Whole Dog Journal's Blog February 7, 2018

When Our Dogs Face Tragic Accidents

Posted at 05:44PM - Comments: (24)

Last week, I received some tragic news from members of my extended family: their dog had choked to death on something, dying literally in their hands as they frantically tried to remove the object.

They have undoubtedly been blaming themselves and second-guessing themselves for the accident. I know they have gone over and over every single thing that happened that led up to the dog suddenly swallowing something whole that she had previously always chewed on nicely.

All I could tell them was how sorry I was, how much I could relate to everything they were going though, and to please try to not beat themselves up.

Rosie the boxer

Rosie on a hike.

I still blame myself for not seeing a threat to my small dog, Tito, that ultimately caused his death.

I know a person who still tears up over the memory of accidentally backing over and killing his own dog almost 40 years ago. He’s still so full of regrets and “what ifs.”

I have a friend who let her dog off-leash on a college campus field that seemed like a terrific place for him to run – and he chased a flock of birds off the field and onto a road, where he got hit by a car and died shortly afterward on a veterinarian’s table.

I know someone whose dog died as a result of the melamine-poisoned foods in 2007. She still weeps over the fact that when her dog didn’t want to eat the food that ultimately caused his death, she “dressed it up” with tasty toppings to encourage him to eat more.

The anguish all of us have felt over these tragic accidents, perhaps, is instructive going forward – none of us will ever repeat any of the errors in knowledge or judgment or timing that we made.

But the fact remains, that bad things can happen even to good dog owners. And my family members are some of the best dog owners I know: generous, kind, educated, and deeply devoted to their own dogs and to their breed rescue.

I’m so sorry for their loss, and I know how awful it feels. I hope they feel better soon, but I also know it will take a while for the trauma to ease. I wish there was more that I could say.

Postscript: This will illustrate what kind of thoughtful people my family members are. I sent this post to them and asked for permission to publish it. They asked if I would add some first aid links – what a good idea, one * I * should have thought of – and they asked if I would consider posting a link to their breed rescue, in honor of Rosie. Done and done. I hope they can find some peace.

- Donate to the†West Coast Boxer Rescue, in honor of Rosie

- How to perform the Heimlich maneuver on a dog: Pet Education

- How to Perform the Heimlich maneuver on a dog: PetMD's instructions

- How to perform CPR on a dog: Pet Education

- How to perform CPR on a dog: PetMD

Comments (24)

There are several online sites that describe the doggy Heimlich maneuver. I had to use it on my Yorky mix, Doodle Bug, several years ago when I dropped a chunk of raw meat. Doodle grabbed it and tried to swallow it so I couldn't take it away. Within seconds she was thrashing about on the floor. I held her upside down by her hips with one hand, her side against my thigh, and smacked her other side with my free hand. Out popped the meat.
Also years ago, a rescue group I was part of sponsored a pet first aid workshop. A vet volunteered his time and expertise.

Posted by: Jessie | February 11, 2018 1:16 PM    Report this comment

My heart goes out to all who have lost dogs through tragedy. One of our dogs got bloat. He was almost 15 years old. He had a meal, slurped water and then went to run around in the yard. It was the perfect storm for bloat. He had just eaten and I immediately knew what it was: the watermelon-hard stomach. I was terrified and immediately told my husband, screaming that I was going to take him to the emergency vet. Hubby is one of those who is always telling people, "You worry too, much. He'll be fine!" I think our boy looked in pain enough, and was vomiting white froth, that even Mr. Don't Worry was worried, and we immediately packed our boy into the car. The dog survived the surgery even at his age. The mortality of bloat is 50/50 even in young dogs. I credit our boy's pulling through thanks to our quick action and my diligence. Timing is a huge factor in survival--one MUST get the dog to the vet immediately. For this reason, we now feed our dogs after their water has been lifted up for 30 minutes, and no water for 30 minutes after a meal. Also, no boisterous play and running around.

Posted by: Three Dog Mom | February 9, 2018 12:29 AM    Report this comment

This is the first time since 31st May 2017 that Iím feeling better. One for having read the above heartfelt words and the fact this is finally the last time I sleep in this house. I got mine miniature Yorker as a new baby. She was always a little minx but I truly loved her spirit, she definitely had Big Dog Syndrome! Living in front of a car park and having carers (Iím disabled,)come and go, I worried she would bolt out the front door. Despite having a baby gate as security. One particular carer adored LoLa and would walk her on her weight/size appropriate Flexi-Lead. She had been gone but 10minutes when she came back screaming holding a semi-conscious puppy. Despite my feeble attempt at CPR with guidance from the Vet whilst on the phone; my darling LoLa died in my arms. It was hell and my worst day. The carer never told the truth she varied from dropping her, to problems with the leash. I will never know the truth, and thatís the worst part. LoLa had just had her 1st birthday and I hadnít even had her a year. I was inconsolable. I have been beside myself with scenarios and what ifs. To the extent of becoming ill and housebound. With the help of my son Iím slowly improving and made the decision to move away so I do not relive her dying on the coffee table, (which has long since gone). Incidentally I didnít just lose my darling fur baby but the situation was untenable and I lost my
carer and care agency. My whole life was upside down with loss and grief. Iím in the process of starting a new life , a new home and then hopefully a new fur baby. Wish me luck!

Posted by: Gillywb | February 8, 2018 11:25 PM    Report this comment

This article could not have come at a better time. We rescued Harley and took him to the UGA Vet Hospital for an autoimmune disease and the repair of 2 torn cruciate ligaments. At age 11, Harley would not get up and our local vet treated him for a heart problem. Harley lived 2 weeks before dying if heart failure. I regret to this day that day buds not put Harley in my car and drive him 2-1/2 hrs. to UGA Vet Hospital. My vet told me he was doing all that could be done. I trusted him completely but I wish now I had gone the extra last mile for my beloved Harley Davison.

Posted by: dcleve | February 8, 2018 8:35 PM    Report this comment

I haven't used buckle collars on my dogs since 1988. I was in the woods with my young Lab, Flower, when she decided to jump off a large boulder. On the ground was a long branch that curved upwards at the end. In mid-jump, the thin curved end of the branch went between her collar and her skin, effectively twisting the collar and choking her as she landed. The collar to was too tight to unbuckle, I couldn't break the limb, and it was too long to pull it out. Flower's gums were turning blue and she was almost unconscious when I decided to jump off another rock onto the limb. Thank heaven it broke close to the collar and I was able to remove it. Ever since then I have used breakaway snap collars. Before I purchase them, I make sure I can undo the snap no matter how tight the collar is. If I can't unsnap it easily with one hand, I don't buy it.

Posted by: LucyB | February 8, 2018 6:20 PM    Report this comment

My heart aches for Rosieís family as well as the other losses people have shared here.
We, too, have second-guessed so many of our pet care decisions and actions, a few will always haunt me.
I want to share a VERY close call in hopes it might save a few others from this. Our German Shepherd and Lab mix were playing and wrestling as always one day when the labís lower jaw slipped under the collar of the shepherd. The panic and pain were instantaneous-the Shepherd was choking and the lab was thrashing. Even though I was right in the yard when it happened, I was unable to get them apart until one dog passed out. Even then, it was so hard as the collar had tightened so much and was slick. It was terrible, if I hadnít been there, one dog would have died and the other would have broken her jaw at the least. Soon after, I found ďKeep SafeĒ break-away collars. They pull apart under stress but have two rings to use when leash walking. They are true life-savers and I donít know why all collars arenít like this and why they arenít more widely known. You have to find them online.This is one action to do BEFORE an unforeseen event happens.

Posted by: Dog Blessings | February 8, 2018 1:57 PM    Report this comment

I cannot even imagine the pain from any of those stories happening to one. I'm so sorry, and will be praying for their pain to ease.

Posted by: Alice R. | February 8, 2018 1:20 PM    Report this comment

Back in the early 1980's Hartz Mountain Pet Products made a flea and tick repellant called "Proban" (Ultra Guard came later). the major ingredients had been "tested" individually but not in combination. It was very bad flea season and not knowing any better I purchased a can of the stuff and sprayed my 20 pound 12 year old cockapoo per instructions. After a few weeks her eyes went yellow and the vet said she was jaundice. What had she gotten into? I didn't even suspect the flea spray. She went into liver and renal failure and was euthanized. A few weeks after that 20/20 or a show like that did a segment on the spray. What had draw the EPA attention to it was that children were getting sick and the common element was the flea product (both the cat and dog versions). The product was removed from the shelves only to be reintroduced with new "use" warning which said to not use on dogs under 6 months or over 10 years and not to use more than once a week. Too late for my Gidget and thousands of other animals that got sick or died.

Posted by: clevercaninesinc | February 8, 2018 12:51 PM    Report this comment

Thank you, and your dear friends, for sharing these links with us. I lead a 400 member pet club located in an active adult living community in Central Texas, and I am sending out the links to my members today. I hope they never have to use them, and I also hope they keep them handy just in case.
Losing a pet is never easy, regardless of the cause or reason. Maybe, just maybe, your friends tragedy, and their desire to share this info, will save someone else's pet.

