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Peter Bennett, DVM
Peter Bennett, DVM, Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 1306
Experience:  20 years experience as a Small Animal veterinarian
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Our beloved Rottweiler Ruby died suddenly this morning ...

Customer Question

Our beloved Rottweiler Ruby died suddenly this morning after showing weird symptoms last night. She is in perfect health and showed no signs of anything until in the evening when she was breathing hard and panting, like not getting her breath and was not responding to stimulus. She layed down and wouldn't get up and during the night she got worse and by morning she couldn't get up to stand or move. Her breathing was very shallow and labored. we took her to the vet and all the normal tests didn't show anything to make her have these signs and distress. She got worse and died. we think she may have had a massive stroke that just got worse   in time and no recovery was possible. does this sound like the right diagnosis. she was 11 years of age. We are totally devastated by this and how a by all accounts heathy dog could die so suddenly from playing ball the day before to dying in less than 12 hours later. Please help us.
Submitted: 10 years ago.
Category: Dog
Customer: replied 10 years ago.
Relist: I still need help.
Expert:  Peter Bennett, DVM replied 10 years ago.
Could she have had heartworms that you didn't know about? You describe symptoms of a pulmonary embolism, and heartworms can cause that if there is a sudden detachment of them.

Another problem can occur if she has a lung problem that causes a leak to develop in the lung tissue. A tumor, for example. Or an undetected abscess. A small tear may have developed from the exercise the afternoon before.

A leak of air from the lungs doesn't sound so threatening, but it can destroy the seal that keeps air out of the normally airless chest cavity around the lungs, eventually making it impossible to draw a breath. This is called a pneumothorax.

Yet another problem may have involved the heart. Inadequate circulation through the lungs can cause respiratory signs that you describe as well.

I know this is speculation as well, but these produce signs you witnessed more closely than those expected from a stroke.

I hope you get some comfort from knowing there were several things that may have caused this, and none of them really lended themselves to being treated effectively after they happen, without heroic actions getting started quickly.
Customer: replied 10 years ago.
Thank you for your answer's. Can you please clarify a few things for us. Ruby was by all accounts exceptional in health, last checkup she had our vet told us since she lived inside and in a smoke free environment, her lungs were like those of a dog half her age. She never displayed any signs of any problems at all leading up to her death. Her chest x-rays showed normal size heart and lungs were clear, no fluids or bleeding indicated on blood tests either. Is it your final opinion she died of heart related or some form of rupture not detectable by x rays, stomach, or lung area on the x rays? The only thing elevated on her blood test was her white blood count. Thank you
Expert:  Peter Bennett, DVM replied 10 years ago.
Consider; she was comparable to probably a 70 year old person, given her breed. What all was done at a checkup? Looking and listening are not adequate enough at that age to render a 'clean bill of health', let alone exceptional, any more than it would be for a person of 70. A chest x-ray is a screening for obvious problems, as are most blood tests done in a general exam. I am assuming that her heartworm status was negative.

Lack of symptoms is not necessarily a reason to assume freedom from potential problems, and that is, or should be, the goal of geriatric medicine anticipate problems and then look for early signs in order to head off greater ones. Economic dictates often affect the way medicine, human or veterinary, is practiced.

Dogs have quite an ability to compensate for any infirmity. They have no ability to communicate their aches and complaints as we do, so that eliminates a lot of insight our MD friends have.

When was her last chest x-ray. If not yesterday, you have no idea what the lungs/chest looked like after whatever happened, or even what has transpired since her last film. If it was yesterday, then a pneumothorax is probably not the culprit.

An elevated WBC is indicative of something, usually considered to be an infection somewhere, depending on how much the elevation, and the nature of it. I presume that was done yesterday, but it would not normally be considered much of a problem.

I have no opinion as to what she specifically died from...I had no information other than what you had briefly related, which suggested a suddenly appearing event that created a significant respiratory-like problem, progressing fairly rapidly to her death. Going from that I presented some events that could have produced those signs. These are not slowly progressing events...they just suddenly happen.

I do have suggestions of several things that may have happened to have caused this, for whatever they may be worth. The reality is that she may have been in a good state of health, and whatever did happen would not have been discovered earlier, but was simply an unfortunate event. I don't know if that's much clarity, as it is mostly speculation at this point. But many times speculation is all we can offer without post mortem examinations. Most client's 'need to know' doesn't go that far, understandably.
Customer: replied 9 years ago.
Reply to XXXXX XXXXX, DVM's Post:

Would this heart disorder from the american rott club be the most probable cause of her death so sudden. I will make payment after response. Sorry not sooner. Everything I've read about SAS seems to fit her sudden death and symptoms.