My dog just died and I need some answers (lengthy).
October 19, 2010 9:50 AM   Subscribe

My dog just died and I need some answers. She was a 6 month old female stray. About 5 days ago, she became listless and weak - wanting to sleep whenever she could. In addition she felt quite feverish and she suffered from labored breathing - making a wheezing sound with each breath.

As this would not get better, I took her to the vet (I live in India) the day before yesterday. The vet was unable to positively diagnose. He listened to her chest and declared her lungs as unaffected. His "diagnosis", if I can call it such, was fever plus anemia in addition to some undefined infection. He injected her with some antibiotic and prescribed oral antibiotics on top of that.

I took her home and the following night she had great difficulty breathing, much more so than before. she would repeatedly get up and gasp for air, making deep rasping sounds as she struggled for breath. after some time, this subsided somewhat and she returned to the labored breathing from earlier. Additionally, during the day, she had shown an appetite, but would vomit whatever given to her within a minute. The vomit was covered in a thick, viscous mucus.

The next day, I return to the vet. This time he declares that she must have pneumonia. More injections: another round of antibiotics and a bronchial dilator. Blood is taken for lab work. I return home with instructions to continue with the prescribed medications.

Last night is another really rough night for her. Again, there are episodes where she's gasping for air. Today, I bring her in again and am told that the blood analysis confirms an immune response to an infection, in addition to anemia.

She gets more injections. Antibiotics and some other stuff. I can't quite shake the feeling that this case is beyond the vet's capabilities, but I dismiss the feeling.

I take her home for the final time. She lies flat all day, wheezing and rasping. Tonight, I bring her some chicken broth for which she gets up and which she gulps down greedily (she'd not eaten in a few days by then). I try to slow her down, taking the plate from her. Then, without warning, she slumps on her hind legs, as if to sit down, with nose pointed skywards. She remains like that for a few seconds before collapsing dead before me. It was over in a matter of seconds, brutal in its swiftness.

Sorry for this really lengthy post, but I'm seriously rattled. I want to know what she was suffering from and what she died of. If anyone with a veterinarian background could shed some light I'd really appreciate it.

posted by oxidizer to Pets & Animals (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
We can't diagnose over the internet. More than likely it's too late to have a necropsy done if you have handed the corpse over to be disposed of, but the only way to really find out is to do a necropsy and run more tests, which will cost money.

More than likely your cat was misdiagnosed and not treated properly. The only thing you could have done was to get second opinion, preferably from an internal medicine specialist.
posted by TheBones at 9:56 AM on October 19, 2010

It's understood that a diagnosis can't be made just based on this description.
As such, I'm quite satisfied with an educated guess. Btw, it was a dog.
posted by oxidizer at 9:59 AM on October 19, 2010

Barely even an educated guess but, the first things that come to my mind when a young dog gets severely ill are parvovirus or distemper. Poor puppy.
posted by Carbolic at 10:12 AM on October 19, 2010

I have no educated guess. I'm just writing to tell you that I'm so, so sorry to hear this. My dog suddenly died at a young age about four years ago. Her symptoms were much like your dog's, and it turned out that she died of kidney failure. The animal hospital assured me that they wouldn't have been able to do anything even if I'd gotten her into the clinic earlier, but I was devastated and didn't feel I'd ever be okay again. I know the pain you're going through, and it must be very, very difficult to have no answers. I hope you're getting a lot of support and I wish you luck in finding out what happened.
posted by pineappleheart at 10:13 AM on October 19, 2010

I'm not a vet and I don't have any ideas either, but I'm so sorry. This must have been terrible for you to go through.
posted by MexicanYenta at 10:17 AM on October 19, 2010

I'm sorry I can't give a diagnosis as this is the internet and I'm not a vet, but there is a useful list of canine respiratory illnesses here, which you might compare to the symptoms your dog had.

My uneducated guess over the internet? Heartworms, which are transmitted by mosquitoes.

I'm sorry for your loss.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:28 AM on October 19, 2010

Something similar happened to our cat. However, since yours is a dog and there are some differences in what happened, take this all with a grain of salt.

