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Sudden death in papillon

Species: Dog
Breed: Papillon
Age: 5-8 years
My Doctor,

I had a six year old female Papillon. She was in seemingly perfect and documented perfect health. She was small, approximately 3.5-4lbs.

A couple days ago, in the morning my cousin woke up to find she had defecated in her cage. Sometimes this happens, we know she is very small and cannot wait the full 6-7 hours of night time before going. We thought nothing of it. We cleaned her up and she was acting normal. A little while later, she threw up in the kitchen, and might have again in her cage. She had been cleaned up and we carefully watched her. She appeared to be perfectly fine, and, maybe simply had eaten her breakfast too fast as she had done in the past.

A couple hours later, she was lying in her little pet-bed when someone noticed her head was hanging pretty low. They examined her and she was unresponsive. They took her out and she has glazed over eyes and didn't seem to be responding. In the panic and confusion, my cousin couldn't find the keys to the car to rush her to the vet. She died within minutes.

Our vet examined the body as best he could, and mentioned he heard gurgling sounds in her lungs. He had no apparent explanation for her death.

Do you have any suggestions, or ideas for what may have caused this...? Thank you.


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Oh, I am sorry to hear about your dog. How tragic.

I won't be able to give you an exact answer as to what happened, but I can give you a few ideas.

If there was fluid in her lungs then one possibility is that she had a heart problem. Little dogs can be prone to some very serious heart problems. However, we don't usually see sudden death with heart problems. Rather, we would normally see significant breathing issues before passing. But not always.

Another possibility could be if she had chewed on an electrical wire of some sort. Electrocution can cause fluid in the lungs and can definitely be fatal.

It's hard to say whether the vomiting and diarrhea were symptoms or just part of the process of dying as organs shut down. It's possible that perhaps she had some mild gastritis (upset stomach) and when she vomited she ended up aspirating (breathing in) some of the vomit.

There are many other possibilities. A foreign object that had penetrated through the intestines could cause serious problems like this. Ingesting something intensely toxic to the liver or kidneys could as well but would be less likely to cause death so quickly. One exception would be xylitol ingestion. Xylitol is a sweetener that is often found in gum. A small amount can be extremely toxic to a dog's liver, especially a little dog.

I'm so sorry for your loss. Please know that it is extremely unlikely that you could have done anything differently to prevent this.

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. AskAVetQuestion.com 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.

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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.