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Causes of Sudden Death in Dogs

Category Health
It is devastating when a pet dies suddenly, with no prior history of disease. This is a page about the causes of sudden death in dogs.
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February 7, 2019

My baby Skittles, a 3 year old Chihuahua/Shih Tzu mix, passed away yesterday afternoon. On Saturday, my mother-in-law called him and he came out from lying under the barbecue grill. But, he was limping and even yelped. We thought it was his leg.

Then, on Saturday evening when we came home, I called him and he came and stood up on my legs, front paws by my knees, ears up, letting me pet him. Happy. He was walking around and acting fine, but walking a tiny bit crooked, barely a limp.

The next day, Sunday morning, he yelped with certain movements and arched his back, tilted his head to the side, upward. He did not want to eat or drink. He was walking with more of curved body, stumbling.

Monday morning, he refused to eat or drink, and had the same symptoms, a little more yelping time to time, not consistent. He would not look at me, keeping head to the side. He stayed in his kennel most of day, refused food and water. My son got him out of the kennel in the afternoon and he walked down the hall, but kept his back arched and to the side, like curved. He pooped 2 medium size balls in his kennel, but did it lying down. He couldn't poop standing up. He yelped every now and then, like 45 minutes apart.

I took him to the vet at 2:45 (soonest they could see him from calling Monday). The vet took him out of the kennel, he seemed to have a left teary, watery eye. He let the vet hold him. He weighed 5.3 pounds. The vet felt him, listened to his heart, touched his back paws, lifted them up, to make sure he knew what his feet were for, looked in his ears, eyes, and mouth. Everything looked OK. He walked around, not in circles, just from one door to the other, by me, for a minute off so, but yelped once while doing so. The vet turned Skittles head from side to side, and he yelped. The vet said it was a disc disease and sent him home with anti-inflammatory oral meds. He gave him fluids, meloxicam injection. (Sent him home with same antibiotic.)

Skittles remained the same that evening. The next morning, Skittles just laid in his kennel. I dipped my finger on water and touched his little mouth. He licked his snout, but his eyes opened and closed quickly for about 30 seconds (almost looked like he was having a slight seizure), his leg moved back and forth more than it had been. His tongue came out a tiny bit, he'd peed on himself.

I went to ask my in-laws for help, because I wanted to wash him with his dry shampoo and give him clean bedding. Skittles let my father-in-law get him out of the kennel and we washed him. I gave him like 3 small pieces of canned dog food, he ate it! He even licked the napkin, but couldn't stand up hardly at all. After he ate, his tongue again came out a little. But then went back to normal. My father-in-law gave him his antibiotic and put him back in his kennel, as he didn't look well at all. I wanted to think he was getting a tiny better, only since he ate!

Two and a half hours later he passed away. He was never throwing up or having diarrhea. I looked on his body thoroughly and did not see signs of blood, cuts, nothing. I called the vet's office to let them know he had passed. But, unfortunately they said it costs a lot of money to find out what caused his passing away. I am just hoping that someone out there has experienced something similar with their little guy and could give thoughts so I'll at least know what I could have done differently, other than taking him to a different vet on Saturday when he started limping and not waiting till Tuesday. He was up to date on all vaccinations.

He was normally a happy, little dog, that would run down the street slipping under the gate, playing feisty with his best buddy Scooby, never bit anyone, never aggressive, just excited, and loved to be pet behind his ears and under his chin.

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February 9, 20191 found this helpful
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Oh my, oh my. So sad. You have my deepest and most heartfelt condolences on the loss of your beloved Skittles, May his memory always be a blessing.

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It sounds like you did the right thing getting him vet care. I am sorry the vet can't give you any more explanation.

Sadly, dogs are like people and can pass at very young ages. Sometimes you know the cause, sometimes you don't. To me it sounds like he was having mini strokes and then a big stroke, but that is just based on my losing a dog to a series of strokes.

Please be easy on yourself and if you need to, find a good grief counseling program. Our local animal shelter offers free programs and so does one of our local funeral homes. It can really help!!

Blessings and prayers!

