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DocDave, Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 154
Experience:  Providing advanced veterinary care since 1982.
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how long does it take for rigamortis to set in after sudden

Customer Question

how long does it take for rigor mortis to set in after sudden death - 55lb golden retrievor found @ 3.30pm in rigor yet daughter says that she had dog on sofa @ 2.30pm otherwise healthy 10year old dog on rimadyl & tramadol for bone spur medication ceased 2-3 days before death. only other syptom loss of appetite
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Jenn replied 4 years ago.

Hi there

The smaller the animal the faster it happens. A medium to large size dog-it could take a 2-4 hours. Dr. Jenn

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Did you read modified question re. daughter being with dog 1 hr? before death
Expert:  Dr. Jenn replied 4 years ago.
more info-half of your question was cut off- It is possible for this to happen within an hour-the cause of death can affect how quickly it sets in. Dogs can get tumors in their abdomen that can rupture causing death pretty quickly. So sorry about your baby
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

thank you our concern is our daughter who believes she was with dog about 1 hour before death yet our dog was clearly in full rigor. we are not thinking any foul play just need to explain to her why she may be mistaken


Expert:  Dr. Jenn replied 4 years ago.
That must be hard for her. Ten is OLD for a golden-you obviously took very good care of her!
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
you did not answer my last question & said my first question was cut off
Expert:  Dr. Jenn replied 4 years ago.
As I stated above 2-4 hours is average, however it is possible to happen within an hour. Certain causes of death-which can not be determined without a necropsy-can speed up this process. This very well could have happened as she reports.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Relist: Answer quality.
I am unhappy that you ask me to visit a vet. That is rather difficult as they sent my dog to be cremated
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Expert:  DocDave replied 4 years ago.
There are several factors that affect the onset of rigor mortis. Ambient temperature is a major factor, with warmer temperatures causing a more rapid onset. As one might expect by knowing that, a dog or a person that dies with a high fever will have rigor mortis begin quite rapidly. Another factor that can cause a rapid onset of rigor is recent exercise - the muscles are already tense and depleted in oxygen and energy sources, which are the very factors that cause the onset of rigor mortis. For similar reasons, rigor mortis begins rather rapidly after debilitating diseases such as cancer and renal failure.

Because of the multiplicity of factors that affect the onset of rigor mortis, it is not a reliable indicator of time of death. Your daughter's assertion that Molly was alive just an hour before being found in rigor is certainly plausible in a number of different scenarios. Unfortunately, since the cause of death is not known with certainty and cannot now be discovered, there are some gaps that you are not going to be able to fill in. Your daughter certainly could have erred in estimating the time elapsed, but I am not at all certain that she is, indeed mistaken.

I hope this helps your understanding of the situation. If you are satisfied and want to compensate me by clicking the "Accept" button, I will appreciate the good will, but this isn't about money at this point - I just wanted you to have some answers that might help you in your difficult time. Please accept my condolences on your loss of your friend Molly.

Edited by DocDave on 3/6/2010 at 9:35 PM EST

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