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my old dog - please help me work out when enough is enough

(62 Posts)
everymummy Sat 14-Jan-17 10:00:42

I have an elderly dog. He's nearly 14, weighs about 48 kilos and has terrible arthiritis in his back legs. He's getting weaker and can't manage the stairs so has to stay in the basement, which is our kitchen.

To get outside, he has to climb up the back steps which are steep and uneven. This morning I took him out and he fell up the steps, I picked him up (he wears a harness to help me support him) but he was quite upset and kept trying to get back down. Increasingly he doesn't want to go out because he remembers the steps until he's desperate. He won't wee on the patio.

He's eating and wagging his tail though - a tough old thing (mastiff pitbull staffie cross).

When I got him out this morning he was very slow, lay down on the pavement several times and flopped on his side when I tried to get him up.

Really I think he can't live with so little mobility although his heart is strong and he clearly enjoys lots of part of his life.

He has antiinflammatories, supplements, raw food diet. I don't know what to do sad

Clg199 Sat 14-Jan-17 11:54:57

I was in this topic to ask exactly the same thing. It's so hard when it's a gradual decline.

I try to convince myself that my boy is old and he's not going to get any better, so there's no need for him to go through the gradual decline and he should go while he's happy. Dogs don't have a sense of regret or of planning for the future so for me it's important that he enjoys the time he has and goes before he stops enjoying it.

Then I see his little face and stroke his soft ears and all of that goes out of the window. I won't let him suffer, but while he's eating and toddling outside for little walks and having a sniff it's so hard to know when enough is enough.

I've often heard 'better a week too soon than a day too late' and I'm really trying to keep it in my head.

I'm sure that hasn't helped you much at all, I'm sorry you're having to go through this as it is just so hard.

igglu Sat 14-Jan-17 12:06:59

We knew with our lovely dog. She'd been ill for a while but still had some quality of life. Then she just started to go downhill. She used to eat everything but then would only eat her dinner, and then she weed a few times in the house without even trying to get up. It sounds silly, but in the end she just kept looking at us as if to say she'd had enough. In hindsight we probably left her a few days longer than we should have, but we didn't want to make that decision. It's awful but she was ready to go

everymummy Sat 14-Jan-17 12:07:54

Clg sorry you are in the same situation. I think what we learn from dogs is their love of the present, so it wouldn't be right to project our own feelings of future onto them. I've only had my old boy for less then two years, he was old already when i got him, but still playful then. Now he looks a bit pained although still quite vigorous.

Like you, it's the silky ears that make me well up sad

Clg199 Sat 14-Jan-17 16:07:59

I've decided that he's had enough. He's eating very reluctantly and isn't interested in going out on walks or saying hello to other dogs. He's not at deaths door today, but I want to prevent him getting that far. I think Monday will be the day. It's dreadful, but it feels right.

Sending you and your boy strength to get through these difficult times x

everymummy Sat 14-Jan-17 16:54:02

oh Clg I'm so sorry - I bet you have given him the best of lives and now you are brave enough to do the right thing by him. It's very sad. I can tell just how much you love him.

Things are about the same here. I got him out for a walk but he just kept crawling into bushes, scraping a hole and lying down. But he is happy to see people and wagging his tail, plus eating his dinner so I don't know.

I'm going to speak to the vet on Monday. We are going away for a week next weekend and our friends are coming to stay to look after him - I would have them to have to deal with a situation if things get worse.

Clg199 Sun 15-Jan-17 10:18:28

Thank you smile

Sorry I've hijacked your thread. I do feel better now the decision is made. The fact that we love them so much makes these decisions so hard. I had to do the same for my other dog a few years ago but that was easier as he had kidney failure and when he started to decline a blood test confirmed that his kidneys had pretty much stopped working and this was it.

People say that you'll just know, but I'm not sure it's that simple. Maybe one bit of me does know but it gets shouted down by other bits. I would always rather too early than too late though, and although I'm sad I know it's right.

Big hugs to you and your boy - how is he doing today?

everymummy Mon 16-Jan-17 10:21:13

He's doing a bit better thanks Clg - we went out for a walk just now and he seemed very happy although very, very slow. Everyone has said to me that I will 'know' but I quite agree that this may not necessarily be the case.

If I may gently say, I think the lack of appetite in your old boy would indicate that his quality of life is decreasing. Sending you lots of courage for today - your dog has had a wonderful life.

I'm keeping an eye on Old Dog today. I had to get up three times in the night because he left his bed to get water and then couldn't get back again.

JoffreyBaratheon Mon 16-Jan-17 13:09:09

I wouldn't give you the answer because only you can know, but the fact you're asking probably means it's close.

Our last dog lived to 14, too. In retrospect - I'm going to be brutally honest here - I think she should have been PTS maybe 6 months before she was. I simply couldn't let go of her. I've loved every dog I ever had but in many ways she was The One, for me.

It was only after she was PTS I realised that she hadn't wagged her tial once for maybe 6 months before she died. So one rule of thumb might be if you're still seeing wags, you might still be OK. But then staffies/mastiffs are tough and were bred not to show pain (our dog was a bull terrier so the same thing applied. The bull breeds are not like other dogs).