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May 20, 2018

My dog seemed fine in the morning when we let her out and back in. We ran some errands and when we got home she was stumbling, her tongue was hanging out and was really blue, and her gums were blue as well and she couldn't breathe. My husband carried her to the car and I rushed her to the vet, but she died when I got there.

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We are devastated. We are beating our self in the head trying to figure out what happen and the only thing we can come up with is she snapped at a bee and got stung in the mouth and had a allergic reaction. What else has these symptoms do you know?

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May 31, 20180 found this helpful
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unfortunately it sounds like poison. Possibly rat poison - strichnine causing seizures and muscle spasm, or warfarin that causes internal hemorrhaging, due to the black tongue and trouble breathing.

I am very sorry this happened to you

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My little man, a healthy 6 year old Jack Russell moved on to a better place last week. It was sudden & unexpected. He was barking at the door as he heard someone coming, once he knew who it was he turned and walked away, then suddenly his legs went from underneath him and he fell to the floor, he jolted a couple of times and then nothing. I gave him mouth to mouth and tried everything I could think of to bring him back home, nothing worked, The journey to the vet's seemed to last forever, to see the light drain from his eyes will haunt me till I die, the tip of his tongue just slightly hanging out, no foam or drool.

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The vet had no compassion at all. He couldn't bring our baby back and couldn't answer our questions as to why and what. He just stood there as if to say 'what do you want me to do'. The vet was shocked we wanted our baby back after he was cremated. I couldn't get my head around it, and still can't. I don't understand how a healthy 6 year old dog can fall to the floor and move on. Please can someone help, why did he go so soon?

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July 24, 20182 found this helpful

It could be any number of reasons. It might have been a heart attack. I would find a new vet

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July 24, 20180 found this helpful

I'm very sorry re your experience, the vet really SHOULD know better and I think he deserves AT LEAST a really rotten Google or Facebook page review. My mum has had 3 elder cats die on her in the past 8 years and not once did her vets as much as bat an eye when she requested that 2 be cremated and her get the ashes back, and in the 3rd case get the actual cat back to bury in the yard. Please at least do this much and rpevent future pet lovers from dealing with this sociopath.

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As far as what was wrong with him, my first instinct is that it was some sort of a stroke. I looked for Jack Russell diseases and:

- Cardiomyopathy is a weakening of the heart muscle that often involves a thickened heart. There will be no symptoms until it's too late. Did you notice his breathing more laboured over the months leading up to his demise? Or did he start to shun exercise?
- Hydrocephaly involves fluid accumulating in the brain - symptoms involve disorientation and loss of balance
- Sometimes, from birth a vessel that exists between the aorta and the pulmonary artery does not close at birth in Jack Russells, and many cardiovascular problems can develop as a result. THis condition, if not caught and surgery done, can lead to sudden death like you experienced. A vet might have caught a heart murmur as a sign.
- there are other hereditary diseases that involve neurological issues and fluid in the brain, and symptoms over the years would involve habitual tremors or disorientation. IF he had this then simply it caught up with him and he died

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July 25, 20181 found this helpful

I am so sorry you have lost your buddy. It is hard not to know what happened. The possibilities are many. I dont know anybody who could afford the cost of finding out what really happened.

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Vet bills have become almost prohibitive. I hope you find some comfort in his happy life with you.

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July 25, 20180 found this helpful

We are going to put in a complaint once we get our boy back..thanks for reply

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July 25, 20180 found this helpful

Hi .thanks for your reply.. once we get our boys ashes back a complaint is going to be made against the vet. the man had no compassion at all..
We had noticed that his breathing had started to sound like an old man, a bit wheezy. .we didn't think anything of it..He hadn't been his usual self for a few weeks, but we put it down to the heat...He was on steroids at the time we lost him, and they were for his ears..He has always had issues with his ears, love him.. I'm lost without him, and don't feel whole anymore..

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July 25, 20180 found this helpful

Thank you

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July 25, 20181 found this helpful

So sorry your loss. Sending my deepest sympathy to and yours.

