Where did the streptococci come from?
Impossible to say, from another dog or from a human? I had myself tested afterwards, I did not have any. One of the other tested Borzoi, who had met Shêtan during the last days of his life, also had the same type of streptococci and of course, tonsillitis. It took almost 2 months of testings, and 2 types of antibiotics until she was declared free of it. Her owners also tested themselves, neither had streptococci.

Streptococci spread through saliva for example. Just like any good old cold would, by sneezing and coughing. If you ignore the tonsillitis of your own dog, you can very well spread it. Maybe your own dog will not get really sick, but somewhere along the line of infection another dog may die. Don't look your dog down the throat and say "it is just a sore throat" and drag him off to meet a lot of other dogs.

Streptococci and breeding
Not too long ago a friend of mine had a bitch with an infection in the womb. She was treated with antibiotics and the vet recommended she should be bred as soon as possible. When she came into heat the owner made a vaginaltest and she proved to still (or again) have the kind of streptococci that may produce toxin. It is not unusual to breed a bitch under these circumstances, but how many test the bitch just before the breeding? And what happens to the pups? Will there be any conception at all? If the bitch's own immune system plus the antibiotic treatment did not kill the streptococci, how is the immune system of the bitch going to protect the unborn pups? What it the result? I don't know, do you?
In this case antibiotics was given before breeding and we can only hope it helped.

Not just Sighthounds
When I posted on the mail lists, I got answers from all kind of people, from all over the world (except Asia) and representing all the 10 FCI breed groups. Many told about how their dogs had died in Sudden Death and how they now regretted they never thought to have a necropsy done. People just seem to assume it is the heart and never bother to investigate.

The reason why we suddenly have found 3 similar cases in Sweden in such a short time is rather simple.

  • Shêtan had his necropsy done at Ultuna, where our future veterinarians are studying. It is far more likely that students, still curious, will push for the real answer and keep looking until the find it. After talking to some vets they all agree that many necropsies are done by a vet who has been working all day, he is tired and really not very interested in what killed your dog. When he can't see anything but the very obvious circulation failure, he will put that down, or maybe blame it on cardiomypathy. He just wants to go home. Are you aware of how few vets know that the heart of sighthound is bigger than normal? How many cardiomypathys has mistakenly been diagnosed because of this?
  • The second Borzoi to have a necropsy done was also left at Ultuna, 6 months later. They don't exactly do a necropsy on Borzoi every day, they quite likely remembered the last case.
  • The third Borzoi to die, had necropsy at another place. The owners first tried one vet clinic and asked them to look at the tonsils especially. The personel turned so nasty at that, the owners took their dead dog elsewhere. At the next place the vets laughed and said; "dogs do not die from tonsillitis, ha ha!" They were quite surprised at what they found...

The knowledge is not new
The first time I heard of a sighthounds sudden death being diagnosed as a result of streptococci in tonsills, was years ago. A woman now owning Borzoi, told me her 5 year old Saluki had this diagnose at the end of 89 - 90.

Before Christmas 1997, there was a seminar for veterinarians in Sweden, about hearts I believe.
One of the vets attending this seminar was told about our 3 deaths and we urged him to bring it up at the conference. Do you know what the reaction was?

"It is neither strange nor unusual for dogs to die from tonsillitis. Next topic please."

Either they simply don't care or they think this is an everyday occurance. If it is so common, how come so few are diagnosed as such?

One of the more interesting mails I've got lately, had this passage in it

It's recently come to our attention that, in humans, a link has been found between Myocarditis (an infection of the heart that may cause sudden cardiac symptoms) and a form of Adenovirus, which of course is related to the Adenovirus that causes one of the "kennel cough" diseases that dogs suffer from. It was previously known that similar infections could be caused by another virus, refered to as the Coxsackie B virus. More information on this may be found at:http://ipn.intelihealth.com/ipn/ihtIPN?c=152329

Food for thought...

These pages has raised many more questions than anwers, and I have no answers for them. No more than I can answer the question "if 3 infection induced sudden deaths in Sweden is just a coincidence, or the key to unravel a part of the mystery of Sudden Death"

But I know of some people who can help me find out.


All text and photos on the section "Sudden Death in Sighthounds" on my homepage (Starcastle Hounds) is copyright 1997-2001 to starcastle@chello.se