Clean bill of health…

Can we talk about the fainting schnauzer video? We need to talk about it, because if there’s one thing I don’t get in this world, it’s the current trend for pets with a myriad of medical malfunctions or genetic issues becoming internet sensations.

You’ve seen the video, I imagine. A dog is surprised by the owner she hasn’t seen in a year or two, and after freaking out for a few seconds she loses consciousness briefly.

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Attempting to head off criticism, Carson Daly helpfully interjects “CLEAN BILL OF HEALTH GUYS” into the video. No problem, dog is great, everyone can go home, right?

Syncope, Part 1

Now without knowing the dog or what went down at the veterinary clinic, I can’t really tell you what happened, but I can tell you in general that fainting episodes (what we term syncope) are not normal, no matter how excited a dog is. There is a pathology there, whether it’s cardiac or seizure activity or something, but “she just got the vapors” is not a diagnosis.

Let me share with you the general arc of a visit when a patient brings a dog like this- and I’m including both seizure activity and syncopal episodes here- to me. Because the episode itself is short lived, by the time the dog shows up to the clinic he or she often looks fine. After taking a history and keeping in mind things like the age and breed of the pet, we begin the examination.

“Well, the physical examination findings are normal,” I say.

We could end things right here, and you could read that as saying “The pet has a clean bill of health!” But that’s missing the fact that while physical examinations are wonderful tools, they are limited in what they can tell us. The causes of syncope are rarely evident based on physical examination alone.

Syncope, Part 2, 3, and 4

“If we want to figure out the underlying cause of the issue,” I will say, “We should begin with some bloodwork and a urinalysis.” The client may or may not agree, mentally calculating the cost.

“If that’s normal, and it often is, we could proceed next to a cardiac workup: an EKG/cardiac echo/24 hours on the Holter monitor and have a cardiologist review the results.” Now we’ve definitely ventured into “need to think about it” territory.

“If the heart is fine, and we’re more concerned about seizure activity being what’s going on here, a neurologist is your best bet. Unfortunately, diagnosis usually involves costly procedures like CSF taps or CT scans. Epilepsy? Well, we don’t have a definitive test for that at all, so we just have to make the diagnosis based on ruling everything else out first.”

Many owners, especially after a first time episode, go as far as the bloodwork and decide to wait and see if it gets worse before moving to the next step. I don’t blame them- it’s expensive, and you have no idea if the dog will have an event a day later or a year later- but I just want to emphasize that unless they actually performed all of those diagnostics I just listed, it’s hard to definitively say the pet truly has a clean bill of health.

There’s a reason “The dog’s fine!!” is in the Today show headline and Carson makes sure to tell you “the dog’s fine! Someone said so!” and that reason is, we all intuitively know things aren’t fine. Just because you haven’t found the problem doesn’t mean it’s not there. It just means you haven’t located it yet. And I imagine somewhere in that visit, between answering calls from the Today show and counting YouTube hits, the vet did say just that.



Filed: Blog, Daily Life, Dogs, Features, Health Tagged: ,
  • Annette Frey

    I couldn’t even watch the video to that point! It didn’t seen fine to me. Or something I wanted to witness, or even let my own dog hear.

  • Heidi P-O

    This happened in a suburb of Pittsburgh. The local news here said that they did take the dog to the vet after it happened to make sure it (can’t remember if it’s a he or she) was ok. They didn’t specify exactly what type of exam happened but I’m relieved they at least took the dog to the vet.

    • Ak74

      Maybe next time read the article before pointing out things that were already addressed.

  • Thanks for writing about this. Having lived with a dog who had seizures and now a dog with heart issues (who has full-on collapsed from it), I found the video really upsetting.

  • kgseymour


  • Jay of The Depp Effect

    Thank you! Just what I was thinking when I saw that vid. Something is NOT right with that dog, and if it were one of mine, I would not have been smiling.

  • Susan Pellerin

    Thank you for putting that out there! I have a mini schnauzer too. I was more upset with the young gal and her thinking it was too funny but that is me. (My kids would have freaked out and made me take her right to the Vet but that’s my kids too…)
    I lost a Bernese to epilepsy – he died after a stressful move. Our Lab also has seizures but we’ve been lucky with him. I found nothing endearing or amazing or ‘normal’ about that video and was very worried for the dog but what can I say.
    Thank you for the input and the professional insight and pointing out the fact that the dog has a health issue! Thank you Dr. V!!

  • JaneK

    too true in the pediatric world… “my kid’s fine. we did such and such consult and they didn’t find anything wrong….” some parents know better and keep pushing for answers; some just don’t want to hear it. we have one neurologist here who will tell parents their child is “fine” meaning, no progressing neuro disorders or know seizures. one of the other docs in the community laughed in disgust and said that you need to ask him: independent living one day or dependent. It takes both sides willing to get to the bottom of it. I always feel bad for the parents (or pet owners in vet world) that want answers but can’t seem to get hooked up with the professionals that will help…. so, I will stop before I really get on a roll 🙂 (and please, no judgment on the horrendous grammar)

  • Michelle

    To me, that video was deeply disturbing. With the exception of being excited, the exact same thing happened to my cat. He jumped from the dresser to the bed, headed up to the pillows, and literally flipped over on his back. It happened so fast that if someone else didn’t witness it, I would have thought that I had imagined it.

    I literally had him to my cat Vet in less than 15 minutes, and based upon my description, it was assumed that he had a seizure. Of course there was an exam and blood work, but it was never suggested that I do anything more than watch him, and that particular Vet knew that I would do anything and everything in the best interest of my pets. Perhaps that is the case here.

  • Cathey Avery

    Some days there is just not enough news to put out there so they make some – too bad they didn’t feature some really helpful information regarding these issues in dogs/cats!

  • Nicholas Raimondi

    I and other veterinary professionals that I work with have tried stating these things on the comments section of the video and constantly get told we are stupid and don’t know what we are talking about. Including posting an article about syncope in schnauzers from a vet school. I still can’t believe how many people still don’t get it. See Heidi’s comments below.

    • Do you have the link to the vet school article? I was trying to find something like that with no luck.