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Dr. Chris
Dr. Chris, Dog Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 242
Experience:  15 years experience in dog and cat practice
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My dog is shaking all over. What is causing this?

Customer Question

My dog is shaking, panting and has no balance. Her legs are stiff and she cannot get up, walk or even sit. Shaking uncontrollably and panting. She has had a mild case of this for a couple of days. With days she was getting better and totally ok and now is the worst I have seen her. Any ideas on what it could be or what I can do?

Submitted: 7 years ago.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Chris replied 7 years ago.

What kind of dog is she and how old is she?
How long ago did this start?
Is she still eating and drinking normally?
Does she vomit or drool?
Is she current on her vaccines?
Has she had any ticks on her?

Customer: replied 7 years ago.

My dog died last night and I have no idea why. If you could help me figure it out, I would greatly appreciate it. Gabby was a Coton de Tulear, 8 year and 10 months old, never had any health problems. I did not vaccinate her after her puppy shots as I do not believe in them (but neither is my other dog who is fine) and having received the best care I could give her. She ate holistic food. For years she was on Life's Abundance and recently (last 2 weeks) switched her to California Natural and Innova (that was my first instinct for the cause) but cannot say for sure.
In the past month she had fleas, which she never had before. So I sprayed her with a flea spray once, just a little bit and I also sprayed my other dog a lot more, and she is fine. I also put a fogger in my house and left it closed for 2 days, and then returned with the dogs.
She started having the first strange behavior a week ago when in the middle of the night she was panting, jumping on and off the bed, and not able to sleep. The next day she was shaking and hiding in the bathroom and didn't want to eat. By that afternoon she was fine and returned to her normal self, which is why I did not take her to the vet.
Then again this weekend I noticed she was acting strange, shaking a little bit, drinking lots of water and defecating herself. Her nose was dry and warm, but when we went for a walk, she was fine. She did rub herself on the grass a lot and pawed her face. That was Saturday. At night she was a little anxious, but nothing extreme. I had her fasting for 2 days to clear up any problems in her stomach she could have had. Then on Sunday she was fine until I fed her. I gave her probably 7 kibbles of California Natural mixed with Innova. Right after that she started shaking, tremors, panting and eventually losing her balance. This lasted about 20 minutes, where I held her, tried to research what was going on and then all of a sudden there was a couple of minutes when she seemed to calm down, no more panting or shaking, and then she passed.
There was no vomiting or diarrhoea, only defecating herself. There was no whining or crying, just wheezing and difficulty breathing. She had a lump on her back for a long time that I did not pay any attention to as it appeared about a year ago and she never complained about it. Maybe that could have had something to do with it.
I believe it could be any of these:
the flea pesticide I put on her and in the house
the new food I gave her
the dried chicken treats I buy for them at Costco (which the package says is only chicken and nothing else, all natural)
she was already sick before and something triggered her death

It seems to me that she had a heart attack before she died. Her legs were stiff and straight, and her heart was beating very fast. Everything happened so fast that I am at a complete loss of what happened. Please help me figure out what happened to my dog and if my other dog (a golden retriever) is at any risk of getting it too.
Thank you!

Expert:  Dr. Chris replied 7 years ago.

First of all, let me extend my sympathy on the loss of your dog. I'm sorry she went through such an ordeal. Unfortunately, without a necropsy (autopsy done on an animal), the cause of death will never be known for sure. Some possibilities that come to my mind with the symptoms you describe are:
1. Toxicity- most likely due to the flea spray, especially if it contained an organophosphate, or due to contaminated food. Sometimes one dog is more sensitive than another to toxins.
2. Central nervous system disease- either due to cancer or an infection (bacterial, parasitic, rickettsial, or fungal) in the nervous system.
3. A severe allergic reaction leading to anaphylactic shock.

The rapid heart rate before death is very common with anything painful or that causes shock. The stiff legged posture that precedes death is called opisthotonus and usually occurs right before cardiac arrest.
To be cautious, it would be a good idea to take the other dog in for a physical exam and a small blood panel and faecal exam to make sure there are no signs of exposure to a toxin or a parasite that could cause the other dog to become ill.

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Customer: replied 7 years ago.

Thank you for your kind words of sympathy. I am still in shock and am having a hard time accepting it as she was extremely healthy, never had any issues and still very young.
I have one more question, once in a while she would cry and scream for no apparent reason and would run in any direction, as if escaping the pain. She could be lying on the bed alone and all of a sudden she would start screaming for about 5-7 seconds and then it would pass. I touched her all over and she was fine, and no signs of anything. She did this for years, probably about once every 2 months. Do you think this had something to do with her death? What could that have been?
Thank you!

Expert:  Dr. Chris replied 7 years ago.

It's hard to say what could have been bothering her to cause the episodes of apparent pain. Some dogs will act that way if the anal glands are bothering them or if they are constipated. I doubt that it was related to the cause of death.