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Gloria Atwater

Dog brain aneurysm? Friend's dog's sudden death

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Greetings all ~

This past weekend a dear friend experienced the terrible and abrupt loss of her beautiful dog to an event that she initially thought was some kind of heart failure. She was out feeding livestock that morning while her dogs noodled around the yard, when she heard him give a horrible, awful cry. She got to him within seconds, but he was already dead.

This dog was only 7 years old, (going on 8) in the peak of health and an active working dog. Everything about him was totally normal: he woke up in a happy mood, ate a good breakfast, the usual. He didn't run into anything in the yard and no other dog ran into him. There was no impact, no accident, and he had not suffered any kind of injury, illness or overheating in the days previous.

The only clue she found was when she took his body to the vet for cremation: he'd suffered a nose bleed. She did not do a necropsy, I think simply because she was so traumatized and upset, but I think we all understand that. He was her prized import, her first open dog, her hopes for the future and just an all around great guy. She's totally devastated and I'm just sick about it.

Anyhow, in the absence of medical certainty, the best guess is a brain aneurysm. Has anyone any knowledge of this sort of thing in dogs? I'm just curious, since this was so out-of-the-blue and the dog was until that moment the very picture of health.

~ Gloria



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This it what I lost my first dog too. He was older, almost 14. In the morning he was fine, then had a short bout of a very strange obsessive eating, picking at grass and leave and whatever was on the ground, like he couldn't control himself. I managed to distract him enough that he got over it. It only lasted a few minutes and I was present the whole time. Rest of the day he was fine, even helping to persuade some sheep to move into the right field. That night as we were watching TV, he started acting odd. I'll omit details but he went from " is the dog acting weird?" To unconscience and seizures in less than an hour ( emergency clinic is an hour away) by the time we got him in it was obvious he was unlikely to wake up or if he did, there wouldn't be much left. He was euthanized, but his brain was already gone.

 

Oddly, his littermate brother had died the previous year under similar circumstance. He was out working ( lightly, was was older) loaded in the truck for the short ride home and when his owner went to unload him he was dead. Just like that.

 

Losing so suddenly is always such a shock.

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Those types of cases are hard. You can speculate, but without a full necropsy it's all guesses. There are a lot of things that can cause a dog to drop dead. That said, I honestly would not think nose bleed = brain aneurysm.

 

FYI JenS, the obsessive eating earlier in the day was most likely a seizure.

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I would wonder about ruptured spleen (hemangiosarcoma)? A sad tragedy in any case.

 

Amy

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  • I lost one of my dogs at 5 from a sudden death. It's awful.

I guess it's just the same as when people drop dead from heart attack or aneurysm. It's just such a shock. One minute everything is just fine and 2 seconds later life has gone to hell in a hand basket.

 

But losing a dog is just awful no matter how they die.

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Yes, i'd think hemangiosarcoma too. Fairly common in border collies. The nosebleed would be from bleeding out.

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My first thought was also hemangiosarcoma.

 

Years ago my cousin's dog died of one. They happened to have found the tumor beforehand and knew it would happen, but that was by accident. They could have just as easily never known. Same situation, the dog (lab) ran after a rabbit, gave one yelp, and he was gone. The rupture happens so quickly that they bleed out in seconds.

 

But I'd like to think that it wouldn't be a horrible way to go. No suffering, just enjoying life until the very last second.

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I've had 3 (2 of my own and one a boarder) dogs go from suspected but undiagnosed and unconfirmed (no necropsies done). It is quick, and the dogs go into shock very quickly, meaning that they're unlikely aware of much that's going on around them.

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I would wonder about ruptured spleen (hemangiosarcoma)? A sad tragedy in any case.

 

Amy

 

 

That's as good a guess as any, Amy. I looked up the symptoms and he showed absolutely none. His activity levels and behavior, his eagerness to work and stamina while working had not changed in any way. No weight loss, no pain or lethargy, no difficulty breathing, no loss of energy, no change of appetite, no vomiting or discomfort of any kind. He was just his normal, bouncy, happy, goofy self - right up until he wasn't.

 

But I suppose it's possible he didn't have any visible symptoms until the one that killed him. Terrifying to think that a dog could be stricken with something this malignant, and show no visible signs until he's dead. Just heartbreaking.

 

Wish I could say he didn't suffer, but the awful noise she said he made (for an instant she couldn't even tell what species was making it) sounds like he died in agony, even if it did only take 3 seconds. :( Thanks for the input, everyone.

 

~ Gloria

P.S.

Is this something that could be hereditary? She does have one of his pups ...

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Bleeding internally from a ruptured spleen or liver is not going to cause a nose bleed. That blood would go into the free space of the abdomen. Even dogs with hemangio of the heart that ruptures and bleeds would not have blood coming out their nose.

 

Nose bleeds can be caused by things like local tumors in the nose. Some of these can destroy the bone between the nose and the brain.

 

A fungal infection in the nose can also cause a bleed. These can also break down the bone between nose and brain. Generally though, these guys are symptomatic for months before that happens.

 

A foreign object, like a grass awn, can cause a nose bleed. Wouldn't expect a dog to drop dead from that.

 

A clotting disorder could cause a nose bleed and sudden death.

 

Heart failure can cause liquid to come out of the nose after death, but generally that is clear and foamy unless CPR was done.

 

High blood pressure can cause nose bleeds and sudden death.

