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Old Dogs, When do You Say When?

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by Wallo Tweed, Nov 26, 2018.

  1. Wallo Tweed

    Wallo Tweed Friend of Leo's

    Dec 6, 2011
    Penn's Woods
    We've got a yellow lab that is well on his way to being 14 years old.
    We adopted him when he was about 2 and he has been a great friend to us. He weighs in around 100 lbs. We had never had a dog that big, nor a purebred. When I asked the vet how long we could expect him to live he told us 10 years, maybe 12 if we were lucky.

    Last year he had 2 surgeries for mast cell tumor removal about 3 or 4 months apart. He hasn't been quite himself since #2, but he pretty much has kept his goofy, lovable personality until about 4 months ago.

    Our vet says that he is loaded with arthritis from his shoulders, along his spline and into his hips. As a result he has started pooping in the house on a regular basis. We started him on galliprant a few weeks ago and he has shown a remarkable improvement in his movement. It also has changed the consistency of his poop making it a lot messier to clean up. My wife has spent the last month or so sleeping on the sofa in the living room where the dogs bed is. She gets up to leave him out 3 or 4 times each night, but he still makes a mess, sometimes only a short time after he was outside. She is putting up a good front, but I can see this is really starting to wear on her.

    He has started licking and chewing on himself till the site turns raw. He has chewed a 12 inch long section of his tail till it bleeds etc. We have an inflatable collar left over from his surgeries, and have been using that for a few weeks and he seems comfortable with it on, and his tail is healing, but if we let his collar off he starts chewing on it again. The vet says that his kidneys are starting to fail, and recommends a K-9 kidney diet to help him to live longer. And here is where I get to sound like a schmuck, cause I don't know if I want to extend his life to the bitter end. He also has partial esophigal paralysis, and is just getting over an upper respiratory infection.

    Our last dog was a sheltie/lab plus whatever mutt, that lived to be 16. He had advanced diabetes for his last year, and my wife nursed him to the point of us having to carry him in and out. I had made up my mind to let her make the decision as to when to take him to his last vet visit, and we just let it go way too far. The dog was just not happy, and by the time she made her mind up, it was almost pitiful to witness.

    So this time I'm going to make the call, and I'm thinking that the time is coming up. Even though he is back to taking long walks, most times he doesn't seem happy any more, and he seems really depressed every time he has an accident. That big tail of his that seemed to never stop wagging is now kept tucked up between his legs, with an occasional small wagging here and there.

    The vet is going to call me today to go over his latest blood work today, and I want to have a serious discussion with him about how far to go with this.

    So I guess my question for anyone that has read all the way through this post is, what have others done in this situation.

    This is a very difficult situation I find myself in and I would greatly appreciate anyone's thoughts on this.

    Thank You.
  2. TheGoodTexan

    TheGoodTexan Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Apr 28, 2003
    Nashville, TN
    We're going through the very beginning of this process with our 12 year old Lab. We had a tumor removed about two years ago, but now they're popping up all the time.. trying to have them removed would be like playing whack-a-mole, and he didn't do well with the surgery at all. Now he's starting to have some problems with his teeth.

    We had a long talk with the vet, and she said that it was not inhumane in her opinion to stop spending vet money on a dog at this point, and just love him from here on out.

    How do you know when it's time? For us, we've decided that when he shows signs of obvious pain AND unable to get to the door to bark to go outside, and starts pooping in the house... those will be our signals to get ready to make a decision. So, about where you guys are now.

    I really hope that he just lays down on his pillow one night and sleeps his way into dog heaven.
  3. JL_LI

    JL_LI Tele-Afflicted

    May 20, 2017
    Long Island, NY
    I feel your pain. I can only tell you this. I couldn't bring myself to put down my Bichon Snowball. I foolishly thought he should have the dignity of a natural death. What happened was anything but dignified. He went into convulsions that lasted an hour before he passed. The week before he died, his kidney failure became acute. He could barely hold himself up to pee when brought outside. Dignity would have been putting him to sleep as soon as his kidneys shut down. You've been through this before and I think you know. If it's not time now, it will be soon. You can't feel your dog's pain but you know it's there. When it's unbearable for you, your wife, or your dog, it's time.
    Fiesta Red, Matt G, skunqesh and 5 others like this.
  4. mexicanyella

    mexicanyella Tele-Holic

    Jan 26, 2012
    Troy, MO
    Our "policy" on when to make this call has been based around quality of life and mobility. But that leaves a lot of gray area, I realize: we've had dogs that seemed pretty content and not in much apparent pain despite having trouble getting up, obvious neurological degradation in how their hindquarters functioned and tending to poop before they made it to their feet. Some years back we had a lab/Schipperke mix who had developed pretty impaired back leg function--he had trouble getting up, but once he was up he would totter around, tail wagging, sniffing, exploring...the trouble was that if he decided to get up and we weren't right nearby to help him, he'd pull himself around in a circle with his forelegs, pooping with the effort, and making sort of a poop spiral on the floor. I gave him a lot of baths at the end of his life, cleaning up from that, and his reduced back leg function made it hard to stand up in the tub. So I had a regimen of supporting a pooped-up dog in the tub with one hand and washing him with the other, and that job was awful. However as soon as he got out of the tub, he'd be bopping around, feebly but seemingly content, and we couldn't make the call.

    Right now we have a 13 or 14-year-old golden retriever with cancer and we're in the same "is it time yet?" kind of conundrum. Her appetite is way down and we're trying all kinds of stuff to get her to eat, and managing pain with daily Rimadyl tablets. Her mobility is still pretty good and she wags her tail and has not become incontinent yet.

    So in her case, we're feeding her whatever she'll eat, figuring what the hell, she doesn't have much time left; if she likes turkey leftovers, scrambled eggs and bagels, then we'll feed her that...while we wait for signs of increased pain, inability to get up, or unwillingness to eat.

    Ultimately it's an individual decision, and one that's sure to invite comment from others who are not affected by your dog's decline--both pro and con. Some people are more tolerant of cleaning up messes--or losing sleep--than others, but in general, I'd try to evaluate your dog's apparent discomfort/pain level and go off of that. And you'll likely question your decision anyway, and feel bad about it, because part of you will be convinced that you can't really know what the dog is experiencing. Just be as compassionate as you can. It's a hard choice to make, if you are.
    Fiesta Red, bgmacaw, catdaddy and 2 others like this.
  5. Chunkocaster

    Chunkocaster Friend of Leo's

    Aug 10, 2018
    In space with Ziggy
    I nursed my dog for a month before he passed away in my arms. He had tried walking away from me and laying in the tall grass in the backyard. In hindsight he was trying to be alone to die. I took the month off work and slept by his side, carried him out to do his business etc. He had good days where he looked like improving but eventually started to shut down within 20 mins of me leaving the house for supplies.

    I got home just in time to be with him as he appeared to suffer a series of strokes. He went rigid for 5 mins at a time appearing to have died, then he would come back. It was horrible to see and went on for about half an hour. In the end I tried everything to bring him back but had to accept he was gone. He had been with me for 14 years from 7 weeks old. Best friend I ever had. I buried him in the garden and still miss him today 5 years on.

    I don't know what the right thing to do is. I'm glad I was with him at the end and got to spend the extra time with him for his final weeks but wish he didn't have to suffer so long. It is the natural cycle of life though.
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2018
  6. Ducerro

    Ducerro Tele-Meister

    Nov 20, 2017
    Yoakum, Texas
    Our Siberian Husky was a week or so shy of his 13th birthday when we had to let him go. We were able to find a vet who made house calls to come in. It was the hardest thing I had ever done to that point in my life. Like others had mentioned, he was no longer able to make it outside and for the most part had a very difficult time even getting up from his bed in our room. We could see in his eyes he was in constant pain and knew it was time, but that still didn't make it any less hard. Your mind understands what your heart can not.
    Fiesta Red and Wallo Tweed like this.
  7. HappyHwy1owner

    HappyHwy1owner Tele-Meister

    Feb 7, 2011
    Independence, Mo
    My Maggie (yellow lab) was 16 when I made the decision last year. She hadn't been able to jump on the couch for years, and didn't even love her belly rubs any more-I'm guessing there was too much pain for her to lie on her back.
    You could tell she was having trouble getting up, but once she did she seemed ok. Over the course of one weekend it got to the point where she couldn't stand without falling back down, and if she did get moving she would run into whatever was close. I couldn't stand to see her like that, and realized I had to do something. I couldn't even take her to the vet-had to have my sister take her.
    I knew she hadn't felt good in a long time, and I think I was being selfish thinking about the pain of losing her, and not the pain she was in.
    Wallo Tweed likes this.
  8. Nickadermis

    Nickadermis Friend of Leo's

    Dec 18, 2016
    Camden Point, MO
    It’s always hard for me no matter what :( the last one has made it very very hard to get another. And it’s been a few years now...... enjoy what time you have and I’m pretty sure you will know when the time comes to ease his burden.
  9. otterhound

    otterhound Poster Extraordinaire

    Dec 14, 2008
    Manheim Pa.
    You will know and it will hurt because you care . No shame in that .
  10. WireLine

    WireLine Tele-Afflicted

    Mar 23, 2003
    Midland TX
    I put my old hound out of his misery when he was unable to walk with yelps. That was 15 yrs back, and I see his expression when the needle went in way too often.

    I’m 100% convinced he was thanking me...and yeah, I’m choking up just typing this.
    Fiesta Red, GuitarKid and Wallo Tweed like this.
  11. rcole_sooner

    rcole_sooner Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

    Feb 12, 2010
    Norman, OK
    Too bad this can't be done at home where the pet feels safer. I would pay extra if this was an option.

    My dog who was just getting to where he could not see well or climb up on things very well, was dispatched by a suspected coyote after fending them off for years. He got too old, I guess. I've heard the coyote kills quickly. I think my dog would have preferred this to going to vet. He met his end, on his terms.

    Our female cat passed away in our living room one day, after a long battle with thyroid disorder. Could no longer get any value from food. She just starved to death. She never acted in any severe pain, never convulsed, just looked like she went to sleep. Both our cats hate car rides, the vet, or being anywhere except in the house. I think as bad as this seems, it was much more to her preference over taking her to the vet.

    I've helped my mom take a couple of her dogs to the vet over the many years. Her dogs were in a lot of pain from arthritis and such. They had to be carried to the car for their last ride, but did not seem to mind going to vet. It was a peaceful process.
    robinsong, getbent and Wallo Tweed like this.
  12. teleman1

    teleman1 Tele-Meister

    May 16, 2003
    You might try medical marijuana doggy biscuits for his arthritis. Dogs pick right up and the pain is dulled.
  13. Greggorios

    Greggorios Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

    Jun 18, 2016
    Patterson, NY
    So very sorry to hear. We said goodbye to our 14+ year old Maltese this past spring so the experience is still very fresh. Sadly I will echo JL_LI's sentiments and thoughts above; I completely agree.

    Neither my wife or I ever had children so our "4 legged kids" were/are our family. We said that the "time" would be as soon as we had any sense that our little guy was in pain or discomfort but it can become difficult to tell exactly when that is. As a result it was tempting to put it off for another day. What helped me avoid delaying too long was the following thought: We watched the progressive decline in his health, knew things were not going to get better and would only continue to go downhill. I made the choice that I didn't want him to experience whatever was coming next and that I didn't want my wife or I to have to see him go through it. We called the vet and made an appointment telling them that we would be prepared to put "Casper" to sleep if they agreed that it was time. They did so we said goodbye, shed more than a few tears and let him go. As soon as he drifted off we both knew that we'd made the right decision. We continue to be grateful that we didn't wait too long.

    We'll keep good thoughts for you and your family.
    Slowpoke, robinsong and Wallo Tweed like this.
  14. CK Dexter Haven

    CK Dexter Haven Friend of Leo's

    Jun 7, 2017
    It's a hard call that is never easy, but it's better to be a bit early than a bit late, you wish to have as much time as possible, but keep the comfort of the animal foremost in your mind..if you do so you will know and do the right thing at the right time.
  15. Recce

    Recce Tele-Afflicted

    May 3, 2016
    Northern Alabama
    I think you already know the answer to this question. When you are keeping a pet alive when its quality of life has deteriorated so much that the pet can't do basic functions it is time to make a decision or if they are so sick they will not get better. I am sorry it still is not an easy thing to do.
  16. Wallo Tweed

    Wallo Tweed Friend of Leo's

    Dec 6, 2011
    Penn's Woods
    Thanks, I've thought that a few times in the last 6 months or so.
    TheGoodTexan likes this.
  17. ifallalot

    ifallalot Tele-Afflicted

    Feb 24, 2012
    Huntington Beach, CA
    My dog is 8 and although he is a medium size mix I do know that these decisions will be here sooner rather than later, and that fills me with dread and sadness. I feel your pain, but remember that your emotional pain will be less than the dog's physical pain so when you do send him on it will be a relief for him

    For everyone though, please take the time to spend those last moments with your dog. Do not leave him alone while the vet sends him on. He devoted his life to you
    robinsong, Greggorios and Wallo Tweed like this.
  18. D_W_PGH

    D_W_PGH Friend of Leo's

    Aug 28, 2018
    Can't offer any real help, because there's no light that goes on and says "this is the right time". My mother spent $30k on her last two dogs stretching them out over their lifetime. One had cancer, the other one eventually got it but just malingered with no quality of life until she was blind and deaf and pretty much immobile.

    There aren't many stories of people saying "I almost made the decision early, but my fourteen year-old dog turned it around and lived to 21", it's just downhill from the point where they become senile and start getting odd ailments that are the hallmark of no immune system or a malfunctioning one.

    I would follow the vet's advice, but keep your antenna up to make sure the vet isn't making a business case. My mother's dogs both had miserable last years, but the vet always had a solution to make them last a little longer. A spray to keep their tumors from oozing, this or that pill, and it drove my dad up a wall. There's probably a case that the end of life treatment is good for their business, and a dog that comes back every couple of weeks for another fix is good business. Things have changed a lot in the last 30 years. The last generation of vets that I remember as a kid never would've done what many are doing now (and the creativity with the vet bills sometimes reminds me of shop supply fees, etc, that mechanics use to increase the bill while stating a rate that doesn't look like it's increasing).
    Greggorios and Wallo Tweed like this.
  19. Wallo Tweed

    Wallo Tweed Friend of Leo's

    Dec 6, 2011
    Penn's Woods
    After our last dog, it took a year to decide to get another. Then it took another year to find the right dog.

    We've had 3 dogs, first lived to 17, second to16, and now this guy.
    As much as I like having a dog around, we are at a different part of our lives now and there will most likely be no more dogs after him.
    But man, it takes months till you get to the point where you don't expect to see your buddy every time you walk in the door.
    robinsong, Nickadermis and nojazzhere like this.
  20. nojazzhere

    nojazzhere Poster Extraordinaire

    Feb 3, 2017
    Foat Wuth, Texas
    In retrospect, I think I was fortunate, just a few weeks ago, that Daisy (my Beagle mix) went without a long, drawn out ordeal. I came home, and she was motionless on the couch, having thrown up. As I went over to her, she lost control of her bowels. I took her to the vet, and while they were doing tests, she had a total of four seizures. The vet concluded it was caused by a brain tumor, and recommended putting her down. She was sedated to the point of being "asleep", and died in my arms....I'm just grateful she didn't suffer a long time.
    robinsong, alathIN, getbent and 2 others like this.
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