Avatar universal

Sudden Death of "Healthy" Dog...

This is similar to other posts but slightly detailed so I'll post it:  Two weeks ago the day after Xmas, I came home and my 12yo Shepherd/mix was fine.  She was at least outwardly, a perfectly healthy and energetic dog for her age, and passed her yearly exam only two months earlier.

She went out and used the bathroom normally and came to the back door acting normally.  Then, I saw her lay upright on the ground and start a very very slow, deep, breathing.  She was not choking.  She would not drink water or look directly at me.  She then tried to stand and wobbled up, very unsteady, took a few steps, and her bowels emptied a large amount of stool (not watery, normal), onto the ground.  She walked a few feet more, laid down, rolled over, and breathed the deep, slow, heavy breathing for 3-4 minutes, and then, she died.  She did not seem to be in any apparent pain or panic/distress during the entire thing.  Once she passed, she was just staring forward, and her tongue was "twisted" slightly and hanging out.

We're devastated, as this was completely unexpected and sudden.  Now, on one board I saw one vet say that other vets that say it's a heart attack are "lazy", and that nothing can be even remotely concluded unless a necropsy is done - and even then maybe nothing will be known.   I find it hard to believe with decades of modern veterinary medicine behind us now, that there are no semi-conclusive answers out there since this is happening to quite a few people (?).   I realize without a necropsy there's no way to know 100%, but with the description I gave is it "reasonably safe" to assume this was some sort of sudden and powerful cardiac event, or, does it sound more like a stroke?    Thank you
122 Responses
Avatar universal
I don't have any knowledge of what could have happened to your dog, but would like to say I'm sorry to hear of her death.  My dog is also twelve, and at the vet last week I read on a chart that she is beyond being a senior, she is in the geriatric stage, which yours would have been too.  Its hard to believe their that old, you can at the very least be comforted that she didn't have a disease that you would have to watch her suffer with, or have to euthanize her.
675347 tn?1365460645
I am so sorry to hear of your dog's death. The one comfort was that you were there with her when she passed. On some level, no matter how 'out of it' she was, she would know that.

A necropsy is the only way you could know for sure what she died of, but my thoughts on that are, let her be at rest. There's a time and a place for a necropsy, but it might be something you don't want to go through right now.

My condolences to you, and I hope you are coping with this, because it did come as such a shock. It is a very hard thing for you.
Avatar universal
Thank you for your comments.   Actually, no, I'm not doing very well with this to be honest.   Lucy was long ago by a trainer determined to be a "prodigy dog", meaning, one that leans certain things almost instantly by observation.  The slang many use would be a "Lassie dog" type of dog.  On her own, simply by watching people over time, she learned how to open doors when she wanted to go from room to room, turn on the TV (yes, really), and communicate with people via a series of elaborate actions that were like a language.  Not to belittle my other two remaining dogs, but they are "dogs", and Lucy was more like a little human with extra hair and legs.  Even people who were not typically dog people would come to my house and spend time around her and say things like, "Wow, she is so cool, I'd own a dog if I could have one like her!".

So while losing a pet is a very hard thing for folks, when you are one of those lucky 1-in-100,000 or so people to actually find and adopt a "prodigy dog", it hits especially extra hard (this is not at ALL to belittle those who have lost any other pet - I'm just saying of all I've ever had, she was just an exceptionally hard loss for me).

I know there are no defined answers here without the necropsy.  She's buried in the back yard now and there's no way to do it now anyway, plus I simply could not afford the costs of up to $900 quoted to me here for that and cremation, etc.   I know that at least it was a "natural" death and not a result of anything we or anyone else did to her, and for that it's a comfort of sorts, but I guess I'm still in a search to at least narrow down the "most likely" cause of it.    Right now, I'm just trying to make it through one day where I can go more than 30 minutes without thinking about it, two weeks later.

