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Grief after dog passed away.

Species: Dog
Breed: german shepherd mix
Age: 11-15 years
I recently lost my 13 year old German Shepherd mix. She is my first dog. My trusted companion and more like my child. She was with me when both my grandparents died and when I had a stillbirtth. I am lost without her. I feel myself falling into a deep depression and am looking to find some answers that can hopefully bring me some peace. About 3 months ago, Gabby started having serve problems with her hind legs. To the point where she could barely walk. I took her to 3 different vets and ended up at a neurologist. The neurologist put her on gabapentin, tramadol and rymadil. Gabby was doing better. Then about a week before she passed away, I noticed her walking was getting a bit worse again. I also noticed her gums were pale sometimes. And she was having diarrhea. I took her to the vet who took her off the rymadil and I made an appointment with the neurologist again. When I took her to the neurologist her heart rate was very rapid. 240 bpm. She said this was concerning and did a chest x ray which showed that Gabby had pneumonia. The vet said the rymadil had probably made her aspirate. They hospitilaized Gabby and put her on a strong antibiotic and were doing nebulizer treatments. She seemed to be doing better. After about 48 hours at the vet, they phoned me and said things had taken a horrible turn for the worse and Gabby had developed ARDS. They had placed her on a ventilator. I rushed to the vet and after talking with numerous vets had her taken off the ventilator and put in an oxygen chamber. We did this for about an hour and tried other medications and then it just became too much and Gabby passed away. I am heart broken. I cannot function. I am crying non stop. I am not leaving the house. I am lost without my dog. I feel like I killed her. Should I have noticed signs that something was wrong earlier? Should I have known to not put her on Rymadil? Should I have left her on the ventilator? Gabby made me a better person. Calm. Loving. Giving. She put me at peace. I always wanted to do right by her and feel like I failed her when she needed me most. How was I unable to save my dog. Did I miss something big? Should I have taken another course of action or did I do everything I could? I can't bring her back and it's tearing me up.

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

I'm so sorry to hear of your loss. It is so difficult to lose a pet, especially when you have this strong of a bond.

Something doesn't add up in what you have described to me for Gabby's history. Rimadyl does not cause a dog to aspirate. I'm wondering if perhaps there was some miscommunication from the vet?

Whenever a German Shepherd has problems with the nerves in their back legs then the most likely cause is degenerative myelopathy. As degenerative myelopathy gets worse, it can cause neurological issues in the rest of the body as well. It is possible that what happened to Gabby was the end stages of degenerative myelopathy.

I have not met many German Shepherds who were older than 13. For a large dog, to live to this age is not common. I am fairly certain that Gabby's death was not something that you or a vet has caused but was an aging issue.

Please do not blame yourself. It sounds like you went above and beyond to give Gabby a wonderful life. It is common to feel extreme grief when losing a close companion like this. If you feel it is overwhelming, you can speak with your veterinarian to see if there is a pet loss support group in your area. These groups are really good for helping people to cope with the difficult feelings of loss.

I hope this has helped, but please let me know if you have more questions.

Dr. Marie.

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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

Hi Dr. Marie- thank you for your response.

The vet definitely said she had aspiration pneumonia and that it was from the Rimadyl. Her chest X-rays showed pneumonia but it doesn't add up to me either.

She was fine on Friday. Well not 100% but she was ok the gone Sunday night. I don't understand and feel like there must have been something I could have done or missed.

Degenerative myelopathy can cause this?

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

I spent some time and did a search of veterinary case reports to see if there was a known connection between Rimadyl and aspiration pneumonia and I could not find one. I'm really not sure what the reasoning was behind the thought that Rimadyl could cause aspiration pneumonia. I feel like I am missing something.

Degenerative myelopathy always starts at the hind end of the body, but as it progresses it can start to cause problems with the nerves and muscles towards the front of the body as well. In theory, it could cause issues with breathing. I wouldn't say that it is common for dogs with degenerative myelopathy to develop aspiration pneumonia but I could see that it could happen.

There are other neurological conditions that could cause aspiration pneumonia as well such as myasthenia gravis.

It's also possible that there was something other than pneumonia going on in the chest such as cancer. It can sometimes be difficult to interpret what is going on in chest radiographs.

Regardless, the only reason I can see for this to happen is because of advanced age.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.