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Ask the Veterinarian/Dog heart attack death


My mums dog died this morning (Staffordshire bull terrior), it's left us all devastated. She was 7 years old and full of life before this happened. She had lived her whole life with her sister and they slept, played and ate together... They never left each others side. My mother came back home yesterday to find the dog had been sick 3 times around the house and also pooed and wee (not like her). So she knew she wasn't very well (sometimes she would eat grass from the garden and be sick so my mum just put it down to this). Then later on, on this night they went to bed and was sick again 2 times, my dad took her down stairs and tried to give her some water she then started panting and he held her and again offered her some water, she took a sip then he noticed her eyes was glazed all over.. He called her name whilst trying to calm her as she was panting real heavy. She then took a sigh and stopped breathing. It's all a sudden shock as like I say she was full of life the day before, her sister will miss her so much as all of us. We are all now worried that her sister may die of lonelyness as she has already been searching for her. Can anybody tell me if this sounds like a heart attack as we are all unsure, I just wish I could have done something to help her. Any answers will be most appreciated. Thank you

HI Sara,
I am really sorry for your loss. It can be so devastating to lose a pet this way.
The only way to know what really happened is to have a vet look her over inside- that is, to do a necropsy on her.

There are so many things that can cause sudden death in dogs. Heartworm disease, cancer bleed outs, heart disease, even brain aneurysms. Heart attacks are generally very painful in dogs and they do a lot of barking and screaming. I once saw a dog die of a heart attack from having heartworm disease. It was horrible as there was nothing we could do for her and she screamed for a quite a while before she died, even on sedatives.

When they have a bleed out from a cancer, they generally act like your mom's dog did. Cancers are more and more common in dogs and certain ones cannot be seen or even detected. Hemangeosarcoma is one of the most common and most deadly of all the cancers. These tumors form in the abdomen and can actually form anywhere in the dog and they are very friable tissue tumors. They are fed with thousands of blood vessels so when they rupture, the dog essentially bleeds to death.

It is very common in many breeds. My mom's seeing eye dog died like that at the age of 8. Unfortunately there is nothing you can do to detect them ahead of time.

As hard as this is, your dog will not die of loneliness. She might get a bit depressed, and mope around, but she will not die. My dog was very depressed when I lost my first dog at 16. She had raised my dog from 9 weeks old on. So yes, she got depressed and slept a lot, didn't eat as much as was generally lethargic. But she got through it with me and lived to a happy 14 yrs old. I just lost her a year ago Thanksgiving.

So be kind to yourselves at this sad time and give her extra attention. This will help her with her grieving process as well.

My thoughts are with you all.  

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Jana Connell RVT, CVT


PLEASE READ BEFORE SUBMITTING TO ME: I am NOT a vet and do NOT diagnose diseases. That is only for a licensed Veterinarian to do. I will give you suggestions and steer you toward calling your vet for help. You can call the vet's office and talk to the technician there or the vet at times. Don't be afraid to call them! If you have a serious issue with your pet please post it to one of the veterinarians in here- I will tell you the same thing in my answer. IF your pet is injured or in an emergency situation, CALL YOUR VET- Do not wait and post in here. Just call the vet's office and get them in to see the vet right away. Critical treatment time is lost if you seek answers here when you should have your precious pet at the vets!! Don't sit at home waiting for an answer when your pet is critically ill or injured!! I can answer most questions about small animal and wildlife care as well as small animal nutrition. I can also answer questions about all phases of dental care for small animals. I DO NOT answer questions about birds (unless it is wildlife or songbirds) or HAMSTERS/GERBILS/CHINS/GUINEA PIGS/REPTILES/FROGS/RABBITS/PET BIRDS OF ANY KIND so please submit these questions to the appropriate sections. I, as well as other experts in here, do NOT do homework questions- that is for YOU to do! Please respect these rules for all of us. Thanks!


I have over 42 years experience in the field of veterinary medicine. I specialized in small animals and did wildlife rehab for over 25 years, mostly raptors, squirrels and opossums. I am a Small Animal Nutritional Consultant with 6 certificates from Hills Pet Foods, CNM and Purina. I also specialized in Small Animal Dentistry which is a field I truly love. I also Teach Veterinary Technology to working technicians who are studying to take their California Tests to become Licensed Technicians. They have to take both the VTNE (Veterinary Technician National Exam) and the California boards.

Audubon,World Wildlife Federation, American Society of Veterinary Dental Technicians.


Licensed with California and Oregon, RVT and CVT. Certified Veterinary Dental Technician Have over 1500 logged hours of Continuing Education Credits(that means I keep up to date!).

Awards and Honors
Nominated for Expert of the Month for the last 5 years.

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