942557 tn?1272694819
Judging from what you have said in my opinion it does sound more like a heart issue.I am truly so sorry for you losing your baby .I lost my little girl Peke 6 months ago and i still cry everyday.She was only 7 years old and in perfect health and my vet ruled it as Cardiac even though like your little girl she was fine before that.I have tried for months now to really understand why i lost her .But i am still at a loss can no one can truly explain a definite reason of how it suddenly appeared and why there where no previous signs.She was getting her nails done and then she was gone.Did Lucy have any health issues at all?And what about heart worm and flea preventive.Was there anything odd about her behavior other than what you described within those few mins?I will keep you in my prayers.May God Bless You.
Avatar universal

No - she did not show signs of illness beforehand.   She had her yearly checkup two months prior, and the Vet even commented on how very strong and healthy she was for a 12 year old dog.  Of course, I know, without MRIs or Xrays you don't see what might be lurking on the inside that may become a serious problem, but at least outwardly, she had been showing no signs of having illnesses or complications before this happened.

Even when we got home that day, initially she acted like her normal excited to see us energetic self.  She went outside and used the bathroom with the other two dogs just fine - but within a couple of minutes the attack or whatever it was began.  She was not choking or anything like that.  I actually thought at first she was having an epileptic seizure as the first signs of it seemed like that (my 3rd dog has those so I know what those are like when you see them).  While Lucy didn't have epilepsy, dogs have been known to develop it later in life, so I thought that was it, until I saw her stagger into the middle of the yard and just collapse.  Then I knew deep down I think, it was much more serious - but I didn't accept it, and kept trying to reach emergency vets on the phone to see if they could tell me what to do (they could or would not).

I'm kicking myself for not just getting off the phone and running out there and just being with her the last minutes of her life.  But at least my roommate who she's known a long time and cares about too was out there with her while this was happening, so she did not pass alone in the yard.  Still, it should have been me.   I know I'll never know 100%% for sure what happened, but it's just the sheer suddenness of it all, and her seeming so healthy, that still has me in a state of shock.  My other two dogs are up in years and they are not in great health - if this had happened to either one of them we would be grieving, but we expect it due to their health issues - but this was a completely unexpected thing with this particular dog, who I fully expected to live another 2-3 years (at least) the way she looked/acted.  

And yes, they always got their heartworm meds and all of that every month on time, and ate premium dog food that had no fillers or foreign fluff fill agents in it, and had Glucosamine in it, too.  
675347 tn?1365460645
Things like this leave us baffled and shocked, and don't seem to make sense. My other dog was strong and fit for his age (14) he enjoyed exercise, play, ate well, had no health issues. Then all of a sudden he started showing pain, and had prostate cancer diagnosed. He lived 10 days after that. I had time to adjust, and face it, but it was still such a shock because he seemed in perfect health for his age.

The dog I have now is 12. She is well and fit, everything fine. Her senior bloodwork (done in August) was all normal and the vet said she's in really good shape.
But every day I know is a gift from God, and at any time, any of us can be taken.....
"There, but for the Grace of God, go we"....(including our fur-families)
Things, and those we love, can be snatched away from us without even a moment's notice. Life is cruel.
Avatar universal
Someone passed on a phrase to me today .....

"The depth of your love, will equal the depth of your grief".

