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Dr. Drew
Dr. Drew, Dog Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 16851
Experience:  Small Animal Medicine and Surgery
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What could have caused my dog to die so suddenly Symptoms heavy

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What could have caused my dog to die so suddenly? Symptoms:heavy panting, vomiting(2 hrs). Eventually (2-3 hrs later) blood passing from urine, mouth and especially rectum. Normal behavior the night before. Ate and drand well the night before. When we arrived at the vet, she had high fever, was seriously dehydrated and comatose. Bloodwork normal (except kidney explained by dehydration). No obvious toxins. Responded to fluids, fever returned to normal, became lucid. Responed to our contact and commands. Tried to get up, had no function of her hind legs. No femeral pulse. Suddenly she agonized in pain, continued to try to get up, could not. Hind paws cold, front paws warm. Given pain meds. Went to sleep and heart just stopped. All happened in aobur 15 minutes.
What could have caused this? Could there have been underlying disease going on and we missed it? Could taking her in to the vet sooner have prevented this outcome?
I'm so sorry to hear of your dog's passing :(

How old was she? Was she unattended (outdoors) earlier that day or in the days before hand?
Customer: replied 8 years ago.
She was 13 years, 8mos. English Shepher. She was unattended in the yard. This was not unusual. She would sometimes eat grass or something and vomit, but then be fine. The only difference was she refused her biscuit and water.
Is there any chance she could have found any rat poison?
Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Highly unlikely. We have over an acre of land and have never had rat posion on the property. She does go visit a dog across the street and I doubt the property owner would do anything to her.
OK, thanks for the info. From the symptoms you described, it sounds like there was DIC, which is short for Disseminated Intravascular Coagulopathy, which is a condition where the blood clotting factors are used up by the body, sometimes because of severe inflammation or other illness. Once the blood cannot clot, then there is usually bleeding noticed from multiple locations as you described. The fact that the back legs were unable to move, were cold, and had no pulse, suggests that there may have been a clot that formed in the arteries leading to the back legs, or that the output of the heart was so poor that no blood was reaching the hind end.

The presence of the high fever suggests that Heat Exhaustion may be to blame, which is an awful disease because the prognosis is so poor. It commonly results during the summer when dogs are left outside or left locked in a car, for example, but can occur under other conditions, especially if they have any breathing problems that reduce the ability to get rid of excess heat.

Customer: replied 8 years ago.
We live in Alaska, so probably no heat exhaustion. Any other possible underlying causes.
Other possible causes of DIC or clotting include Cancer, Cushing's syndrome, generalized bacterial infection (septicemia), or tick-borne illnesses such as Ehrlichiosis (which probably isn't common in your area either). In an older dog, I might be suspicious of a tumor that had gone undiagnosed, and potentially could have led to DIC.
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Customer: replied 8 years ago.
How long would a bacterial infection take to manifest and cause sepcis? We did find her eating some moss a few weeks ago and dug it up to get rid of it. She did vomit the moss alon with some gravel where the moss was located.
Most cases of bacterial sepsis will develop over several days, I would not expect that eating some moss a few weeks ago would have anything to do with this, as long as she was acting normally in the weeks since then.
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Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Could this possibly have been prevented, or could earlier treatment have abated the DIC and she have a more positive outcome?
Since the symptoms came on so suddenly, I don't think there's much you could have done to prevent nor treat this condition. I'm sorry you had to observe all of that happening, as I'm sure it was traumatic :( I think you did the right thing for her all the way, and it was a process that could not be stopped, unfortunately :(
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Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Could there have earlier signs that went unoticed? What would these be?
Earlier signs of DIC or any blood clotting disorder could be bruises or red/purple spots along the belly, or inside the ears, or on the gums. Pale gums could also be a warning sign. However, these signs can appear only hours before the problem becomes irreversible, so it's something that doesn't always give a good head-start on treatment.
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Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Thank you. I needed an objective opinion. Her vet has treated her for years and would want to be kind. I have agonized that I could have helped her had I only acted earlier that morning when I sensed she just wasn't herself. If only they could actually talk.
You're welcome -- I too wish they could talk, to tell us what hurts or doesn't feel right -- but alas, sometimes they get rather ill without showing any symptoms :-( I'm sorry for your loss.
Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Hello again. I do have a few more questions. Cassie had regular checkups (last one 3/11/09). Shouldn't there have been some indication of an underlying cancer at that time? If she had a cancer, how could her eating and drinking habits be absolutely normal the night before? I also found out that the gravel eating episode was not a one time thing. My husband said that she had vomited gravel a few times in the last month (our driveway is gravel), but quickly returned to normal. Could she have gotten some type of bacterial infection and should we have noticed earlier signs?
I wish I could give you definitive answers to all of your concerns, but please keep in mind that this is all in hindsight, and purely speculation based on what you've told me.

We often observe patients with cancer that clearly have had it for quite some time -- and even with regular physical exams and blood tests, it went undiagnosed because dogs are good at hiding signs of illness in the early phases, usually.

The gravel consumption makes me worry about some sort of chronic toxicity issue from minerals leaching out of the gravel, or even a perforation of the intestinal tract, if enough gravel accumulated in just the right spot.

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Customer: replied 8 years ago.
I know that I will never have a definitive answer. She was never alone for very long and we tried to take such good care of her. She was really healthy for her age and her sudden passing has just been such a mystery. Your insight and information has really been very helpful. I will definitely pass along this website to everyone I know with pets. Thank you.
I can tell that you are saddened by her passing - but please try to take some comfort in knowing that you gave her a very good, comfortable life for many years -- and that her passing was fairly quick. My thoughts are with you at this difficult time.