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Pet Doc
Pet Doc, Dog Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 5486
Experience:  Veterinarian
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My small poodle choked to death on soft cheese she gobbled

Customer Question

My small poodle choked to death on soft cheese she gobbled off a plate when I found her she was not breathing, her tounge was purple hanging out of her mouth, body limp, but jaw tight for a minute or so do you know a short term type rigor occurs or was she gone a while only out of sight about 15 minutes
Submitted: 11 months ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Pet Doc replied 11 months ago.

Pet Doc :

Hi there - I am very sorry to hear about the loss of your girl Rilee

Pet Doc :

That must have been a real shock and I can understand you and your family must be devestated

Pet Doc :

In answer to your question, rigor mortis typically starts within 10 minutes of death

Pet Doc :

This will typically start off with stiffening of all joints - so that would explain why the jaw had become tight (temporomandibular joint or TMJ)

Pet Doc :

The muscles will likely contract and become firm within the next 3 hours and the signs of rigor can last for up to 72 hours

Pet Doc :

This is always a difficult and devestating time for any owner

Pet Doc :

There is some helpful and practical advise on this online here: http://dogs.about.com/od/petloss/f/What-Should-I-Do-If-My-Dog-Dies-At-Home.htm

Pet Doc :

I hope this helps explain why the jaw went tight so quickly

Pet Doc :

You may have noticed the other joints stifened up quickly as well

Pet Doc :

Please just let me know if you have any further questions won't you

Customer: Is it typical for just one joint. Only to tighten and how soon after death would that occur and then how soon relax normal rigor did set in in a few hours I am trying to determine how long she may have been gone before I found her, I was able to remove as much of the food as possible which was way down her trachea
Pet Doc :

Typically all the joints will rigor, but not at the same time

Pet Doc :

If she was chewing and using her jaw, then the TMJs likely would have been first

Pet Doc :

I would say 10 - 20 minutes for that to occur in the jaw

Pet Doc :

minimum of 10

Pet Doc :

Rigor can take up to 72 hours to diminish

Pet Doc :

We couldn't say how long rigor lasted for your girl, it could have been anywhere between 24 and 72 hours

Customer: Then after it relaxed and I was able to remove the food, then when I found her limp, not breathing and tounge outside her mouth she had been gone at least close to ten minutes for a small 7 lb dog correct. Was the jaw tightening a result of the choking or a lactic acid reaction
Pet Doc :

So the jaw was tight, but then relaxed within 10 minutes - is that correct?

Pet Doc :

If the jaw was only tight for 10 minutes and then relaxed, then this would have been due to a build up of lactic acid (ie cramp) - however there is also a chance this could have been partly due to the obstruction causing the stroke, also causing her holding her jaw open

Pet Doc :

I hope that makes sense - please let me know if I can clarify anything

Customer: From the moment I found the dog the dog was gone, but limp all except the jaw, I of course attempted CPR but within no more than one minute or less I was able to enter her mouth and begin removing the cheese she choked on. I am really interested in the oddity of the jaw being stiff. The purple tongue hanging out, I want to know if the jaw stiffing indicates the time period she may may just of been dead. Did the jaw likely stiffen and death and then relax and your estimate of say 10 or minutes . In other words would the jaw stiffen likely soon after death, about how long would it take for the tongue to turn purple and the the one joint relax.
Pet Doc :

If the jaw stiffening was due to rigor, then it would have taken more than 24 hours before it relaxed.

Pet Doc :

If the jaw stiffend and then relaxed in less than 20 minutes, then the cause of the jaw stiffening is likely due to lactic acid build up from your girl holding her mouth open trying to dislodge the obstruction (cheese) by coughing it out

Pet Doc :

So - it is most likely this was a 'cramp' that caused the inital jaw stiffening

Pet Doc :

Rigor would have started after the jaw relaxed again

Pet Doc :

Once rigor sets in - it takes many hours for things to 'relax'

Pet Doc :

If the jaw relaxed within 10 - 20 minutes, then cramping (lactic acid build up) would explain the sudden locking of the jaw

Pet Doc :

The tongue would have turned purple blue, almost immediately as that occurs when there is insufficient oxygen

Pet Doc :

It likely would have turned blue within 30 - 60 seconds of her choking and passing away

Customer: Ok that makes since that is what happened, normal rigor did set in in about 3 to 4 hours I am only trying to understand possible how long she was gone before I found her in the condition I described. So are you saying if the jaw locked up due to cramp, lactic acid, choking or stroke it would have been about ten or more minutes for it to relax and her tongue be hanging out and purple.
Pet Doc :

Yes I would estimate about 10 minutes

Pet Doc :

for both of those things

Pet Doc :

The tongue would have turned purple within minutes of her passing away

Pet Doc :

But the jaw would have taken around 10 minutes

Pet Doc :

(estimates)

Pet Doc :

I hope that explains things

Pet Doc :

Are you there?

Pet Doc :

I hope the above has helped explain things

Pet Doc :

If I can be of any further help, please just let me know

Pet Doc :

Kind Regards,

Pet Doc :

Dr Edwards

Pet Doc, Dog Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 5486
Experience: Veterinarian
Pet Doc and 4 other Dog Specialists are ready to help you
Expert:  Pet Doc replied 11 months ago.
Our chat has ended, but you can still continue to ask me questions here until you are satisfied with your answer. Come back to this page to view our conversation and any other new information.