Oh - swell.  At least I know I realllllly loved this dog, 'cause if I could afford it, I'd already be on a shrink's sofa by now!
942557 tn?1272694819
I wish there was something that i could say or do for you,I really can understand what you are going through though.When i took my little girl Chloe and her brother in that day to have there nails done,I never would have thought that i would be leaving there that day with her gone.Her brother is 7 years old as well and he has some special little issues.Kind of like how you describe your other 2 babies. It was just to hard to imagine that her being in perfect health that she would go that way,I still cry everyday and it has been 6 months.I have tried to understand what went wrong,But no one can give me a definate answer.My vet said it was her heart,But i wonder if that is just a way of him trying to help me deal better with all this.Please try not to blame yourself or beat yourself up with the What If"s and If only's.I have been doing that to myself every since i lost her and believe me it is a terrible feeling.As far as you being on the phone when she passed away,You were trying to help her and she knew that.There is not a doubt in my mind that she knew how much you loved her.Just from the way you speak of her ,I can tell she was one lucky little girl to have you.The reason why i asked you about Heartworm preventive and frontline is because there had been some problems with some newer meds and i was just wondering if you had made any recent changes?If you ever need to talk i am here.I will keep you in my prayers.     May God Bless You,Chan
942557 tn?1272694819
One more thing,They did take a small piece of Chloe's heart and sent it off and it came back showing that she had had a previous heartattack.But i was told that it wouldnt show if she had one when we lost her.And as you had previously said some vets say that using that term for dogs is just other vets being lazy and then some say that it is possible.But extremly rare.So it is very hard to say one way or the other.Cause if your baby passed away due to her heart it wouldnt show any scarring unless she had a previous episode.I know that this is not alot of help for you,But i just wanted to share with you the info that i have been given.
Avatar universal
thanks for your comments.
Avatar universal
Though I am crying as I write this, your post was very comforting to me. Just 2 days ago, my shepherd-husky mix Emmy (10 yr.5 mo.old) died exactly as you described.  Same story of being extremely healthy, active, up to date on all meds, etc.  As soon as she collapsed, we rushed her to the Animal Emergency Hospital, but she was gone by the time we arrived.  We also did not choose to do a necropsy and were told that it may have been a "heart-related event".  She was a very intelligent, loyal dog who spent more day-to-day time with me than anyone else in my family.  My grief (as yours) is overwhelming and every small detail of my day-to-day routine reminds me of her and adds to my emptiness and sense of loss.  I hope each day that you feel a little better able to cope.  Please comment with an update. Thanks. Sara
Avatar universal
Though I am crying as I write this, your post was very comforting to me. Just 2 days ago, my shepherd-husky mix Emmy (10 yr.5 mo.old) died exactly as you described.  Same story of being extremely healthy, active, up to date on all meds, etc.  As soon as she collapsed, we rushed her to the Animal Emergency Hospital, but she was gone by the time we arrived.  We also did not choose to do a necropsy and were told that it may have been a "heart-related event".  She was a very intelligent, loyal dog who spent more day-to-day time with me than anyone else in my family.  My grief (as yours) is overwhelming and every small detail of my day-to-day routine reminds me of her and adds to my emptiness and sense of loss.  I hope each day that you feel a little better able to cope.  Please comment with an update. Thanks. Sara
We just lost our Bichon  two  mornings ago. I still find myself crying. Although he was 15 years old, he was just like an older person who was slowing down and slept most of the day and had no diagnosed health problem. He was a big part of our lives. He made sure to be around when we were doing things. So, it was normal for us to have conversations with him and a regular daily ritual. I always called him my little buddy. On the day he died, I had left the house to have an oil change. While I was gone my husband gave him a bath and everything was normal until he put him on the counter to dry him. He wouldn't stand up. Then he defecated. My husband was concerned but thought he probably should have had more time outside. He then noticed his breathing was shallow. Right away he rushed him to our vet, carrying him like a baby, and they said they couldn't see him because of only one dr. on duty. My husband frantically drove to the next city that had an emergency hospital. They did CPR on him, gave him oxygen , breathing tube, and injections. He was only only alive on life support. My heart breaks that I wasn't there at the end, but at least he had my husband and there was no suffering. I'm going through quilt now thinking of how many times I didn't give him attention because we were busy the last two weeks working outside. He was my baby and I can't stop crying. It's been two days and I still think he's alive and will start to look for him in the house.The emergency Dr. said his heart just wore out.  
1427978 tn?1282989910
HGE killed my dog.
My dog died in three hours.  A dachshund/beagle mix named Ginger.
She threw up 1AM then began urinating and defecating diarrhea with dark blood. While I was trying to locate a 24 hour vet in this back water (Bluffton, SC) she then begun to hemorrhage bright red blood and passed away on the way to the VET.
Note: She had a bit of diarrhea earlier in day but no sign of blood – I know as I used white paper towels to pick it up – no blood.  
I am writing to warn all pet owners of this disease HGE.  Learn about it.
Avatar universal
4 days ago my Pit mix was a strong healthy and happy 9month old puppy. After coming in from playing she refused to eat. She only wanted to drink water after the first two days. In a matter of 4 days she lost a considerable amount of weight barely moved onlyl drank a small amount of water. On the fourth day she did not get up at all and she bled profusely from rectom and died. The vet thought it was somethimg called parvo But it turned out to be some kind of poisoning. We won't know for sure until we get the results from the autopsy report. I loved my dog dearly and it cost $236.00 to have her cremated so i could keep her ashes with me always. Ince she was kept on my property at all time God only knows how she got poisoned. Someone had to  come on my property to do thlis.
Ignorant people are under the mis conception that all pits are violent. Mline was'nt. She was the sweetest and most gentle dog i have ever owened. I will never stop missing her. May God have mercy on who ever hurt.
675347 tn?1365460645
You poor thing! I am so so sorry your girl died like this.
But the first thing I thought when I was reading what you wrote was "Rat or mouse poison"
Now if she caught a mouse while playing, and ate it, you might, or might not even notice! Dogs can get hold of some tiny critter and eat it so quickly, you might not even know if your back was turned. It is just possible this happened, as rats and mice can run everywhere, through peoples fences, yards, property etc.
It may not have been a deliberate poisoning...