It is terrible that the vet was so callous. You said you will be talking to the superiors. I will say a prayer for you get closure with them. Maybe the superiors can review the chart and offer some information on what happened.

Losing a pet is devastating. Be easy on yourself. It sounds like you were an amazing pet parent. May you always find joy in your memories. G-d bless you all!

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This past weekend my healthy, sweet, 5 year old Boxer suddenly passed away. I came home from work that morning, took her out and she did her business, ran around, ate, and played with my kids. She was her normal happy self. No vomiting. Nothing. We took a nap together like normal. That evening we got up and like her normal self (she was always my shadow) she followed me into the bathroom to watch me give my kids a bath.

After about 2 minutes I turned around and noticed she was squatting down and was peeing or just got done peeing, but looked stuck. She was in the same position and just laid down, but then went to lay on her side so I knew something was wrong when she couldn't fix her back legs/hips herself and gently fixed them for her. I noticed she was as red as a cherry tomato (she was an all white Boxer). From the tips of her paws, her stomach to her whole face, it was red. I felt her stomach to feel her breathing. It wasn't fast, but it wasn't normal either. It was more of a slow breathing, but coming in as doublebreaths if that makes sense. She wouldn't blink when I was rubbing her or even look up at me. She then pooped and took her last breath. Like I said, she was happy. Healthy. And her normal self all day long. She ate. Slept. She didn't get into any trash or anything she wasn't supposed too. I couldn't afford an autopsy to find out answers and I'm just curious if anyone has gone through anything similar and could maybe provide some sort of insight as to what might have happened to my sweet girl. I'm heartbroken and devastated at the loss of my beloved baby. I appreciate any and all answers. Thank you.

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One of my little dogs died he was about 3 months old. He didn't come to eat for a day and that evening we found him at a place they usually hide and rest.

We called his name, but he only showed his head. He was so friendly and docile. We put food beside him, but he didn't even get up to eat. The next morning we found his body. Is this a sign of rabies? My little brother used to play with them.

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June 24, 2018

I had an 11 year old Chihuahua. She was old, but never ill. She was eating well and she was strong. Yesterday however I noticed she was breathing heavily and deeply, very laboured. I took her inside and tried to make her comfortable and calm. Sometimes she would "snort" if she was upset or worked up. I assumed it was something similar. I tried everything, but an hour later her condition had not improved. I then called the emergency vet and was on the phone for about 3 minutes and when I left her on my couch to make the call she was still relatively alright (and alive). As I came back to her she was limp and foaming at the mouth, but still alive. I held her and tried to help, but she gasped for about 2 very long minutes and then she passed on. I considered poisoning, but she was old, not adventurous and picky when it came to food and we keep any poison out of reach of pets. I've also read it may be a seizure, but that doesn't explain the laboured breathing for about an hour and then the sudden death. Her death has really hurt me and I'd like to know what happened and if I could have saved her. Please help.

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June 25, 20180 found this helpful

I don't think anyone could determine with absolute certainty what caused your dog's death just by reading a description of her symptoms. I'm sure the possible causes could be narrowed down by a vet or someone who has had the same thing happen with their dog. However, nothing can change the fact that your dog died. The best thing to do is treasure the memories you have of her and find comfort in knowing she was loved and cared for during the time she lived with you. I am sorry for your loss and as someone who has loved and lost (through death) dogs I've shared many years with, I know what a void a pet's death leaves in your heart and home.

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June 25, 20180 found this helpful

There could be many reasons. I would ask the vet again.

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June 25, 20180 found this helpful

Oh my. You have my heartfelt condolences on your loss. It is so, so hard to lose a fur child.

I understand totally about wanting to figure out what happened. But it is also important to let yourself just grieve and keep your pup's good memories in your heart!!

If you think there was some foul play, you may want to talk to your local humane officers or police department to see if there have been other complaints...this way if there were other issues, you may possibly prevent this from happening to another animal.

But if it was just his time, then it was just his time.

If eventually you are still struggling with grief, you may want to reach out to a group or counselor who sepcializes in grief of losing a pet. Our local animal shelter has a support group and I had given it some thought after losing my baby 2 years ago. I still may, as I still miss her more than ever.