Our cat broke his leg and required surgery. His recovery was pretty rough, but we were able to bring him home a few days later. He would merely lie on his blanket, completely lethargic. He would drag himself to the litter box though (good kitty!). The morning after we brought him home, he hobbled over to his drinking bowl, took a drink. I was sitting on the floor beside him. He came over, put his head in my lap (something he never ever did before), then got up, walked a few steps away, collapsed in a stiff manner and . . . died.


We rushed him to the vet. We wondered what had happened. We did not have a necropsy done. However, the vet's best guess was that he threw an embolism. Probably a result of the surgery or perhaps he had a pre-existing condition we were unaware of (after some research I found that there is a line of that breed of cat that has a heart defect, don't know if he was part of that line or not, but it is likely). It was also possible that he had a stroke. We just don't know without the necropsy. For a long time I regretted not having a necropsy done, but am now ok with it. Stroke, embolism, or undetected infection = same result in our case.

I'm so sorry for your loss.
posted by Sassyfras at 10:34 AM on October 19, 2010

I'm awfully sorry. What a terrible thing.

I had a dog that had similar symptoms, as I recall. Wheezing, listlessness, weakness, lack of appetite. We took him to a number of vets, and finally to a specialist, who said that it was either cancer or a fungal infection in his lungs. We opted not to have any further tests done and had the poor boy put to sleep.

So my uneducated guess would be fungal infection.
posted by booth at 10:43 AM on October 19, 2010

Sorry to hear about your pup. I wonder how long it had been since you adopted her, and whether her vaccinations had been brought up to date...

The vet determined that she had an infection and began treatment with antibiotics...this is pretty much standard operating procedure from my experience with taking sick street dogs to the vet. There are a number of possible reasons for the outcome you had, for example, the infection could have been viral. I don't think that you can make too much of the fact that the vet didn't think the lungs where involved on the first day. The type of antibiotics he gave her the first day would have likely been the same kind he would have used to treat her for pneumonia as well. That 'likely' is there as I'm just speaking from my own experience rescuing street dogs, and not as a veterinarian.

Again, sorry for your loss. If I was in your situation I'd probably visit the vet again and explain that I just wanted to understand a little bit better what he thought had happened with the dog. In some locations, veterinarians are so unused to anyone giving a crap what happens to dogs, that they are more than happy to take extra time to talk to and help someone who does. I don't know if this applies to where your living or not.
posted by toodles at 10:44 AM on October 19, 2010

As a dog lover and owner with extensive experience with dogs (but never with parvo, thank god), try to find out if it was parvo or if it was something other than parvo. Parvo is a BAD BAD thing to have in your home if you plan on getting another dog and getting rid of it on non-hard surfaces may prove impossible.

I'll let you do the research and find out what you can but I'd ask the vet that question before making any other moves towards a replacement pup. Don't assume a parvo vaccine will keep a younger dog safe in your home if this one did indeed expose your house/belongings to the virus. IANAV, but you should be talking to one.

Any chance the stray drank/got into/was fed poisonous chemicals. Antifreeze is the weapon of choice of rednecks trying to kill neighborhood dogs here. Dogs love the taste and it's deadly in any quantity to speak of. Maybe this one (while a stray or as a free range dog?) got into something similar like that or rat poison or ate a rat that had been killed by poison that wasn't certified as "one kill" poison (Ie. it will kill a rat, but not an animal that eats the carcass).

Condolences, life goes on, save another dog when you can. Kudos to you for that.
posted by RolandOfEld at 11:58 AM on October 19, 2010

I don't know, but I am so sorry you went through that and that you lost your puppy.
posted by walla at 12:04 PM on October 19, 2010

I am so sorry for your loss, especially so early when you were likely emotionally ill-prepared to accept that you did everything you could.

It sounds to me like your dog contracted a virus that her immune system was unable to overcome.
posted by WeekendJen at 12:56 PM on October 19, 2010

It does sound like Parvo with secondary organ problems. We had a pup get that around the same age and she pulled through by the skin of her teeth. She got it despite all vaccines, kept indoors for 12 weeks etc. etc. There doesn't seem to be much the vets can do beyond treat the symptoms.
posted by fshgrl at 1:03 PM on October 19, 2010

Parvo usually comes with really severe diarrhea. Madly severe bloody diarrhea.

This sounds like something else - maybe ehrlichiosis or heartworms. Then again, ehrlichiosis should have been treated with the antibiotics, but only if they were the right kind and the infection wasn't too severe.
posted by fremen at 2:17 PM on October 19, 2010

I'm sorry for your loss. As the previous poster said, Parvo has severe bloody diarrhea. There is also a test for Parvo, and a vaccine.

My guess (without any veterinary knowledge - complete speculation) would be lyme. Its symptoms are lethargy, vomiting, and pain. There is also a test for lyme however, so even a basic vet could have used it (or ordered it from the university). Also not sure what the incidence of Lyme is in India. It also could have been something congenital, like a cardiac defect.

If it was heartworms (for which there is also a test), your poor dog could have easily been too foregone for the treatment to work. Heartworms are nasty stuff. The only way to protect against it is prevention by monthly dosing with a ivermectin product (like Heartguard). Once the heartworms are mature, the changes of survival are limited.

Its unfortunate your vet seems not to tried a number of diagnostics avenues. While diagnostics don't guarantee answers, they would have ruled out a number of diseases.
posted by gwen1234 at 3:50 PM on October 19, 2010

Was your dog vaccinated? That could eliminate quite a few things. I worked in a vet hospital for many years and my parents are both vets so this is where my thoughts come from.

Unfortunately I think a very serious lack of inquiry and aggressive treatment occured here. When animals come into our hospital that are young and have these symptoms the following occurs: general exam, fluids, bloodwork, the doctor would listen to the heart specifically especially if there was coughing and as you say "no lung involvement", next would come a heart ultrasound. This all would occur with the first visit. I know someone will comment saying this is major overkill but when a puppy is listless something very wrong. I understand that you are in India and many if not all of these options may not have been available to you. It disturbs me greatly however that no fluids were given.

A few ideas, there are two possibilities for what this could be a congenital condition or an infection. While infection is much more likely I mention the congenital issue because I have seen quite a few dogs present and die from heart and other organ abnormalities at this age, always sad as they are so young and yet their owners have had them long enough to grow extremely attached. I do not believe this is parvovirus, which presents with diarrhea rather than a cough. It could be heartworm however 6 months is very young. Did you notice any discharge from the nose, this may indicate distemper. It doesn't sound like bordetella but it is possible that it was an odd presentation that quickly progressed to pneumonia. How did the bloodwork come back. It may be important to see whether any other values were affected other than the white count. Anyway, there's my thoughts. Please post again if you receive any additional information. I hope someone here will be able to help you out.
posted by boobjob at 4:00 PM on October 19, 2010

I'm so sorry for your loss. It sounds like she was very ill, and you cared very much for her.

For the bad news: although IANAV, I don't think people here can tell you what happened to your dog over the internet, or even give you very good guesses. It could have been any number of things, or combination of things, and there's no really good way to narrow them down from the information you've given, aside from something I'll point out below. As TheBones mentioned, your dog would need a necropsy--a post-mortem examination of the dog and tissue samples taken for testing--to determine probable cause of death.

I can tell you that there are diseases listed here that are regional diseases--for example, AFAIK, Lyme-infected ticks have not been found on the Indian subcontinent. (I'll accept correction if someone has better data than I do--I haven't picked up a public health text since 2005.)

It was less likely to be parvo for the reasons boobjob points out--but it could have been an incredibly strange presentation...we don't know.

I'm so sorry that we can't give you much help when you've just lost your dog.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 5:04 PM on October 19, 2010

Thanks to all of you for your kind words.

She was a really sweet dog and somehow deserved better - alas, life goes on.

In response to your questions:
  • No, unfortunately I neglected to have her vaccinated.
  • There was no nasal discharge
  • Poisoning is possible, as we had a dog poisoned here some months ago. However, I wonder whether things wouldn't have progressed faster in that case?
  • There was no diarrhea, so I guess that rules out the parvo virus

posted by oxidizer at 9:11 PM on October 19, 2010

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