I know all Pit bulls are not violent! I knew one a few years ago. (Before they became one of the 'banned breeds' here in Britain) He was a lovely dog, playful and good. And very gentle.

Anyway, I am sorry this happened to her. It's very sad. God bless.
Avatar universal
You're absolutely right, pits are the nicest dogs, and always look like their smiling.  I hope you find out that your dog ate a poisoned mouse, like ginger899 suggested, cause it would be a lot easier than knowing someone was sick enough to poison a dog on purpose.  I'm sorry you didn't have many more years with your puppy.
Avatar universal
I too feel like I am reading a script. My 10.5 year old German Shepard (from a rescue since she was 18 months) died this morning... we had a great labor day with family.  Then when we were cleanining up at night, she didn't go up stairs... I went down to find her eating grass. She was trying to throw up...
She kept getting up and down for about 20 minutes, she then threw up and went inside ... she fell asleep on her pillow after some stroking, I heard her get up at 4, but lay back down...
I woke at 6:30 and she was dead, puffy, eyes open... she must hae died around 4:00.. no yelping no nothing...
She didn't do anything different from before.. and she was not distended or anything..

It doesn't matter if it was the heart or gut, but it strike so hard.. my best to those who greive tonight..

1388999 tn?1370042814
Hi Greg I feel I must just put down my thoughts.Its 99% she had a heart attack,because if it is any comfort they do not feel anything at all in fact she would not have even realised  it right from the start.
In another post where someone had lost her dog yesterday I put my experience down in detail.
Its the best way to go for her  so many of us die in great pain dragging on  for such a long time she knew nothing, died happy and content.
I also have a dog like her, he is a Golden retriever 9yrs old who is convinced he is human and acts as such, I also have two other dogs and yes I understand what you are saying.Just think how blessed you are to have had her in your life.
If there is a heaven! you know she will be waiting patiently for you....you were her life and always will be.
That's so lovely @seanna - I lost my darling almost 3yo GSD a couple of days ago and am really struggling with it but your last sentence has given me so much comfort.  Thank you
Avatar universal
I'm so sorry for your loss.  Even though it's been three months, I'm sure you think about her daily.  I lost my beloved Rosie two days ago and it's like a member of the family died.  I can't stop thinking about all the things that she would do and how faithful and good-natured she was.  She died suddenly in the yard around 10:00 at night.  She barked for about 15 seconds and then let out a whimper and just layed down and died.  The whole family is in shock.  She was 8 years old but had the energy of a puppy.  I just happened to go home at lunch that day and then walked her after work, so for that I'm thankful.  I got to have some quality time with her up to the very end.  It still seems so unreal - like I'll go home and she'll be waiting by her food bowl for the next serving.  Memories of her are everywhere.  We had an older cat that we had to put to sleep about five years ago, but this is 100 times harder.  Dogs are just such a presence in your lives when you own one.
Avatar universal
My dog recently passed away ... normal one day and dead within 36 hours of any symptom.

