful.

    He just turned nine on Valentine’s Day (10 days before)…he was happy, active and healthy the last time I saw him. My wife let him out to sun bathe, and checked on him as I came home for lunch from work.

    I was bringing a new appliance into the garage as she ran to me teared up exclaiming, “There is something wrong with Meatball!…he’s not responding!!!”…I ran to the backyard to find my boy laying motionless with no response…I looked at my wife as she stood there covered in tears holding our 1 year old daughter. “He’s dead!”…I lifted his head as his eyes stared off, tongue limp in the dirt…and no sign of breathing. This dear beautiful 9 year old pit bull had been our little boy since he was 5 weeks old…I had to try.

    Adrenaline kicked in..I hopped the 6 foot fence in a single jump, unlocked it from outside…”What are you doing?” my wife asked, I responded, panicked and in shock…”I have to try!”…I felt a very faint pulse under his arm, with no breathing and the look on his face, I knew his fate, but I just couldn’t stand there. (Perhaps I should have tried CPR, but mouth to mouth with a full grown unconcious pitBull may not be the best idea.)

    I threw his lifeless 70 lb. body over my shoulder, threw him in the back seat and tried multiple vets…my 24 clinic had converted to a Mon-Fri recently w/o my knowledge…as we drove he got colder and colder…after 5 closed vets we went back home, and my dear sweet boy is a permanent part of our garden. His favorite place.

    We’re not sure whether it was heart failure, stroke, the following day snake bite came to mind since I am in Austin, rattlesnakes, as not super common in the ‘burbs…is still possible.

    He apparently had vomited some dog food…dug threw it with nothing abnormal, and no blood. No frothing at the mouth, and first thing I did was check his throat for an obstruction. We’ll never know what happened to him, even if we did, it wouldn’t bring dear “Meatball” back.

    It’s still very surreal, as for split moments I’ll turnaround to look for him, or go check for him snoozing on the bed…it just is what it is…at moments there are zen moments where it’s all accepted, and then moments when it’s a little harder.

    We just have to love them while they’re here, and remember them for those wonderful shared moments.

  287. Doc says:

    Hello, Todd,

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    If you take a CPR class, you will learn that patients with heart problems are the least likely to respond to CPR. You are more likely to be able to re-start when some other type of trauma or shock has caused the heart to stop.

    This is true even for trained first responders, even for emergency room doctors.

    So don’t beat yourself up because you didn’t do the mouth-to-mouth. It wasn’t likely to have made any difference.

    These sudden collapses are such frustrating cases – no warning, no explanation (often even with a complete post-mortem we don’t get the answers that we want).

    Now you just have to remember the good times with Meatball.

  288. Todd Bryant says:

    Thanks for your quick response. That definitely helps on looking back on my part in the situation. I try not to allow myself to play “what if” games with myself, and just remember him for the wonderful, sweet boy he was and all the times we shared together. Reading some of the stories here helped in some weird way with the little steps of grieving, perhaps just the connection, and just felt I needed to share mine too, perhaps just for myself…but maybe it will allow someone else to relate one day, and know that others have been there….and in someway that can feel like a needed hug of support.

  289. Jessica Ekbatani says:

    Our dog named Honey was the sweetest pitbull terrier that you would ever meet she was only 8 and 1/2 years old. She protected me through both of my pregnancies and was my 2 yr olds best friend! We were looking forward to having our 4 month old daughter be her best friend as well. Last night my husband discovered that Honey had a deeply cut paw when he came home from work around 10pm. He had to wait till I got home from school at midnight (radiology night school and hour from where I live) to be able to take her to the after hours emergency pet clinic. She received a local anesthesia and a minimal amount of opioids for the pain of getting stitches in her paw. My husband brought her home around 2am and she went potty outside and seemed a little lethargic. We went to bed but heard her wimpering around 4am as if she needed to go potty. My husband checked on her but she would not get up or move. He tried to give her water but she would not take it. She stopped wimpering so my husband went to sleep cuz he thought it was just some pain she was having. He woke up at 6am to check on her and found that she had gone potty where she was sleeping and was making funny noises and breathing difficultly. He cleaned up the mess and came back in to lift her head up to check her breathing and pulse because he noticed her drooling clear liquid and slow labored breaths. She died in his arms at that moment. He rushed her to the ER down the street where they pronounced her DOA, there was no heart activity. We are devastated because she was our best friend and protector and worst of all she was our 2 year old sons best friend. He taught her how to give high fives and would give her treats where she would delicately take the treats out of his hand! Our question is could it have been possible that she passed away from the minimal amount of anesthesia/opioids that were given to her for getting her paw stitched up? We wish we could have realized she was in trouble when we check on her the first time but we had no idea that her reaction to the procedure was or wasn’t normal. When she was fixed a few years ago, she was just as lethargic and she was actually put under that time and not this time. Please help ease our mind.

  290. Doc says:

    Hello, Jessica,

    With the amount of time that had passed, I would doubt that the medicines would be the problem. Opioids have their best effect for a couple of hours(usually lasting just a few hours) and the local usually lasts less than 2 hours, even with long-acting ones.

    It is certainly not impossible that it was the drugs, but it would be some sort of weird one-of-a-kind reaction.

    Since there had been some trauma and bleeding, it is possible that she threw a clot and complications from that.

    I really don’t have a good explanation for you. It doesn’t sound like there is anything that you neglected, or that the emergency clinic neglected.

    I am sorry for your loss.