When the time comes, I'd ask for him to be sedated. I didn't realise as I'd seen a number of dogs PTS in my time and it was always peaceful and fast. But when my dog was PTS it was nightmarish. She had something called 'agonal breathing'. I'll be haunted by it forever and so glad we didn't take the kids - if they'd seen it...

If sedated, apparently this wouldn't be relevant but no-one warned me of this or offered her sedation and it was only as she lay dying the vet casually remarked "Oh don't worry, that's just agonal breathing - it's because with a lot of older dogs their circulation is poor". SOmehting about the drug taking longer to work.

Sorry to share something so distressing but ever since I've told everyone with an elderly dog.

8 years earlier, our other dog - the same age as her - died young and he was PTS and died on the spot, instantly. It was very, very different, with a younger dog.

JoffreyBaratheon Mon 16-Jan-17 13:10:56

Should add, our last dog had had dementia for several years. And we'd not only kept her going but managed to work round a lot of her problems and her quality of life seemed OK right up til that last few months.

everymummy Mon 16-Jan-17 14:46:59

Thanks Joffrey, for your kind post. It's actually very good to know some practical information. Our dog is huge so I don't really know whether to take him to the vet or have the vet come to us (our vet is lovely and does offer to come out). His tail is still wagging, he still asks to come out on walks and he still eats his food. He's definitely in pain though, as he walks very stiffly and slowly. He doesn't play any more, and up until a few weeks ago he wanted his tug toy. He just looks a bit defeated and doesn't even wake up when I come down in the morning.

I do think nearly 14 is very old for such a big dog.

But then he's so soft and warm when I put my arms around him. sad

My biggest concern is that he is being looked after next week by dog sitters, even though they know him well and understand the situation.

JoffreyBaratheon Mon 16-Jan-17 15:36:19

Tail wags are a good sign. I didn't even realise the wags had stopped until I thought about it afterwards, which is why I mentioned it, as something for you to keep an eye on.

I also held onto her, thinking she'd probably die painlessly in her sleep - her heart giving out, or something. But around the time we took her, I read online that apparently this is a very rare thing and if a dog had heart problems in the middle of the night - it's not necessarily true they'd die in their sleep, and the vet might not be easy to get hold of...

In our dog's case I think that sort of disinterest you describe was masked by dementia - and had been for a while. She never seemed distressed or afraid but also - she wasn't really herself. So for your dog to get to 14 without dementia - that is actually very helpful as I think it can cloud other issues.

I wonder if you can ask the vet if there is any way to optimise his current pain relief, for him?

Will be thinking of you. This is a difficult time - I know my last year or so with her was overshadowed by constantly thinking about what was imminent. Even when they're keeping going it's inevitably on your mind.

Something tells me you've been a brilliant dog owner and your dog has had a great life. You're still getting wags too which is ace.

everymummy Mon 16-Jan-17 17:25:04

Thanks so much Joffrey, I'm tearing up

I hope he's had a good life - I got him two years ago from a friend who had to leave the country and he was too old to take with her. My first dog and pretty special - we've had lots of walks by the sea and he has many friends.

Medication-wise he's already on cymalgex plus supplements but the vet has said I can up the dose if I feel he needs it.

I spoke to the dog sitters today (his dogparents, as they are known) and they are happy to give him lots of extra care and time, so I suppose I will see how he is when we get back from holiday.

Clg how are you?

everymummy Mon 16-Jan-17 17:25:44

Thanks so much Joffrey, I'm tearing up

I hope he's had a good life - I got him two years ago from a friend who had to leave the country and he was too old to take with her. My first dog and pretty special - we've had lots of walks by the sea and he has many friends.

Medication-wise he's already on cymalgex plus supplements but the vet has said I can up the dose if I feel he needs it.

I spoke to the dog sitters today (his dogparents, as they are known) and they are happy to give him lots of extra care and time, so I suppose I will see how he is when we get back from holiday.

Clg how are you?

KindDogsTail Mon 16-Jan-17 17:31:00

I think his fear of the steps may be telling you a lot. That is horrible for him, and he could suffer a lot if he falls down on the stairs. Could you make or buy a ramp? Could you make things easier for him, or carry him?

I am so sorry as this must be very sad for you flowers You will know when it is time.

everymummy Mon 16-Jan-17 19:23:04

kinddogs thanks for your post. we have a ramp, and have covered it in astroturf so it's not slippy for him. He also wears a harness with a handle so we can support him (he's nearly 50kg!). But the top step is really difficult and there's nothing we can do about it.

We just had a walk and he seemed quite perky. Perhaps it's the cold weather that's making his joints worse.

villainousbroodmare Mon 16-Jan-17 19:43:55

I'm a vet. I put much-loved pets to sleep every day. I'm always sad for the people, but usually happy for the animals, as it is almost invariably the kind thing to do. I think that a lot of people leave it far too long. I see a lot of (genuinely heartfelt) sobbing over frankly wretched animals who have been in distress for long periods of time.
It's not the owner who's doing the battling.

