Separation Anxiety Leads to Dogs Death

How could a veterinary practice not realize that a dog was in major distress to the point of injury let alone death? An English bulldog was put in a kennel by its owner for the first time like any other owner she was concerned that her dog would be ok while she was away. The owner when dropping her dog off told the staff that the dog had never been away from her and might be stressed. It is true that if your dog has never been kenneled while you were away there might be some stress issues which generally show themselves as depression or lack of appetite. I hear those stories all the time the dog was depressed or didn’t eat and so lost weight. We don’t have that problem at all in fact now that I board them at the vet and there is very little space for them to run around they routinely come home having gained weight from not as much exercise as normal.

All the dogs bark when they first get there to say hello to the other dogs or to protest at your leaving but within 5 minutes all the dogs should be quiet again and back to what they were doing before. Veterinary staff should have monitored the situation when the dog did not calm down after a half hour and continued to bark. Cowboy the English Bulldog had to have been in obvious distress and made himself horse and weak from barking so much. The staff should have done something to release his energy like a longer walk so some of his energy could have been expelled and he would be tired when put back in his kennel. When he stopped barking one of the staff could have taken him out of his crate after hours to give him some indoor playtime or something even if it was determined that a sedative or other medical intervention was necessary.

One day during his stay Cowboy was found dead in his crate.

An autopsy was performed by a third party since the vet who was watching Cowboy claimed it was congenital heart failure that killed him and the family did not believe this was the case. In fact the X-rays taken by the kenneling vet and then examined by a third party shows his heart looked to be normal size which means Cowboy could not have died because of heart failure. But had, in fact, barked so furiously he had killed himself. His stomach was full of air and his throat was swollen, suggesting respiratory distress, the suit alleges. The autopsy results conclude: Correct diagnosis of severe laryngeal edema and airway obstruction, followed by proper emergency procedures, would have saved Cowboy’s life.

Separation Anxiety occurs when a dog becomes overly stressed when it is left alone. Typically stress behaviors are pacing, whining, chewing or scratching the doors and furniture, going potty in the house when they are fully housebroken and healthy, and excessive barking. It doesn’t matter if you’re gone for five minutes or five hours, your dog stresses the moment you leave. Separation Anxiety is a leading cause of owner turn is to shelters and rescues because the owner has to go to work and the dog barks all day leading to neighbor complaints especially in apartment or townhouse living.

Most dogs cannot bark themselves to death and only in very rare cases can it cause more then injury but a few are more susceptible to suffocation if their throats become swollen. Which is why I want to highlight this issue as any dog with separation anxiety if left barking all day long could potentially injure itself and in rare cases death. Some people will just allow a stressed dog to bark all day because it cannot offend the neighbors and they have to go to work. But if you have a dog with any of these factors please seek medical help if nothing else you have tried works to calm your dog while you are done.

These include dog with the following issues:

Respiratory problems due to A brachycephalic skull. (This is relatively broad and short typically much wider then the face is long)
Small windpipes
Laryngeal saccules Laryngeal saccules or laryngeal ventricles are soft tissue masses located in the larynx in canines. In brachycephalic breeds the saccules can become “everted” and protrude into the laryngeal opening, causing symptoms such as snoring, noisy breathing, coughing, nasal congestion, and shortness of breath in affected dogs.

If your dog has any of these issues do not assume that the person caring for your dog knows they do. A well bred dog of any breed should not suffer from these issues as their features should not be so overly exaggerated. Your pets care giver might not be used to monitoring a dog for certain things because they usually work with other breeds where this issue is not seen. Make sure it is written down and left as part of your instructions when you need to leave your dog in the care of others.

How you can help your dog at home

Dogs that suffer from Separation Anxiety need both mental and physical stimulation. Dogs with Separation Anxiety should be taken for long walks, engaged in running games, or have swim time. However depending on your dog a game of wrestle might work your dog in the wrong way making it more excited then before. A good way to determine what activities work at helping lessen anxiety is to check if the dog is calmer or more excited 5 minutes before the activity begins and again 5 minutes after it is over. If your dog comes back inside after the activity and goes to find a nice quiet place to sleep it is a calming activity and a good way to deal with separation anxiety if your dog is jumping all over the house and crazy check that one off the list. Mental stimulation is just as important these are games you can play with your dog or your dog goes on their own that makes them engage their brain. Things like food puzzles where they have to find their food instead of having a giant feast placed in front of them is great. A treat ball is a perfect game to leave in the crate with your dog while you are away (there are tons of different types and levels out there) it dispenses a treat when the dog figures out how to manipulate the ball in a certain way. There are also toy puzzles where your dog has to figure out how to get the squeaky toys out to play with them. Chewing level appropriate Nylabones and Kongs some dispense kibble sized treats and others you can fill with peanut butter or spray cheese and freeze over night so it take them longer to get the treat out during the day while you are away.

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  1. Thanks for this wonderful, informative post! So important! It drives me crazy when people in the pet industry make light of an animal’s stress.

  2. Thank you so much for this information. I run a doggy day care/kennel and this type of information is invaluable. I can’t imagine the horror of being the owner of a business and having a death occur in this way or any way.

    We take what we do so seriously. We know that people are entrusting their loved ones with us and the thought of loosing one while a family is a way is devestating to us.

    I will be sure to pass thsi information along to my staff and we will be more diligent in the future.
    Berts My Vickie

  3. I would like to share an analysis of my dog, Erik’s, passing and try to understand why it happened when it happened. I believe his death was due to an extended amount of separation anxiety that built up to his untimely passing.

    It was negligence on my part. Not intentionally, of course, but negligence, nonetheless. It was forgetting who he was and what he needed and what a sensitive little guy he was.

    First mistake- stopping his probiotics. I thought his sensitive stomach had acclimated.

    Second- Believing he was stronger and less anxious then he was. My parents were absent at the same time and my schedule was extremely busy because of school, work, soccer, hockey, and working out. Arrangements should’ve been made to cancel the unnecessary as it wouldn’t have hurt me to do so. Somehow, I reasoned with myself that Erik would be fine in his own for extended periods of time- amounts of time, now that I look back, were never amounts of time he had been alone before.

    The last time Erik had been left alone for longer than 2 or 3 hours was in 2009 when I had to visit the emergency room and my Mom had to take me. When that happened Erik ended up having a vomiting attack so bad he had to be giving anti-vomiting medication and a subcutaneous water pack.

    Fast forward to October 1, 2013-October 11. Almost everyday Erik found himself alone for a minimum of 4 hours to a maximum of 10. Not only was he under tremendous stress but his bowels were upset because of his sensitivity.

    By 11pm on Friday, October 11, his body could no longer handle the stress and anxiety of being left alone. Left alone with an overly sensitive stomach and soul.

    It hurts to look back and realize the numerous mistakes and lies I told myself.

    I understand some doctors and friends will say- don’t blame yourself, he had underlying health problems. However, I counteract that by showing the evidence. A sensitive soul unaccustomed to hours of alone time.

    It hurts that I so easily blinded myself. That I had pushed aside the reality of his sensitivity. That I didn’t recognize the very unique circumstances with a very sensitive soul.

    I know such analysis won’t bring him back. I can only feel the pain of such terrible mistakes and ignorance. His death was preventable had I stepped back and really looked at who he was and what what his needs really were.

    Some people may ask I put this aside or pretend it isn’t true. But Mommies know, even if it’s too late to make it better.

    Thank you for your time and I appreciate any honest feedback.

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