Posted by: MrNornef | February 8, 2018 12:42 PM    Report this comment

My Gracie's predecessor triumphed over cancer (twice) and then I trusted the vets who sanctioned some postponed dental surgery, which was botched and caused Jack's death. As much as I hear from friends and family that it was the professionals who gave the go-ahead and I shouldn't blame myself, it is a hard reality to accept. Eight years later, the self-blame is still there, albeit softened, but I needed to arm myself with lessons learned, and being more pro-active in my care for my beloved Gracie. Hence, raw feeding, no unnecessary vaccinations, and being ever-vigilant. However, accidents may happen, and I will blame myself regardless!

Posted by: LoveGSDs | February 8, 2018 12:09 PM    Report this comment

I think most pet owners can relate in some way. No matter how loving and caring and careful we are, accidents can happen - that's why they are called accidents. Maybe our actions could have prevented something, but maybe something else equally as bad would have happened at a later time. For me personally, I was walking my two senior special needs rescue dogs, and we were attacked by 2 loose pit bulls. I tried my best to get my little Chimi away from them (she was attacked first) and was on the ground trying to fight them off and protect her -- but in the end it was not in my power. Thankfully a neighbor finally ran out to help about the time the 2nd one left Chimi and went after Webster. He survived with minimal physical injuries but Chimi had to be PTS at the ER due to extensive internal and external injuries. It took me over a year to come to terms with my inability to save her from those 2 dogs. My grief and anger were terrible and I still get teary when I think of her at times, although now I can think about her happy times and not her ending. I often would think of all things I might have done, could have done,should have done to either prevent the attack or stop it - but the fact is, it happened and it was not within my power of control. It's easy sometimes to think about someone, why did they give their dog that chew bone or not microchip them or not have them secured properly, etc - but the truth is that everybody does the best they can and sometimes it's just not enough. Mostly, I guess, I would say to people please don't be judgmental when something bad happens. People will punish themselves for these kinds of accidents far more than they should. The death of a loved one is always hard and all we can do is be supportive however they need it.

Posted by: sunnyblu | February 8, 2018 11:36 AM    Report this comment

There is nothing to say that really helps when the golden heart of your life stops beating. Some platitudes are true: better to have had each other at all than not; you did an excellent job as a doggy ďparent,Ē & so on.

Thatís nice & kind, but doesnít help. The pain of loss persists.


Unless the people close to you are heartless, clueless, or just plain cruel, kind words & expressions of sympathy should assuage your feelings of guilt, negligence, or other ďsinĒ; that can free you from thonking YOU were the reason your canine has departed.

Posted by: Robert Sprackland | February 8, 2018 11:22 AM    Report this comment

We lost our beloved Colin, age 6 years, four months, and ten days, exactly two weeks after he'd undergone surgery to repair a ruptured ligament in his hind leg. We failed to divine, on his last night with us, that his sluggishness and lethargy were not just the normal consequences of expending energy to limp along while the joint healed. The next morning, he didn't wake up.

I've been brutalizing myself for the past six months, and continue to. They place themselves completely in our hands, and I failed him. Your note is helpful, the usual bromides really aren't terribly comforting when something tragic and unexpected occurs.

Posted by: see2xu | February 8, 2018 11:19 AM    Report this comment

Thank you for posting this wonderful albeit sad reminder. For anyone who might be interested, www.GriefRecoveryMethod.com provides a generous offering of free information on grief and Pet Loss classes - not drop in support, although they also can be healing, these are structure classes. They also have a class for adults dealing with grieving children, which I highly recommend - adults learn and share the information directly with their kids.
When I'm teaching these classes, I always ask what the relationship with the animal felt like (usually a child, mate, best friend - however it can be described). We don't lose a dog or cat or bunny, we lose that unique relationship. From that acknowledgement of the significance of the loss we begin to deal with grief in a very different way. Again, there is a lot of free information on the website, including things you can say to grievers that are more helpful than some typical (and well-meant) traditional sayings.

Posted by: Lou Leet | February 8, 2018 10:41 AM    Report this comment

Our boxer, Kallie, 7 years old, recently passed away. During a long boring day at home with our other three dogs, she got a bottle of pills off the table and chewed the bottle open. We found the prescription bottle on the floor, and the chewed up "child proof" lid in her blanket. She seemed fine. I knew there was a week's worth of pills. We didn't think to look it up or call. The next morning, she couldn't walk. She went to the ER and nearly died. After two nights at the dog ER, she was well again. We brought her home. Her second night home, we found her deceased at 2:00 am. We constantly still blame ourselves with "what if" we would have called Pet Poison control immediately? "what if" we would have even just googled it on the internet? "what if" we left her at the hospital longer? It's excruciating. We miss her dearly. My heart goes out to all who've lost their dog children.

