My seven year old English bulldog died suddenly after choking on his vomit a few days ago, he had been diagnosed with an aortic heart based tumor measuring five cms two weeks earlier and was put on diuretic medication which helped to deflate the stomach , his appetite and energy levels were normal although he had a gagging cough after playing for more than five to ten minutes . His stomach had distended and on doing an ultrasound the tumor was found , the vet also took bloodwork and chest xrays and I also visited a cardiologist to see if the tumour could be operated on which I was told it could not as it was too close to the heart , even pericardium surgery could not be done, my question is was it the tumour that killed him or aspiration pneumonia? Were the gagging cough and rapid breathing he experienced especially during the night which started two weeks before he died complications of the tumor or did he also have pneumonia which the vet failed to treat? Would he still be alive had he been given medication for pneumonia? He had also suffered a seizure and buckled over to the side fighting for breath ten days before he died , and wet his bed when this hapenned. I was told this was a syptom of the tumor and nothing could be done or medication given to stop the cough and any seizures . He had been playing happily right up to the moment he suddenly started vomiting and choked , he was dead in seconds and I could not do anything , it pains me to know that I could have had him treated if he indeed did have pneumonia but the vet told me that the coughiing gag and dyspnea were side effects of the tumour , is this true ? Water could be seen in the lungs when the chest x ray was taken three weeks before he died but was only given diuretics to contain it . I need to find closure and appreciate your views on this , thank you , Heartbroken
Type of Animal: English bulldog
Hello , Welcome to JA , I am DrD ,I am a licensed veterinarian ,I will try to do my best to assist you with your questions today.
I am sorry to hear about you loss.
I know this is a terrible feeling.
I do not think your lovely dog did die of pneumonia.
Unfortunately English bulldogs are handicapped dogs due to theri short face and VERY prone to
thank you Dr D, I was very careful and he also had surgery to shorten his palate two years earlier to avoid any problems later in life but he still aspirated
Yes ,they have a very troublesome respiratory system ,elongated palate, hypoplastic trachea which collapses easier than other breeds.
Is it correct that the gagging cough was a symptom of the tumour or should this have been treated separetly?
the tumor making pressure on his trachea
The tumor elevates the trachea and causes narrowing
this make the dog gag and cough.
oh I see , yes that is what the vet said , that the tumor was putting pressure on the surrounding areas , I was only wondering if anything else could have been done
I doubt it.
This an unfortunate case for both side
so the choking was to be expected ? i suppose if he hadnt died when he did the tumor would have slowly killed him anyway is this right ?
thank you Doctor
He would have died of either circulatory failure or bleeding from the tumor
Thank you and I am sorry about your loss again
would you know if the way he died was very painful ? I was next to him but could not help him, I tried the heimlich manouvre and CPR but he died within seconds
You did your best.Obviously he did die very quickly.
Be honest with you there must be some . The good thing is it did last in two seconds.
ok thank you very much, this helps clear any doubts I had of him dying of pneumonia
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27 years of small animal medicine and surgery experience.Licensed in Florida and Canada
Dear Doctor , I have a further quesiton relating to the death of my dog which is still bothering me and I hope you can help clarify . My dog was pronounced dead at 10am in the morning the day he died of aspiration and I put him in a blanket , he defecated and i cleaned him then took him to the vets where they put his body in a deep freeze at 3pm ie five hours after he died . I collected his frozen body two days later from the vets to bury him in the garden where I dug his grave . I noticed that his ears at this stage were pulled back flat against his face which was not the case when he died and I am worried that he may in fact not have been dead at all when they put him in the freezer otherwise why would his ears change position from the time he died unless he felt cold which means he was still alive ? Is there a possiiblity that he revived and then died frozen? I read somewhere that when people die of a heart problem one ought to wait as they could regain consciousness. Is this true and if not then why were his ears flattened if he was indeed dead and not feeling ?
Relist: Answer came too late.
Hi Heartbroken I am so sorry to hear your story, and can understand your grief. If he was pronounced dead at 10 AM and not put into the freezer until 3 PM, I believe he was dead when put into the freezer. The position of his ears may have changed by his positioning in the freezer. If his head was pushed against another body, or against the wall of the freezer, or if another body was put on top of his, it could change the position of his ears before full rigor and freezing. I truly do not take this as a sign that he woke up in the freezer. I am sorry for all your sad feelings, sense of loss, and longing to have him back, but I really do not think he woke up in the freezer hours after his 10 AM death. I know I never put a body into the freezer until I have felt for a pulse, listened for a heartbeat, etc. and I am sure your veterinarian would do the same. My sincere condolences, Rebecca
The vet did not check for a heartbeat or a pulse just looked at his eyes and as they were glazed over she said he had died , he was also starting to stiffen by the time they put him in the freezer, what I do not understand is that he was placed on the top and his head was not touching the freezer , he also did not have any other animals on top of him and both ears were pulled back against his head the same way, all the way back flattened against his head ? Does rigor mortis do this ? I just find it very odd
If he was starting to stiffen, I really think there is no doubt that he had passed away.
Yes I see your point but what explanation for the change of position of the ears ? Is this normal considering there was no energy to move them all the way back if he was dead ? I still do not understand why this happened
I still think that they were moved passively, possibly by something outside pushing on the ears, or by the process of rigor mortis.If he were alive when put into the freezer ( which I really do not believe was the case since you noticed him getting stiff even before then) I think more than his ears would be moved, that he would have moved his legs or head as well.Also, if he were alive, or came back to consciousness in the freezer, he would have started to breathe, and you would have seen frost on his muzzle from his breath. If his ears moved, I really believe that it was not done by a conscious act. I have heard of dogs and people coming "back to life" after those around them thought they had passed, but never after the first signs of rigor, which you noticed. I don't know what more to say. From everything you have written, he died shortly after he choked. He just could not have lived without getting any oxygen from choking. I feel so bad; I can tell how much you miss him and how much you want him back. I truly know exactly how you feel, and it is normal. I wanted to dig my dead dog back up after he had been buried for a day, just to be sure he was dead. I know he was dead, I know I was crazy with grief, but a tiny rational part of me knew he was gone, and I had to accept it. You were surrounded by caring veterinarians. If they thought there was a chance of his being alive, they would never have put him in that freezer. I know I carry my stethoscope out to the freezer at my clinic to have one last listen, just to be sure, before going into the freezer. I am sure your vets knew he was gone, and I am sure from everything you have told me that he was gone. Please keep asking me if you have more questions. Rebecca
I have 28 years of veterinary practice experience
You are welcome. My heart goes out to you.