Fainting German Shepherd

Heart Disease, the most Likely Cause, may Result in Sudden Death


Do dogs faint?  Yesterday I noticed my 6 year old female German Shepherd appear to faint twice.  We were playing fetch when she suddenly wobbled, then fell over on her side.  After 30 seconds she got up.  This morning she had another bout. Does this need investigation?

Dr. Nichol:

Your dog’s fainting problem is serious business. There are many possible causes for a German Shepherd of her age to pass out, but heart disease tops the list. Her worst case scenario could be sudden death if she has a prolonged abnormal heart rhythm.


Your dog’s diagnostic workup should start with a thorough exam to include her heart and lungs as well as her nervous system. Weak or absent pulses, heart murmurs, arrhythmias, or abdominal swellings would be important findings. Your girl will also need chest x-rays, ECG, and possibly a cardiac ultrasound (echocardiogram). To rule out low blood sugar and other internal diseases a serum chemistry profile, blood count, and a heartworm test are also necessary.


I know how horrible all of this must sound but there are effective treatments for many of these disorders. Even if your dog has a malignant tumor or a degenerative heart disease like cardiomyopathy you need to know so you can do the right thing for her. Dogs with terminal disease, like everybody else, deserve a decent quality of life for as long as possible.


In the short term be careful. Avoid fetch and other strenuous activities that could cause her heart to fail without warning. She needs serious medical attention ASAP.