 

Lots of possibilities. If you really want answers, call your nearest vet school. They could do a necropsy or refer you to someone else that does them.

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Thanks, Liz. I agree a necropsy would be good. For a seemingly healthy, a-symptomatic, totally active working dog who was only 7 years old to die of in seconds of no known cause is frighteningly odd. But it wasn't my dog and the owner already took him to be cremated. She was just too traumatized to think of a necropsy at the time. We'll never know for sure. :(

~ Gloria

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Even with a necropsy, you don't always know for sure. A friend's dog, a young Open dog (three years old!), tons of promise, was found dead in his kennel run - no signs of seizure or anything amiss. Necropsy and blood tests revealed nothing, nada. Horribly tragic. My heart goes out to your friend, Gloria!

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And even if you do know, it doesn't make the loss any easier to bear. That's why I've never bothered to have necropsies done. It's too late for it to matter, IMO.

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A friend of mine had a beagle with a brain tumor that had a nose bleed at death, but she knew about the brain tumor ahead of time. I had a GSD that died the way your friend's dog died, one scream and the dog dropped where she stood, half in half out of the dog house. The necropsy was inconclusive. It scared me to death.

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My Border Collie female died unexpectedly. She was nearing her 13th Birthday. Very active. Hiking, still showing in Rally. Only thing I knew about was a heart murmur since age 10. Ultrasound showed just the typical old age leaky valve. On Enalapril. She had been having odd dreams for a while. I always joked about it, saying she liked to eat so much that she was dreaming of eating. Chewing/ lip smacking. This may have been going on occasionally for years. Other odd thing. Sometimes she'd be sleeping, wake up and have her ears folded back and look sad. She'd come over to be petted and her head was hot. I though this was my imagination until a friend noticed it also. Body temperature was normal. I work with vets and none of them could make anything of it. The night she died she looked sad and we went to bed early. She woke me up crying. She couldn't walk, couldn't see, had a bowel movement. Almost seizure like. I got her to my place of work and she died shortly thereafter. The vet tapped her abdomen to check for blood since my other Border Collie had died of hemangio but there wasn't any blood.

Some years later a client had an old Beagle who seizured at our office. We kept him overnight and the next morning he seizured again. When I touched him his forehead was blazing hot. Just like Cass's. Never really figured out a connection but there must be one. Perhaps a brain tumor. Maybe those weird dreams were mini-seizures due to a slow growing tumor?

A couple years ago a client with an old Border Collie had the same thing happen. Dog came in with a seizure like episode. Bloodwork fine, X-rays fine, dog died.

Brain tumor? Aneurysm?

With Gloria's friend's dog perhaps it was hemangio. I've seen dogs with hemangio have very low platelets. If the dog bumped his nose going down that would be enough to cause a nosebleed. Also, my dog who had a splenic mass that ruptured gave the worst scream I've ever heard when it happened. He was a stoic dog and his scream will haunt me forever.

It's a horrible thing to have happen. Especially in a young dog. I knew Cass was an old dog but she never seemed to age and her death was a horrible shock. All the more since I knew that she cried out just to wake me up (to help her?, to say goodbye? I'll never know.)

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My 2 dogs who died of suspected hemangiosarcomas just collapsed without making a sound, IIRC. But the boarder who did let out an unearthly wail. It was like nothing I've ever heard before and hope never to hear again. Quite eerie.

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I did a necropsy on a 5 year old dog that dropped dead on the grooming table. The groomer was horrified and worried she had done something. I found a tumor in the heart that had ruptured. The dog was otherwise the picture of health.

 

Two years ago a couple brought in their 10 year old cat for a wellness exam. No concerns. Doing great at home. The cat strolled out of the carrier and was exploring when he quite literally fell over dead. I've never seen anything quite like it. He was blue almost instantly and we couldn't get him to pink up at all with CPR, making me think he threw a clot. Not unusual in cats with heart disease. His owners were older themselves and upset but realistic, happy at least that he didn't suffer.

 

You would be surprised how often we find life threatening heart conditions in very young animals. I've patients under a year old to a variety of congenital heart defects. Even Border Collies have a few they are known for such as PDA and SAS.

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I have an epileptic border collie. I noted early on that her head always seemed hotter than normal. Her seizures are controlled (hasn't had one in 5 years), but her head is still abnormally warm, at least to me. I just always assumed that it was somehow related to the epilepsy.

 

As for Gloria's friend's dog, I know dogs don't have heart attacks in the same sense that humans have them, but I would have guessed something happening with the dog's heart that led to death.

 

J.

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Dog cardiac events tend to be arrhythmias, ruptured tumors or secondary to a condition that caused heart failure (ex: DCM, valve disease). They can drop dead suddenly, but it's not the same as in humans that tend to have ischemic events due to vessels blocked by plaques.

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Howdy all ~ Been gone over the weekend and wanted to say thanks for everyone's input. It's heartbreaking how often the tragically unexplained can take our furry friends' lives, but it's weirdly comforting to know that my friend's dog's death wasn't a never-heard-of-before.

She's taking it so very hard - he was just a great guy all the way around. But she's continuing on and even starting to think about perhaps finding some nice, older Open dog for sale that she could run - and continue learning with - until her youngsters grow up. Time will tell. Thanks again, everyone. I really loved this dog and had even thought I might someday want a pup from him. So many hopes and dreams lost with this boy...

~ Gloria

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