Be kind to yourself! Know what a good life you gave your baby and know you have a fur angel watching over you! G-d bless you and yours!

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June 25, 20180 found this helpful

It sounds like you dog had heart failure.

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June 27, 20181 found this helpful

It sounds to me like your dog had heart failure. It does not have many symptoms to tip you off, and it usually progresses very slowly. She likely was dealing with it for sometime. It is not painful, and there is no cure. There are some treatments that may prolong life, but as I said, no cure. She died at home with you and that is worth a lot. I am so sorry for your loss. There is no heartbreak quite like it. Be kind to yourself and begin to remember the good times.

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My Pit Bull, Rocsi, passed away today. She seemed fine until yesterday. She was drooling with some foam hanging from her mouth. She was breathing a little fast. Her stomach was moving a lot. But there was no panting. She seemed a little weak. Not really happy or responding to me. Her head was a little low. I was gonna take her to the vet today if she didn't get any better. But I guess I was too late. I'm devastated. I can't help but blame myself. If anyone one knows what it could have been please respond.

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February 6, 2019

My house was broken into and my red nose Pit Bull was gone. I looked all night for him and have an idea who could have done it if it was foul play. I found my dog at 7 am and he was by a garbage can right off the side of the road directly behind my house.

His tongue was sticking out and it looks like his jaws were locked and his tongue was blue. He had a small cut on his lip and inside his mouth looked swollen. Beside that there wasn't blood like he was hit by a car. He was swollen, but his eyes were not blood shot or dilated. They did not turn red until the next day.

I'm including 2 pictures one showing how I found him and the other before I buried him. My dog went everywhere I went. I left him one time at home with the doors locked for only four hours I came back home my back door was wide open. I feel like it's haunting me. I must know what happened to my dog. He doesn't look he was hit by a car to me. In the second picture you can see he barely started bruising around his face that was day 2. I couldn't bury him right away and his eyes started turning red

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February 8, 2019

Our 9 and a half month German Shepherd pup died suddenly this week. I went on a brief 20 minute errand. When I left the pup was happy and seemed normal. I returned 18 minutes later and he was in his bed lifeless. I tried CPR. There was no pulse or breathing.

I took him to the the vet where they did a post mortem. They found abnormalities in the lungs, evidence of past infection, and thickening of the lining. There was also internal bleeding and damage to his liver. There were no signs of trauma, no vomit or fecal/urine matter only a damp spot on his bed, probably saliva. Also there was no evidence of pills or capsules in his stomach. The vet's conclusion was he died from a ruptured liver sustained during the 18 minutes I was gone.

He was a very active guy, itched a lot and often shook his head and whined like he was trying to tell us something. This behavior was more pronounced the morning before he died. I am thinking that I may have caused some of the bleeding during my attempt to resuscitate him and the cause of death was something else. We are confused and grief ridden. He was a wonderful guy, we love and miss him very much.

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July 17, 2018

Yesterday my Yorkie terrier died. He was 16 and we had just been given a clean bill of health only two months ago. He went outside came in and collapsed with his tongue hanging out the side of his mouth. Yes I know he was old, but I am heart broken and sad he was my baby! What could have happened?

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July 17, 20180 found this helpful

He could have had a heart attack. My condolences on the loss of your dog.

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July 17, 20180 found this helpful

I'm so sorry for what happened to you! What a heartbreaker.

Is it possible that it was very hot and he was dehydrated? Another possibility is that he was poisoned. Did his tongue or mouth turn blue? If yes, then it was certainly poison.

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July 18, 20180 found this helpful

Having been in your shoes 2 years ago, I feel your pain and send you my deepest and most heartfelt condolences on your loss. Your pup will always have a special place in your heart and I am convinced that they become fur angels who watch over us, so he will be looking out for you!!

Our vet said our girl (she was 17 1/2) had a stroke and there was nothing that could have prevented it. In older pups, health conditions (just like in humans) come up in a flash and often there is little that can be done.