You mentioend that you dog had been to the vet within 2 months prior.

Diod he get vaccines and did yougive hi heartworm treatment.

My dog dies fro an illness called Evans Syndrome which is a autoimune illness.  The dogs imune system attacks its own red blood cells and platlets.  A dog can has this illness or something called IMHA or ITP.  There are many triggers that can make the imune system act this way but one of the triggers is thought to be vaccines.  There is consensus among many veterian's that dogs are being over vaccinated.  There are tests that can be done in advance to a dog being given a vaccine to determine if the dogs system is already carrying the required antibodies which we are immunizing the animel for.  This is called checking the Titers.

The shock of my dogs death is still very hard to take along with the change in my lifestyle.  I am planning to get another dog but that will not be for likely another 6 months.  During this time I plan to find a veterinarian whom will do their due diligence during the dogs annual checkup to do bloodwork on the dog to make sure that everything is noral and also to check for titers before putting something unnatural into my pet  I have started my look for a vet who beleives in this and surprisingly there are many vets whom will only follow the old school theory of jabbing the dog with vaccines, checking his ears, eyes, heartbeat  and temperature,  It seems  regular annual checkup just seems to be a money grab rather than a care or concern for the pets health.  
Wouldn't we have the same concern if we went for our physical exam and all our doctor did was take ou blood pressure and jab us with a flu shot and say see you next year.  
675347 tn?1365460645
I am terribly sorry you lost your dog, and so suddenly. It is very sad.

But well said. I think similar about that annual checkup. I spoke at length to my vet about the Titer test. There is one of the vaccines which doesn't show well on a Titer test -Leptosirosis- so I did decide to have it done ...the others the vet told me, at that particular practice, are done 4-yearly, not every year as I thought.
The Lepto shot I thought was a good call for my dog who is a country dog and in contact with conditions which could put her at risk.
But I understand that even that one CAN have some negative side effects.

However, I agree, that this "Annual Health Check" is not good enough. I think after a certain age -say 7 or 8...a full blood count and urinalysis should be done every year.
Avatar universal
I just returned home from a business trip and learned that this very thing had happened 4 days earlier to my seemingly healthy 10-year-old chocolate Lab, Dolores,  who was the light of our lives. My neighbor let her out to potty in the morning, she was frisking around like always, fetching her kong, etc. When he came back to let her inside 15 minutes later, she was lying dead on the patio with her tongue blue and hanging out. My kids kept the news from me until I returned from my trip, knowing I would be a wreck and not wanting to compromise my work.  I am heartbroken and cannot stop crying.  The only small comfort I can take is that she did not suffer and now we will never have to watch her slowly fail and make that other horrible decision about if/when to have a beloved pet euthanized.  It just still feels like it was way to soon.  She came into our lives just a few weeks after my husband died and has been the huge heart that soaked up all my kids' hurts and sorrows along with mine.  I guess after 9 years her job was done and now her beautiful spirit has moved on to show up in another needful place. I am crying as I type this and will no doubt being crying  off and on for a very long time.  I miss you and always will, my Dolores ....
1747015 tn?1311562886
I am so sorry for the loss. My boyfriend and I also just had a similar situation. We had a Shepherd/husky mix and she was beautiful and completely healthy. We woke up and she showed no abnormal signs. Then a few hours later we were laying watching t.v in bed with her and she threw her head back and started a loud crying moan. We've never heard her do this before and after about  20 sec. of her crying she was silent and she wasn't breathing. We tried CPR non stop and finally finding an open Vet (it was a sunday unfortunately) they couldn't revive her. We were devastated and didn't know what else we could have done. Koda was only 8 months old.
675347 tn?1365460645
I am really sorry to hear about your Koda.
It's always so sad when a beloved dog dies, but especially so when there appear to be no causes that can be understood. And so suddenly too.
You did all you could to try and help her.
I am very very sorry
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