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Common Causes of Sudden Death in Dogs

Losing a dog is never easy, no matter the circumstances. But losing one suddenly to an accident or serious medical event can be baffling, shocking, and terrifying.

These are the most common causes of sudden death in dogs, so you can be aware and do what you can to avoid them affecting your canine companion.

GDV: Bloat

GDV, which stands for gastric dilatation and volvulus, is a condition in which a dog's stomach becomes inflated with gas, then twists on itself. The result is death of the blood vessels in the stomach, further inflation of the stomach, decreased blood flow to the rest of the body, shock, and death.

Large, deep-chested dogs over 5 years old are at highest risk for developing GDV. Feeding dogs multiple small meals a day, avoiding stressful situations as much as possible, not allowing your dog to exercise immediately before or after eating, and using an anti-bloat bowl can all decrease a dog's risk.

Toxin Ingestion

Ingesting toxins is another common cause of sudden death in dogs. This can include chemicals, medications, and human foods.

The ASPCA pet poison helpline keeps track of the calls they take about dogs ingesting toxins and creates a list of the top ten yearly. We've organized that list into a slideshow: "Top 10 Dog Toxins."

It's extremely important to be aware of and restrict your dog's access to things that are toxic. This includes human foods like chocolate, alcohol, and grapes. More sneaky substances like xylitol can be present in human foods, causing them to be extremely dangerous to dogs when they otherwise wouldn't be.

Heart Problems

Heart conditions are the biggest cause of sudden death in dogs. Blood clots, abnormal heart rhythms, cardiomyopathy can all cause sudden death.

It's important to have your dog checked by a veterinarian routinely, even if there are no signs of illness. If the veterinarian hears a heart murmur or arrhythmia, further testing may diagnose a heart problem that may be able to be treated. Not all heart conditions can be caught this way, but some can.

Internal Bleeding

Sudden death can happen quickly in cases of internal bleeding. This may be triggered by trauma such as being hit by a car. Internal tumors that begin bleeding, such as hemangiosarcoma, can cause death quickly without the owner being aware that anything is wrong.

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