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Lisa, Certified Vet Tech
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 16502
Experience:  AAS Vet Tech. Bully breed rehab & Behavior modification
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The articles I am reading indicate rigor sets in the neck

Customer Question

the articles I am reading indicate rigor sets in the neck first. My wife said my 9lb minpin passed at 2:30am. by 1pm his legs were stiffening, however, his neck was limp. Why?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Lisa replied 1 year ago.

Hi there. My name is ***** ***** I'm happy to help you with your question. Just like an in person consult, I have a couple questions of my own to help ensure I give you the best information possible.....

So you're talking approximately 10 hours between when Zoo passed and when you noticed the legs were stiff but neck was limp?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
his neck never did stiffen. by 4pm when I transported Zoo to the funeral home there was fluid seeping out of his mouth. Eyes and neck fur/skin did show rigor.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
when I arrived home approximately 11 hours after the time of death I was given his legs were rigid. however, his neck was limp. it was about an hour later that the fur and skin on the back of his neck stiffened but his neck never did. by 4:30 pm when we transpor
Expert:  Lisa replied 1 year ago.

Thanks for the additional information. I really appreciate it.

Rigor can be affected by everything from ambient temperature of the room/area the dog is in, to the size of the dog itself. Some dogs seem to become stiff all over, while some others only become stiff in the legs and nowhere else.

Also, rigor does release/lessen over time and tends to loosen quicker in smaller dogs than bigger dogs. So it makes complete sense that Zoo would already be leaving rigor 12 hours after you found him. If Zoo had been a bigger dog...Lab or Golden...odds are that he still would have been in full rigor for another 12-24 hours.

There's a good site that explains the stages of rigor in dogs here:

I hope it helps.