For your sweet baby, tt could have been any number of things. I know it is hard not to focus on the what...so I will pray that eventually that feeling goes away and you can remember that you gave your fur baby a wonderful life and 16 amazing years.

Be easy on yourself and hopefully soon your will find it in your heart to remember the joy he brought and get comfort from those memories.

G-d bless you and your family and sending up prayers for healing hearts for all!

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July 25, 20180 found this helpful

First of all my condolences for your loss I completely understand. Our baby went outside and passed away minutes after going outside and we had no idea what had happened. We took her to the vet and they said that she had been stung by a bee or a wasp and was allergic and we had no idea. It killed her within minutes. A stroke could be plausible, or you may want to see if there is any kind of bee or wasp nest in your yard or area where they play as well.

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July 21, 2019

My dog, my best friend died unexpectedly and very suddenly 2 days ago with absolutely no warnings or symptoms. He was a 1.5 year old Pit Bull that I got at 2 months old. He was fixed and always up to date on his shots. He was seemingly in perfect health and as happy as could be. We were outside playing. He was running to me and suddenly mid run, he flopped on his back. His legs were still kind of moving in run motion. I went up to him; his eyes and mouth were still open like when he was running, but there was no life to his face and his tongue was flopped out. He let out a deep loud screech, flopped over, became limp and that was it. All within seconds.

The vet said maybe an undetectable heart issue, but I can't seem to find anything upon google searches, that are so sudden like that, with no symptoms. Any idea? I am driving myself crazy trying to figure it out.

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June 30, 2019

My dog of 6 years died today. My husband said he was fine at 11:30-12pm today. I got home around 3pm and found him dead in his pen and his face was very swollen. Does anyone know what could have happened to him?

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June 11, 2019

My baby just died last night and I've been wondering what the causes were. She was a lovable playful 6 month old puppy, who was always excited and jumping and running around all the time. Just yesterday she was her loving self. I didn't see anything wrong throughout the day. It was when it was around 9 pm that I took her outside with all my other dogs because my house was so warm and I wanted her to cool off and just play.

I put on a movie and was just entertained when my dad goes outside to check on my dogs and calls my name. I go outside and see that halfway through the lawn, she was laying there. I ran up to see what was wrong, but it was too late to do anything, she was already gone. It seemed she was pooping and just laid there, eyes wide open. There was a lot of saliva from her mouth, but I couldn't see her tongue because her jaw was so stiff. The whole night I've been crying and wondering what happened to my little baby.

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February 18, 2019

My Pomeranian passed away last week. I don't know why, although she started to walk as if she was stunned for a second. Not long after she was tilting to one side. When we noticed we rang an emergency vet, but then her legs stiffened then she was gone. I'm a nurse and have seen loads of patients pass away, but I cannot stop crying over my Trixy Bella. She was so healthy.

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October 27, 2018

I had three Pugs and suddenly each day my dogs would get lethargic, struggling to breathe, and eventually pass on. At this moment all my pugs have passed on. What could've caused this?

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My fragile 17 year old Brussels Griffon was on my bed and jumped off suddenly. Her legs were no longer strong enough to land on her feet and she immediately stretched out her body and made some noises. I picked her up and she passed in my arms.

I am crushed. Did the trauma cause her to have a heart attack? She had severe heart disease. She wanted on the bed so I gave in and placed her on bed and in seconds she just darted off the bed onto the hardwood floor. She loved the bed. I blame myself. Any feedback would be so appreciated.

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September 23, 2018

My baby Pug was 4 and half years old. He was my everything, my best friend, my baby, my world. He was fit and fine, but last night he didn't eat and he couldn't walk. I was so worried what was happening to him? It was late night so I decided to take him to vet the next morning. When I woke up he was lying on the floor and pissing he couldn't even get up to piss.

When I took him to the vet the doctor said nothing and gave him DNS and three other injections. Suddenly my baby pug pooped and he stopped breathing. I told the doctor to do something, but he said, I can do nothing. My baby Pug's tongue was out and turning purple.

This is saddest day of my life. I miss my baby so much. Can anybody tell what actually caused him to die? Pugs live like 10-16 years; my baby was just 4 and half.

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