Posted by: ShellBell | February 8, 2018 10:35 AM    Report this comment

I totally relate to this. Our big boy, Shmoo, who crossed the Bridge just last month after becoming paralyzed, nearly choked to death several years ago on a dried chicken strip. I was careful to only buy ones sourced in Europe, where we live, and felt safe. What hadnít occurred to me was that he could try to swallow it too soon, and have it get stuck in his mouth! He weighed 42 kg and was scared, so trying to get it out was a challenge. I finally managed, but I stopped buying anything like that after.

Posted by: Rloff | February 8, 2018 10:34 AM    Report this comment

I so wish I could wave a magic wand so these owners would feel better. They were present and tried everything they could. As this article sagely notes, bad things do happen to good dogs and good owners. Sending condolences, warm hugs and best wishes to this family.

Posted by: Lynnmd | February 8, 2018 10:31 AM    Report this comment

KatzDawgs said it perfectly. I started tearing up right away thinking of the "we should have seen it" situations in my dog owning life. Thank you to your family for allowing you to share this as it validates for each of us how "human" we really are in the face of such tragedy.

Posted by: stucker | February 8, 2018 10:28 AM    Report this comment

This breaks my heart. The Heimlich and CPR information is very important. I've shared on Facebook and encourage everyone reading this to do the same,

Posted by: lynnfrbs1 | February 8, 2018 10:27 AM    Report this comment

Losing a beloved family member is so very hard. Even if they die of a disease I beat myself up over woulda-coulda-shoulda. As if I can suddenly cure cancer or kidney failure in an 18-year-old, or undo years of abuse in a rescued dog's previous life. People who say "it's only a dog/cat/animal" forget that many of us spend more time with our animals (even asleep) than we ever will with any human. Our times together are almost always exciting, soothing, or adventurous and full of glee. Few humans provide the same level of attentiveness and total joy on a daily basis that a beloved dog can. I am so sorry for the tragic loss of Rosie. I am sure her life was wrapped in love by people who did their best and cared deeply. She was one of the fortunate dogs.

Posted by: Hannahbelle | February 8, 2018 10:24 AM    Report this comment

Rawhide chews are a danger! Even the little dental chews can cause choking, right size or not. Just don't buy them or let your dogs have them. Not worth the risk. Thanks for the links, I bookmarked them too!

Posted by: westielover | February 8, 2018 10:22 AM    Report this comment

I doubt that there is a single reader here today ( or any day) that has not had a similar experience or close call... novice owners to long time experienced owners - and remember it as if it were yesterday ...

Posted by: KatzDawgs | February 8, 2018 10:20 AM    Report this comment

I went through the guilt when our dog (two dogs ago) slipped his collar and disappeared. He was an outside dog (tried unsuccessfully to bring him inside) and we *think* that he got a visit from some of the hounds who lived on property, got confused, and went into the woods instead of to the door. We spent days in the woods, calling for him, we put posters up, hoping that somehow he wandered to a house nearby. It took us eight months (the longest *I've* been without a dog) to forgive ourselves and get another companion.

We both swore that from then on, whatever dog we got was going to be an inside dog.

Posted by: DreamWeaver | February 8, 2018 10:20 AM    Report this comment

I have bookmarked the links you provided. How awful for your family. My heart sank just reading the article. Our first dog, a chocolate lab choked on a chunk of rawhide back when he was just 2 years old. I gave him a big rawhide bone to soothe him due to his angst while my husband was out of town. After he had been chewing on it for about an hour, I suddenly heard a gasp and gurgling noise. He walked up to me with a very frightened look in his eyes and his mouth was foaming from the softened rawhide. I frantically tried to grab it from his throat but it was too slippery. I grabbed him and picked him up, (all 90lbs. of him) and put him in my car and raced to the vet, calling them on my cell on the way. I kept talking to him in the car to try to keep him from passing out. When we arrived at the vet, they were waiting for us with a crash cart in the parking lot. Thankfully he was able to throw up in the backseat and was able to breathe again. It was very, very scary! He did have a swollen and scratched up throat that needed a bit of treatment afterward but I never, ever again bought any rawhide chews or toys for him or any of our other dogs. It was a close call and frightening learning experience. Our current dog is just over 100lbs. and loves to chew, and is a hard chewer. I only buy very large chews and closely monitor them so when they get too small, out they go.

Posted by: SueW | February 8, 2018 10:04 AM    Report this comment

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