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Why Did My Young Jack-Chi Suddenly Get Sick and Die?

chihuahua paintingI’m so heartbroken about my dog’s passing. I’m trying to find clues as to what really happened.

Rusty was an active Jack Russell Terrier-Chihuahua mix, just over 4 years old, when he suddenly took ill and started vomiting.

First it was yellow, which was probably bile, and after a few days, it was just colorless mucus. He had no appetite at all. At first he drank water, but after a few days he wouldn’t.

I took Rusty to the vet, who treated him for his symptoms and gave him IV fluids, Reglan and antibiotics. Rusty had no diarrhea that I know of, but the vet noted pasty, yellow-green stool while doing a rectal check.

I continued treating Rusty at home with Famotidine, Amoxicillin and Pedialyte. I was going to bring him back to the vet in two days for a blood test and IV, but Rusty didn’t make it that far. He died overnight, looking peaceful, after almost seven days of being sick. Some strange behavior that I saw from him before he passed was just wanting to lay on his stomach on our front lawn, enjoying the breeze, almost like he knew his time was up. I’m beating myself up for not taking him back a day earlier to the vet, although I don’t know if that would have made the situation better.

From my research online, I have come to different conclusions. Rusty may have contracted Parvo, although he had immunization that was still in effect. Just the morning beford he got sick, he grabbed a bite of dried dog poop outside before I could get to him. I’m thinking that it may have been infected by the virus, although he’d done the same thing two weeks before and didn’t get sick. That was actually bizarre behavior, as aside from those two instances, he’d never done it before. My other conclusion is that he may have had some form of cancer.

Lately Rusty’s snoring and wheezing had increased. He’d always done it, but not that loud, and recently he was doing it even when he was awake. I’d also noticed that when he pooped, he would strain a bit and thin yellow/green/brown ribbons of poop would come out. His running and walking had also slowed, but I was thinking it could have been just from the heat.

Please help me sort these things out, I’m so sad and angry I lost a loved one.

– Ray, Costa Mesa, Calif.


I am so sorry to hear of the passing of your beloved Jack-Chi.

There are so many options as to his potential cause of illness, and the likelihood is not one singular disease agent or process.

If Rusty had a propensity for dietary indiscretion (eating things he should not), then he could certainly fall ill from toxins or infectious organisms (bacteria, virus, parasites, etc.). If he was previously vaccinated for Parvovirus and had been an otherwise healthy dog, I feel that his illness and death from Parvo infection is low on the list of differential diagnoses.

Cancer is certainly a possibility, especially if you were seeing ongoing clinical signs pertaining to his energy or respiratory pattern. Cancer can originate from or metastasize to the lungs, which can quickly compromise a pet’s ability to properly oxygenate.

If you were seeing him vomit, have diarrhea or have alterations in his appetite, then he could be affected by a toxic substance, infectious organism (gastrointestinal parasite or bacteria), metabolic disease (kidney or liver disease, pancreatitis, etc.), cancer or immune-mediated disease.

Having practiced in many parts of the country, I have diagnosed and treated regionally specific illnesses that can cause clinical signs as you describe. Some include tick-borne disease (Lyme, Ehrhlichia, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, etc.); leptosporosis (bacteria found in the water of soil contaminated from the waste of wild animals, which can also transmit to people); salmon poisoning (bacteria that gets into your dog after he eats wild salmon) and others.

If no diagnostic tests (blood, X-rays/ultrasound, urinalysis, etc.) were performed, then we really have so many options for illness and low likelihood to find the underlying cause(s), unless a post-mortem examination was done. I would inquire with your neighbors and owners of other dogs that frequent places your dog went to see if any of their canine companions have also fallen ill.

Please accept my condolences for your loss.

– Patrick Mahaney, VMD CVA

PHOTO: Kim Schuster

Dr. Mahaney

Patrick Mahaney, VMD, CVA has a thriving veterinary practice in Los Angeles. His clients respond favorably to his combination of Eastern and Western medicine, including acupuncture. In addition to making house calls, Mahaney makes himself available via social media outlets such as his blog and Twitter. He is dog dad to i Love Dogs canine ambassador Cardiff.

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July 25, 2011 By : Category : ASK A VET Cancer Diarrhea/Vomiting Vet Popular Topics Tags:
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2 Comments Print

The Dog Park   


Hello my name is Tommy. We have a Jack-Chi less than 3 years old that has suddenly fallen ill. Almost the exact same symptoms you are describing. He has been hospitalized for the last two nights on IV fluids and now Antibiotics. Huge weight loss, Major energy loss. Has not eaten in 4-5 days now. The vet cannot figure out what is wrong. We have done 5 labs. And just about everything that can possibly be done. At first it was excessive drinking and excessive peeing. So the vet thought Diabetes Insiputis. He was still healthy at this time. Then 7-10 days later he took a dive and stopped eating and pooping. We then thought a possible blockage, like maybe he ate something. We then got an xray to rule out a blockage. There was nothing there. Now they are thinking Kidney Disease, or Kidney Failure and trying  IV antibiotics. He also has this terrible weezy breathing just like you described. I'm afraid to talk about the vet bill, and feel almost rude to bring that up. I want our little guy to make it so bad. But yet he is suffering and I am not sure when to call it enough. I'm not going to let them go as far as feeding tubes and tearing him open. He is just so weak and miserable sitting in the hospital. And just plain tired. 


I don't know what to do at this point. We have tried everything within my budget. It's not a fancy animal hospital but the vets are kind and they are trying to help. They have had to go online and speak with Veterinarian specialists for advice and explained this is very tricky and tough to diagnose. I'm starting to get the feeling they won't be able to find out. Buddy(our dog) cannot go on like this. I'm debating on whether or not we should bring him home and let him rest in a familiar place. Or just let him go peacefully in my arms at the hospital. 


I would like to state, we all love our animals very very much. And sometimes there is just nothing you can do. I was amazed to come across this post and see another Jack-Chi with simular symptoms. Sorry for your loss. I haven't given up just yet. I'm going to see him again today. And talk about what we should do. 


Anyway I just wanted to tell my story since I saw your's. I live in Northern Central Oregon.