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Dr. Bruce
Dr. Bruce, Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 19291
Experience:  15 years of experience as a small animal veterinarian
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my 11 year old German Sheppard died suddenly last week. She

Customer Question

my 11 year old German Sheppard died suddenly last week. She fell down and couldn't move... than a few minutes later tried to get up then fell again and peed and pooped all over the floor. I put her into my car and she was not moving but looked right at me. On the way to the hospital she put het head back, and I saw the blood drain out of her gums and she was gone. What happened... did I accedentally poison her or did she have a stroke, heart attack? please help.
Submitted: 8 years ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Dr. Bruce replied 8 years ago.

I'm very sorry for the sudden loss of this special friend of yours. Any time a German Shepherd acutely dies, I'm always most suspicious of these things - Splenic hemagniosarcoma rupture, hemangiosarcoma of the atrium of the heart causing a cardiac tamponade, and GDV.

Of these the GDV seems to be the least likely. These usually have greatly distended abdomens and marked discomfort for hours prior to their passing. They also try to vomit and fail to really bring anything up.

The other two are still pretty suspicious. Both of these are cancers of the blood vessels and they can cause acute death by causing bleeding inside the body. The splenic version literally causes the pet to bleed out internally - they usually get weaker, and weaker until they die. They will breath harder due to the lack of blood from the bleeding internally. The cardiac version actually is bleeding around the heart and it puts pressure on it and causes it to not work as it should. Literally it causes the heart to fail.

Here are two links on them.

I don't think you accidently poisoned her. The only thing that might seem slightly possible is if she ate a bunch of anticoagulant rat poison and bled out due to that - if there's none in the environment then that's pretty unlikely...but never impossible.

It sounds like she passed quickly and that is a blessing in that she didn't suffer for long.

My sympathy,
Dr. Bruce
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Customer: replied 8 years ago.

The Vet that I took her to tried to take blood out of her abdomen with a needle but nothing came out, so he didn't think she had internal bleeding.

Why did she poop and pee all over when she had her second attack? The poop had blood around it but not alot. She was not panting at all either. She just laid there looking at me confused.

Expert:  Dr. Bruce replied 8 years ago.
Can you tell me when she first started to look not right? You said she fell down and couldn't move... but, in the time before this, was she not eating for a time, not drinking, losing weight?

I've seen some cases where it can take an aspiration or two to get blood out of the abdomen of a bigger dog. This can happen because the needle isn't long enough to get into the abdomen or because it gets blocked with some of the organs or fat in the abdomen before it can aspirate the blood.

The reason for defecating and urinating when she had her second attack is most likely due to her body literally dying. When the body is that stressed, the bowels and bladder get released.
Customer: replied 8 years ago.

Here is her history...

She has never been a good eater and would skip 1 meal every couple months or so. She didn't eat breakfast one morning about a month ago but ate dinner so we were not alarmed. There have been a couple of times where she would curl up in a ball and hide behind the chair in the living room for the evening, but that only happen once in the past 6 months.

The night before she died she was in the back yard playing with my other two dogs. She ate her dinner and was drinking well. She did not seem to be in pain at all. Just her normal self.

I was awoken 6:20am to her slipping on the wood floor and when I went to check on her she was laying on her side in front of the front door.

She would not move but was looking right at me, she was not breathing heavy but she seemed very very cold, especially her nose. So I called the emergency line of the doctor and waited for them to call back.

While I waited I tried to move her and she was just limp, never whinning though. Then when she peed and pooped I new she was in trouble and took her to the car.

Only medication she was on was for her runny poop that she has had for several years, an antibiotic.


Expert:  Dr. Bruce replied 8 years ago.
That history is one that fits the hemangiosarcoma of the spleen or heart. I know your vet again didn't get blood on the aspirate - but I had one case where I tried to aspirate and didn't get blood. The owner definitely wanted an answer and during the necropsy, as I opened up the abdomen - there was definitely blood from a splenic bleed out. My needle must have been not getting through the body wall - it was a very, very big shepherd.

As far as the hemangiosarcoma bleeding around the heart - it doesn't necessarily always cause extreme respiratory distress. Sometimes it is so subtle that even a vet can miss it. I've seen this too! At the emergency clinic one night - a lab had been hospitalized for not doing very well and the vet I was relieving had done films, blood work and a urinalysis and found nothing. When I examined the case (as I do at the beginning of every shift) I noticed poor pulses and poor heart sounds - something missed or me being more critical? I took out the ultrasound probe and looked at the heart and found the fluid compressing the heart. The other vet felt horrible missing it up to that point. Long story short, it didn't present the typical way - respiratory distress.

Based again on your history, I would be suspicious of the hemangiosarcoma.
Dr. Bruce
Customer: replied 8 years ago.

Do you think if i got to her earlier I could have saved her? She was gone in about an hour. I didn't even have time to get to the hospital that was two miles away. She didn't seem like she was in pain but she had always been a very brave girl. Do you think she suffered in that last hour?

Also, is 11 years the life expectancy of a Sheppard? I thought she had at least 3 more years with us.

Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Also, she got a blood test about a month ago... shouldn't that have found something that indicated hemangiosarcoma?
Expert:  Dr. Bruce replied 8 years ago.
No blood test will indicate if a hemangiosarcoma is present. It can be seen on the spleen with radiographs and ultrasound. Sometimes - if unfortunately big enough - it can be palpated on a physical exam. If it is on the heart - it can only bee seen with an ultrasound.

I and the rest of the veterinary community, wish there was a blood test to help us determine if a dog has one insidiously brewing inside of them.
Customer: replied 8 years ago.
ok, so there was no way I could have seen this coming? I feel helpless right now.
Expert:  Dr. Bruce replied 8 years ago.
To be honest, no, there are really no signs you would have seen prior to this that would have indicated a problem to you with the hemangiosarcoma cases. That is the frustration to them.

Not that this will make you feel better, but I remember the first clinic that I worked at had a german shepherd die suddenly while boarding over thanksgiving. The owners dropped her off with not a worry in the world and I had to call them to say she was found the next morning dead in her kennel. The ok'd a necropsy and a medium sized splenic hemangiosarcoma was found that had ruptured and allowed her to bleed out overnight.

Keep the memories of this special girl with you always...
Dr. Bruce
Customer: replied 8 years ago.

Thank you so much for your answers.... this helps me have some sort of closure to her death. She was my best friend. I will keep her in my heart always.

I am so glad I found this site and am really glad that I met you.




Expert:  Dr. Bruce replied 8 years ago.
I'm glad I could help you some in this time of difficulty.

Dr. Bruce