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Risk Factors for Premature Death in Dogs


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When you bring a dog or a puppy into your family, it is easy to expect years of joy, love, and fun with your new best friend. You expect your dog to live a long and healthy life within your home. Unfortunately, many dog owners lose their dogs before they are ready and certainly before the dog’s time should be complete. Sudden loss of your dog is incredibly sad and painful. There are risks dogs face that may lead to premature death. Understanding these risk factors may help you prevent such an untimely death.


Dogs who are allowed outside unsupervised can suffer trauma, which can cause internal injuries to organs as well as to their brain. Dogs who are left to roam freely can be hit by cars or attacked by wild animals or other dogs. Small breeds who are even within your home can fall from high places such as your furniture, causing trauma and head injuries. Though some dogs recover from these kinds of trauma, some do not. The absolute best prevention against accidental injury is to keep your dog safe and supervised whenever possible.

Congenital Diseases

When you bring your puppy home for the first time you are both overjoyed and excited for the new adventure that awaits. You may not know until your puppy becomes sick that she has a congenital or genetic disorder or disease that can affect her internal organs as well as her life span. There are several genetic diseases your dog could develop, from blood disorders to degenerative disorders. Preventing congenital diseases is impossible. However, if you have a parental lineage or breed information, you may be able to learn about conditions your dog may be susceptible to developing.


Though cancer is a leading cause of death in senior dogs, it can strike at any age. Cancer is one of those diseases that cannot be fully prevented by vaccine or care, and it is often not prejudiced--meaning everyone, no matter your dog's breed, is at risk just as humans are. There are steps you can take during your dog's life to ensure his risk of developing cancer is low. Starting your dog off and keeping him on a high-quality, healthy diet is key to overall health. Ingredients that are highly processed as well as low-quality foods tend to feed abnormal cells, which can then develop into cancer.


Dogs dying because of poisoning is more frequent than veterinarians and dog owners would like to see. Whether poisoning is done maliciously as a crime or accidentally doesn't matter if you have lost your dog prematurely. Studies show most poisonings are accidental and therefore completely preventable. Be sure to keep poisons such as pesticides, rat poisons, antifreeze, fertilizers, and even household cleaners well away from your dog, especially your puppy who will be curious as he grows and discovers his world around him. If you suspect your dog has been poisoned, see your emergency veterinarian right away for immediate treatment.


Epilepsy is a condition in dogs that is often not diagnosed or controlled until seizures occur. Idiopathic epilepsy often shows with seizures for no apparent reason or because of trauma, poisons, or tumors. If your dog has epilepsy and can be diagnosed and treated, your veterinarian can talk to you about anticonvulsant medications to help control seizures. However, with some dogs who have epilepsy, the condition is sometimes fatal and sudden.

Prevention When Possible

Saying goodbye to our beloved dogs is always painful and never easy to do. There are risk factors you can help control in your dog's environment throughout his life to try to prevent premature death. However, some conditions such as congenital diseases cannot be prevented and may also not even be diagnosed or recognized until your dog has passed. The only comfort in knowing your dog has passed prematurely is recognizing the love, care, and life you have given your dog, no matter how little time you had together.

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