Dog died suddenly.
Breed: Australian Shepherd
Age: 5-8 years
My dog, Ace, passed away on Thursday, July 5th. We live in the midwest and had been experiencing 100 degree temperatures during the day and 75 degree temperatures at night. On July 4th, we had Ace and three other dogs in our garage with a fan and dehumidifier (garage is insulated and has an insulated door - temp does not get above 88-90). We went out to check on them several times thought out the day and everything seemed fine. The only thing we saw that was odd was it looked like one of them threw up their food that day. However, one of our other dogs gulps his food and throws up often so we didn’t think a whole lot about it. That night we went to take them out and noticed it felt a lot cooler outside than in the garage. So we decided to take them down and put them in the shop and turn on the window air conditioning unit. When we took them down, we stayed a bit to pet and brush them. We observed that Ace was panting harder than normal but didn't think a lot about it because he is a bigger dog and generally pants harder than the other three dogs. Ace wrestled around with the other dogs and drank water at least three times while we were with them. Everything seemed fine so we went back up to the house. The next morning, my husband went down to feed and check on them before we left for work. When he walked through the door, Ace was lying down and was panting but not as hard as the night before after playing with the other dogs. Ace turned around and looked at him and stood up to greet him. My husband checked the air conditioner and it said 76 degrees, he filled the food bowls, petted the dogs and left. My husband got home around 1:30 and noticed that Ace was lying behind the shop in the pen area (dog door from shop leads to a 20 x 20 pen area outside). He thought it seemed odd because Ace never goes outside during the day when it is hot. He called his name several times and realized something had to be wrong when he did not move. He went down to the pen and he was dead. I'm left wondering what caused his death. Was it heatstroke or some other problem? I would have thought cooling the shop to 76 degrees would have been enough to keep them in safe temps. Ace showed no other signs of heat stroke other than panting hard after playing with the other dogs. I am just heartbroken over his death.
Dr. Marie replied:
Aw, I'm so sorry to hear about Ace. I won't be able to tell you exactly why he died, but I can give you my thoughts.
My biggest concern was when you mentioned that it seemed much hotter in the garage than outside. If it was 90 degrees outside and possibly hotter than that inside then, yes, heatstroke is possible. If a dog was in a very hot place for a significant amount of time it can cause kidney or liver failure. If that has already happened, then just placing him in a cooler place may not be enough for his organs to recover.
For some dogs, even 90 degrees for more than an hour or so can be quite serious for them.
There are many other possibilities as well though. It's possible that Ace had a serious heart condition. One that comes to mind is something called dilated cardiomyopathy. Dogs that have this heart condition can sometimes have no outward symptoms and then suddenly can go into heart failure and die.
It's also possible that Ace had gotten into something that was toxic to his liver or kidneys. Is there any access in the garage to antifreeze or other possible toxins?
Another possibility is if there was any rat or mouse poison in the garage. If he had eaten some of that it could cause death as well.
And it is even possible that there was an underlying disease such as a liver or kidney cancer or other type of cancer.
I wish I had some answers for you. Unfortunately without a post mortem exam it will be hard to know, and sometimes, even with a post mortem exam it can be a mystery.
I'm so sorry for your loss.
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Thank you for your response. The garage at its hottest is typically 88-90 degrees no matter how hot it is outside. Even on a day when it is 107 outside the garage does not get over 90. However, at night the temperature outside was getting down to 75 degrees. The dogs lay in the garage instead of going outside. I wanted to make sure they were cooler, so we decided to place them in the shop and turn the air on. There were really no signs of heat exhaustion from any of the dogs at about 8:00 pm on July 4th. The morning of the 5th, Ace was seemed fine at 7:00 am. Would it have taken that long to die from heat stroke?
Ace did not have access to any toxins in the garage or shop. We keep everything locked up since we have pets.
Thanks again for your response.
Dr. Marie replied:
It's really tough to say. My gut instinct is that there was "something else" going on, but what that was, we'll likely never know.
A normal healthy dog should be able to handle 90 degrees for a while...but if Ace was dealing with some serious medical condition then the heat could have made it worse.
I wish I could give you more answers!
Thanks again for your response. It is so hard to knowing what caused Ace to die. Our dogs are like family to us and we are still mourning his loss.