JoffreyBaratheon Mon 16-Jan-17 19:59:18

villainous I can well believe that's the case. In retrospect, could see I left it too long but at the time, I just didn't see it like that. If she had been someone else's dog, I'd have been the first to hint that maybe it was time to let go. I once went with a friend who had a very old dog PTS and frankly, I'd felt he should have gone ages before. They couldn't even stay in the room whilst it was done so I stayed with this dog so it wouldn't be alone with a stranger in a strange place, at the end of its life. It collapsed the day it died and literally had a tumour 'the size of a grapefruit'. I had no compunction about going with the person or staying with the dog when the owner fell apart. It didn't go so easily, either, but I never told the owner.

The vet who put my elderly dog to sleep had the beside manner of Attila the Hun. Only less pleasant. Our new dog goes somewhere else entirely. That vet's awful bedside manner lost her business. Maybe she has done the job so long she has forgotten how devastated people are.

Last year we had our 21 year old cat PTS, and the contrast was stark. That vet was so kind and gentle with her - and stroked her and talked to her the whole time. I'd recommend him to anyone.

BatFacedGirl Tue 17-Jan-17 00:34:18

If you think he's in pain then please do it today. Agree with post above totally

KindDogsTail Tue 17-Jan-17 00:37:06

Everymummy what a brave dog he is being. I think you are asking because you feel the time has come, so maybe be conscious of this and have some lovely last weeks with him where you count every moment and do things he likes.

Clg199 Tue 17-Jan-17 14:38:03

everymummy Thank you, I'm surprisingly OK. Obviously very sad, but it was definitely the right time for him and he slipped away quickly and peacefully. The vet that came out was the one who had been treating him since he became poorly and he was very kind and respectful: he talked to Wes and stroked him and told us what was happening with an appropriate level of detail.

I took him to the local pet crematorium myself - I did this with our last dog and found that it really helped with giving me some closure. Rather than him just disappearing it helped me close the circle so to speak.

I have no regrets about it being yesterday - he would have lasted for a while longer but none of us would have gained anything from it.

Lots of good thoughts and strength to you and your boy today smile

everymummy Tue 17-Jan-17 14:40:36

Thanks everyone for your posts, they are providing great comfort and reassurance.

Thanks Villanous it is very useful to hear from a vet. I am definitely watching him closely - I don't want him to suffer.

Old Dog has seemed to make a recovery today and was lively on his walk, sniffing other dogs and checking owners pockets for biscuits.

I am going to take him to my vet and ask him to be brutally frank with me but my gut feeling is that he is enjoying his life and is just incredibly tough and hardy.

murphys Thu 19-Jan-17 08:07:38

I am so sorry to hear, I am in the same situation.

My lab is 11, and has torn his acl ligament in his back leg. He went lame a little while back, but started to use the leg again, then one day a few weeks back, it gave way again.

He is now on weekly injections, plus loads of meds to keep the pain at bay. We have considered the surgery, but he really isn't a very good candidate and as well as the acl tear, he has hip dysplasia and bad arthritis in his hips. but even worse in the hip of the opposite leg of the acl tear. So we could try the surgery, but that means while he is healing he will be putting more weight on his bad side anyway. And yes he is overweight, but he has lost 6 kgs since the first incident late last year. But is still 43 kgs which is heavy for me to keep lifting him.

But now, I heard him crying and my other dog kept sniffing around where he was lying earlier. He has lost a tooth. I did give him a raw bone to chew on, and he does enjoy it so and if he is unhappy, at least a bone every now nad then isn't the worst thing is it?

Now I am even more sad. He must go to vet later today, we were giving the 5 week inj a trial, and today he is due for his second. 11 isn't that old for a lab is it???

everymummy Thu 19-Jan-17 10:02:48

Hi murphys your poor old boy. I know labs can live very long lives but 11 is a good age for any dog.

Is he still wagging his tail? A poster upthread mentioned that as a good indicator of whether they are still 'in the game'.

So sorry you are in the same situation as me.

murphys Thu 19-Jan-17 11:26:30

Thanks every, yes that is the thing. He is still his old self, so happy to see everyone, eating just fine (well, he is a lab..), does manage to get himself around so that he can be with us all the time. We have a swimming pool and every day he still gets in the pool voluntarily (getting out is more difficult now so I help him) and I throw a ball for him to fetch, which is helping the leg to move in the water. He is just sad sometimes. If he was unhappy all the time it would make it easier to decide I think. I know this sounds completely bonkers but we sing together.... (I know)... when the music is on he sort of starts a little noise, I go there and sing to him and he sings/howls with me.... he is still doing that. At one point I thought it was my terrible tone hurting his ears, but its a happy thing for him... not like I'm deafening him.... wink. He is just such a character.

I could type forever about how much I love him and what he means to us. Ok I am crying again now. I am taking him to the vet for his jab soon, and I will ask him to be really honest with me about what he thinks. His mouth is bleeding where the tooth was, so I think there may be bits of it left in his gum still.

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