Today's Pet Talk: Pekingese Sudden Death

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Eve writes: My puppy of 8mos months just died suddenly. We were playing last week and he ran to the other room and yelped, as I ran into the room I picked up my little boy as he was on his last breath of life. The Vet claimed he was totally healthy. He had fainted on me at 5 mos of age, the vet said he was a little anemic, his right lung lobe was collapsing and he had a bit of pneumonia. The follow up x-ray was fine. At 8mos old, for a healthy puppy to die is just devastating to me. I didn't want an autopsy performed on his as I felt that his little life was always at the vet being poked at and needles here and there. Has this happened to anyone out there? I'm heartbroken

Pekingese Sudden Death questions and answers

Hi Eve!

First I'd like to extend my deepest sympathy over the loss of your Pekingese puppy. Many years ago, I lost Scarlett, a pure bred Irish Setter puppy, who died in her sleep. I know the void that rests in your heart. Perhaps, in time, you will own another Pekingese that lives a long and healthy life.

There does not appear to be any genetic problems with young Pekingese dogs and sudden death health problems. In fact, the average lifespan for the Pekingese dog is 9-15 years. Older Pekingese dogs may suffer from a heart valve disease called "Mitral Valve Regurgitation." This condition causes a malfunction in the valve on the left side of the heart. Because of the leaky valve, the heart is less efficient at pumping blood to the body. This disease is a leading cause of heart failure in small dogs but it usually doesn't become a problem until the dog is about 6 years old.

Early signs that the heart is no longer able to compensate for mitral valve disease may include a reduced tolerance for exercise, difficulties in breathing, or a cough at night or at rest. All of these occur because of a build-up of fluid in the lungs. Other signs of a gradually failing heart include fainting, weakness, or collapse, which may be due to an abnormal heart rhythm (cardiac arrhythmia). This problem is first detected when a Veterinarian hears a heart murmur.

Screening of the Pekingese parents before breeding is sometimes the best way to eliminate genetic or other health problems. Mitral valve disease may occur long after the normal breeding age which would make it undetectable in screening for younger parents.

Another problem with Pekingese dogs is their unique "flat faced" nose and head structure which may cause breathing problems. This makes it harder for the Pekingese to relieve, by panting, the effects of warm weather. It's usually a good idea to keep the Pekingese cool and comfortable.

If you are considering another Pekingese you can learn more about their specific health problems by purchasing Dr. Grave's book "Common Medical Disorders of the Pekingese." You will find ordering information for this book on the Pekingese Club of America website.

If any readers have had a similar problem with their Pekingese and would like to share their experience, please write to: