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Anyone with experience of strokes / vestibular syndrome in dogs? Think this could be the end for mine...

(9 Posts)
riverboat1 Mon 28-Apr-14 14:01:27

Our 13 year old lab had a funny turn yesterday morning, seemed dizzy and drunk, collapsed and then had trouble walking. But since he is old and has increasingly bad arthritis in his back legs which makes him wobbly anyway, we just monitored him for the next few hours at home and he seemed to get better. He went out for an afternoon walk with no issues, he was alert and playful etc.

Then in the evening he collapsed again, this time it was obviously more serious, eyes roaming wildly, unable to focus on anything, weird head jerky movements, kept trying to get up but failing. We called out the emergency vet who said he'd had a cerebral incident, gave him an injection to reoxygenate his brain and a sedative to help him calm down. Said he would have to go to regular vet the next morning, he was very cagey about prognosis.

At this point I read loads of stuff on the internet about strokes in dogs and how vestibular syndrome is actually more probable than strokes, with the same symptoms but actually less serious and very good chances of a recovery. So I was sure he'd be showing signs of improvement in the morning.

But this morning dog was worse than yesterday, couldn't stand, couldn't walk. We couldn't get the tablets down him that the emergency vet had left, he wasn't interested in bits of cheese or ham or anything. It was like he didn't even realise we were there in front of him, didn't lift his head to look at us. Vomited and peed everywhere. Just getting him into he car and into the vets was petty traumatic, he was obviously distressed and didn't want to be moved, he couldn't even seem to lie down properly or control his limbs or head.

The vet was very pessimistic, by this point poor dog was just a completely passive thing lying on the floor with madly flicking eyes, not responding to anything around him. I started to realise for the first time maybe this isn't a recoverable thing...vet said he sees dogs with vestibular syndrome regularly, but they are nearly always more alert than this, and can at least stand and walk a little even if wobbly. It was absolutely devastating...DP started crying, it was the first time I have ever seen him cry in the 5 years we've been together.

We have left the dog at the vets for the day, they are going to do what they can but basically they have said if there are no signs of improvement today we might want to seriously think about putting him to sleep tonight. It was horrible leaving him there, but at the same time he seemed barely conscious of his surroundings or anyone at all, so not as heartbreaking as it could have been...

I cried buckets this morning, mentally we have been preparing ourselves for the dog's demise for a while as he is so old, and we are not the type to treat our dog like a child or anything. But this feels so sudden, he was totally fine 2 days ago and mostly fine even yesterday afternoon! I just can't believe it. Part of me still wonders if he could recover, but am I kidding myself? The vet seemed very pessimistic, and I don't want my poor dog to suffer this stress and indignity any more, but I also couldn't live with myself if we should have given him a few more days to recover...

huntersmum Mon 28-Apr-14 18:31:05

We have had more or less the same with three elderly dogs, and I think when they are old, have had a stroke or similar and lose control of their bodily functions its probably time to say goodbye. It's heart breaking but the vet will give his honest opinion on the outlook for your pet. We all cried when our dogs were pts, particularly my husband, and it will take time for you to get over it. Until two days ago he was having a happy life as a much loved family member and has not had to endure a long illness - no dog could have a better life - but sometimes its kinder to let them go.

riverboat1 Mon 28-Apr-14 20:26:06

Thank you huntersmum. Indeed, we put our dog to sleep earlier this evening. The vet had run various tests and there were multiple problems all age-related (irregular heart shape, problems with stuff in his lungs, too-high results in blood tests related to liver function), and poor dog was in the same state as this morning in terms of flicking eyes, panting, unable to stand or even roll over properly. It was clear that it was the right thing to do to gently put him to sleep. It was pretty devastating, but I am at least glad that when we went into the room where he had been all day and started to stroke him he woke up and (with a little assistance) managed to roll over and look at us, and he did definitely seem to focus and recognise us and know that we were there, unlike this morning where he wasn't making any eye contact at all.

Like you say, we can be happy that he had a really short demise in terms of actual illness (arthritis, deafness and a few other minor issues aside) and he was an old dog, it was his time to go and we could be there with him at the end. The most important thing is not to prolong his suffering.

Jesus, though. It's hard. I've never had a dog or any pet before - he wasn't really 'mine' so much as DP's but when I met and pretty soon moved in with DP 5 years ago I fell in love with the dog pretty much straight away...and now I just can't imagine living in this house without him, getting the most enthusiastic welcome in the world every time I arrive home, having him pottering around and trying to get my attention as I make dinner or do a work out or watch TV...god, it's just going to be so hard to get used to not having him around. I don't know how we're going to do it. I have never seen DP so cut up before, actually just thinking about him crying makes me want to start again...

Owllady Mon 28-Apr-14 20:50:04

I'm sorry sad
We had one go very similar, had some sort of fit, eyes rolling, wet herself etc. God it was horrible. I rang the emergency vet and said she was to be made comfortable and then pts, at home. But she was 18. I feel awful thinking about it now, but it's never easy, honestly sad
They are your companion, you spend every day with them and love them and when they are not there it's devastating, but you did the kindest thing. It's not fair (imo) to keep an old dog suffering

Have a good cry xxx

TooOldForGlitter Mon 28-Apr-14 21:39:55

I am so sorry OP for you and your DP. Let it sink in, process things at your speed, slowly you will remember the good times and be able to smile about him. flowers

huntersmum Tue 29-Apr-14 01:44:33

Oh OP I'm so sorry, but you were with him at the end and he knew you were there. Having a loved pet pts is the hardest decision but only because we love them so much and don't want to let them go, but you so clearly did the right thing for him.

riverboat1 Tue 29-Apr-14 20:33:32

Thank you all for your kind words. It really does help somehow.

I'm struggling with being at home right now. I was fine at work all day, could talk about him and what happened without tearing up. But as soon as I got home I just fell apart, it was so horrible knowing he wouldn't rush up to greet me I just couldn't get out of the car...and then coming inside and it being so quiet...just awful, awful. DP works long hours so I am often at home on my own in the early evenings, and it's going to be so hard being truly alone from now on...

Argh, I know and believe absolutely we did the right thing by the dog. He had a good life and a decent death without too much suffering. It's just us left behind I am feeling sorry for now.

MarmiteMania Sat 03-May-14 22:41:55

Riverboat1 how are you both feeling now? My heart goes out to you both. I have a dog who had vestibular, on that occasion he recovered but at 11 I know now that if it happens again he probably won't have a chance. It is just so traumatising. Just take it slowly and talk about him all the time x

riverboat1 Tue 06-May-14 23:00:08

Hi Marmite. Thank you so much. We are doing better now, I think we got most of our crying out of the way early last week. Now we can talk about him and smile sadly (sometimes even happily) rather than tear up. DP and DSS gathered up all his various toys and mats and various other stuff that was scattered throughout the house at the weekend. We're not ready to get rid of it all yet, so it's all just sitting in his basket. We should get the ashes later this week, and will have a little ceremony of some sort in the garden, mostly for DSS's benefit but I think it will be nice for all of us.

The hardest thing is definitely coming home to an empty house, without that amazing welcome every day that only dogs can give...that's going to take a lot of getting used to.

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