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Expert:  Pet Doc replied 11 months ago.
Hi again Patricia,

Sorry - I think the chat feature stopped working.

I hope the above helped to answer some of your questions. Please just let me know if I can help further.

Kind Regards,

Dr E
Customer: replied 11 months ago.
I rated you excellent especially for you patience but I was not done and it is still not clear that you understood what I was asking. Let me make it simple would the jaw stiffen, and relax like two minutes after death or IS IT MORE LIKELY THAT IF THE DEATH REACTION CAUSED THE JOINT TO STIFFEN, THAT IT DID TAKE 10 minutes or more to relax and that just happened to be when I found her ONE MINUTE BEFORE IT RELAXED. I understand there are different possibilities and variable for you to consider that is why I am asking you. Personally it makes more sense she was gone quite a few minutes than she died jaw locks I find her and it miracleously released one minute later.
Customer: replied 11 months ago.
Please acknowledge my follow up I have used this service many times but never got cut off and never had to work so hard to make the question. Clear your efforts were excellent but your responses were all over the place .
Expert:  Pet Doc replied 11 months ago.
Hi again Patricia,

No problem - I am happy to help as needed here. I think it would be most likely that she died and that the jaw stiffened within a few minutes due to lactic acid build up initially. This would explain why it relaxed just 10 minutes later. As per the previous posts - as the jaw relaxed, then the stiffening wasn't due to rigor ending (this takes hours). I can't think of any other logical explanation for the jaw to stiffen and relax within 10 - 15 minutes other than due to lactic acid build up immediately post mortem.

I hope this helps.

Dr E
Customer: replied 11 months ago.
Gosh that is still not the point I am asking how long it would take to relax under that scenario of a lactic reaction, I can't define the 10 minutes I am asking since I know it was not death rigor HOW LONG, WHAT RANGE OF TIME WOULD IT LIKELY RELAX. I was not standing over her, I knew she was dead I am trying again to make clear I just want a educated, vets view on how long she was likely gone with the JAW LOCKED UP, before I found her and it shortly thereafter relaxed.
Expert:  Pet Doc replied 11 months ago.
Hi Patricia,

There have been a few different things you have wanted to know in this post. Your question now as I understand it is, if the jaw locked up due to cramp ( a lactic acid reaction), how long would it take to relax? For this, the relaxing would occur in less than 30 seconds. A stiffening due to a cramp could last 5 to 10 minutes.

I'm still not exactly sure what you are trying to deduce from that, but I hope that helps anyway.

Dr E

Customer: replied 11 months ago.
Ok I will explain my friend first saw the dog and screamed omg Rilee what have you done in two to three seconds I was there the dog had passed. My friend says the dog was still standing over the plate, that she set her down and the dog walked a few steps and collapsed, I was there to pick her up her body was limp, the tongue purple hanging out of her mouth. I tried to open her mouth the jaw was stiff and unable to open. I gave her mouth to snout, I held her upside down to try to dislodge the blockage. When I set her down her jaw shortly very shortly relaxed and I began to clear the throat. The dog was gone when I picked her up. My friend kept upset and kept saying it was just a minute or two I.e. probably when she set the food within her reach. I suspect that she had left the dog alone the dog choked and died . And then stalled a while before she said weirdly omg Rilee what have you done. I feel terrible for the loss of the dog but iEQUALLY. Feel sorrow for my friend . But her story keeps changing. And she is unable to tell me what me and my vet thinks that the dog was gone longer than just seconds because the jaw was locked but then released indicating it all did not happen in a minute. Some has said as you it was between ten minutes or more due to the tightness in the jaw and the the relaxing. I am just trying to understand the lactic acid type reaction and how soon could the muscle then release. Loss is one emotion to process, anger is another and without her info only experts can help try to understand the time frame. None of this will bring the dog back but all I have read about trying to help a choking dog or one that has fallen on conscious mentions a locked jaw joint or. Muscle. Thanks
Expert:  Pet Doc replied 11 months ago.
Hi Patricia,

Thank you for taking the time to write out the full history. That really helps and makes sense now, so I really appreciate it.

I can understand you are probably sad and a little frustrated with your friend as her story keeps changing, but this must have been quite traumatic for her as well, so perhaps this is why she keeps forgetting the finer details.

Ultimately, I am with your Vet on this one. Although we can't be 100% certain as biology is not an exact science and things occur differently form time to time, I think it was most likely that Rilee was gone for at least 5 minutes, but more likely around the 10 minute mark. Again - we cannot be accurate with this, as we are talking about a biological process that can occur over a wider time frame. The lactic acid would have built up due to hypoxia (ie not getting oxygen due to choking), and the cramp would eventually have released 5 - 10 minutes after death once the lactic acid levels died down allowing the myosin fibers to detach and for the muscle to relax.

Thanks again for explaining the scenario so well. Again - this information won't be Rilee back, but I hope it gives you some peace of mind.

Thoughts,

Dr Edwards
Customer: replied 11 months ago.
Thank you for your help and patience
Expert:  Pet Doc replied 11 months ago.
No problem Patricia. Thank you for explaining things so well.

Kind Regards,

Dr E

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