Elderly retriever - I think we are close to the end- advice please

(33 Posts)
BookWitch Mon 29-Jun-20 08:47:37

I posted a few weeks ago about my old girl limping very badly. She is a rescue, so we are not entirely sure how old she is, at least 12, vet says maybe 14, a friends who has had lots of retrievers thinks could be as old as 15. We've had her since 2016 so we never had her as an old dog. She has been on Previcox for a while, which her insurance doesn't cover.

After a couple of consultations over the phone, the vet saw her, she was sedated and x-rayed and basically her hip is failing. She won't get better.
She is currently on painkillers, and she is honestly now not too bad, takes her a while to get up but she takes herself out to the garden for a wee, she is still limping but manages ok on the flat (can't do stairs).

Since we last saw the vet, she has now developed an ear infection. She is prone to these and her earflap fills with fluid. For this to be treated thoroughly she will need to be sedated again for the ear to be drained, and a long course of AntiBs.
She has also developed terribly restless legs and spends a lot of time with one of her back legs going as if she is scratching vigorously. Left leg slightly more than her right but she does it is both legs alternately.
Her skin is not great either, she keeps gnawing at herself and making herself sore. She's up to date with all her flea treatments, so I am confident she doesn't have fleas.

The problem is, I am so worried her quality of life is deteriorating. While she is still eating well, is wagging and enjoying the company of her humans, and is getting out to wee/poo, at what time do you make the call.
She definitely needs another trip to the vet to see if we can improve some of her conditions. She is insured, but the ear infection won't be covered as there is a 1000 pound per condition per year limit on claims, and her infections in Oct and Jan have used that, until the policy renews at the end of July. she ca't wait that long. The previcox she is on is also not covered (Though the painkillers will be).

She is such a good natured and placid dog, even if she is in pain/very uncomfortable, she won't snarl and whimper. My main concern in making her comfortable and giving her the best quality of life. I am not going to put her through anything heroic and/or endless trips to the vet. Spiraling vet costs are a concern as well, even with the insurance covering some of it.
We are not happy leaving her alone either in case she slips and can't get up, while this has been fine while we've been in lockdown, as lockdown is lifting, it is going to be an issue.

Sorry that got really long, if you got to the end, thanks for reading. At what point would you consider PTS? She had a rough start to life, I want to make sure I do right by her at the end.

OP’s posts: |
Soubriquet Mon 29-Jun-20 08:50:18

Honestly?

It really does sound like time

Better a week too early than a day too late.

Letting her go would be the kindest thing. Book the appointment and then completely spoil her until then.

When I had my Jack Russell put to sleep, he got a rotisserie chicken and a bag of Cadbury buttons to himself the night before.

I miss him terribly but I know I did the right thing.

Be kind to yourself flowers

BookWitch Mon 29-Jun-20 08:56:11

@Soubriquet Thanks, yes I know deep down we are getting close to the end.

OP’s posts: |
thisstooshallpass Mon 29-Jun-20 08:56:43

I could have written this myself.

Our old girl got to 14. We promised ourselves that we'd never keep her hanging on for us, just like you said.

The only difference at the moment is that your girl is still getting up to toilet. In our case (and it happened suddenly) she was urinating lay down, so she was lying in it. That was the deciding factor for us. Although, because of muscle wastage she had been pooing without knowing in her sleep. On the contrary the poo was easier to get rid of, less degrading for her as she didn't know it was there (she'd tend to do it in her sleep) and we'd just clear it away quickly without any fuss.

Sorry, I digress.

You do have some hard days/weeks coming up. I know it sounds silly but looking back I think she 'told us' I am crying typing this. It's absolutely hideous. Ask your Vet for their honest opinion. As in 'if it was your dog...' it helped me.

He said to me that stringing out the last 1/2/3 weeks of her life would be for your benefit. Repay her now for the 14 years of love and joy she has given you.

She sounds like she's had a wonderful, caring last few years with you. You are both lucky.

I promise though, in time the grief, confusion, guilt, anger and every other emotion will subside and you'll know you did the right things for her.

Please keep me updated.

Lots of love

Bellyfullofbiscuits Mon 29-Jun-20 08:56:46

It is so hard. Had my special mate PTS in march , so totally know how you feel. I think it is one day at a time. When you are making any decisions , think it is better for them or me ( which you seem to do already ). I understand about the cost concerns , but for me I would feel better knowing that I got to spend an extra month with them , as long as they are not in pain and happy in themselves.

Baybetterdays Mon 29-Jun-20 08:58:17

Hi OP, it is very hard when the dog doesn’t ‘tell’ you and could carry on like this for months.

Of all the things you describe, it is the mobility I would make this decision on. Ears and skin can be alleviated (malaseb shampoo or an anti-histamines might help the latter, I’m sure you’ve looked at diet). But not being able to get up independently is to me much further on the quality of life scale. I would make absolutely sure she’s on the right pain meds you can (there are lots of things to add to Previcox) and have a frank conversation with the vet about how much pain she is in. Uncontrollable pain tips you over the edge I think in making the decision, as it goes beyond thinking of her as old and doddery and into whether all she’ll know from now on is uncontrollable pain.

All the best OP, I have a similar situation and it’s heartbreaking but it helps me to think of the musculoskeletal system as another organ, one which is failing, and your job is to give palliative care and keep her comfortable. If that can’t be done anymore, the kindest thing would be to let her go, but for your sake as much as hers it might be helpful to talk this through with your vet. All the best.

stairgates Mon 29-Jun-20 08:58:44

PP said it perfectly, better not a day late sad Our collie was 13 and we just knew. xxx

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Bellyfullofbiscuits Mon 29-Jun-20 08:59:20

Also, speak to the vet about if you can be with her , because of the stupid virus.

Baybetterdays Mon 29-Jun-20 09:03:11

Ps forgot to add, if you decide to give it more time/ take one day at a time you can get pet meds online for a fraction of vet costs, with a prescription from your vet. It’s less than 30 pounds for a month of Previcox that way.

Soubriquet Mon 29-Jun-20 09:05:00

One of the things that makes me think it really is time, is the fact you’re worried about leaving her on her own in case she falls down and can’t get back up.

That would be very scary to a dog, and incredibly distressing for you.

Kaykay066 Mon 29-Jun-20 09:05:40

Heartbreaking, our boy golden retriever was pts in may and we are all still devastated it’s such a hard thing to decide, but he’s pain free and not suffering and gave us 12 years of love
Thinking of you

rwalker Mon 29-Jun-20 09:10:18

I think you know it's time just want reasurance .There isn't many people who will take on an older rescue it's wonderful that in her later life she has such love and care .

IdblowJonSnow Mon 29-Jun-20 09:12:14

If she's comfortable and happy for now then I wouldn't have her pts yet.
Agree, speak to the vet and reassess in a few weeks.
My dog was pts when he couldn't get out to the loo and was so distressed it was really obvious and sudden thankfully.
I could cry now thinking about it and it was over 20 years ago.
I'd make the most of every day at this point.
It's really hard and you have my sympathy. flowers

pomdownunder1 Mon 29-Jun-20 09:12:58

Sending lots of love to you OP. We've had retrievers in our family my whole life and they are such special dogs and it's so heartbreaking when the time comes. You'll know when the time is right, all you can do is make her as comfortable as possible until you make the decision thanks

BookWitch Mon 29-Jun-20 09:19:06

Thanks everyone, I am now in tears but I know you are all right.
I will speak to the vet today and talk things through.

This was her last summer - she loves a pub lunch grin

OP’s posts: |
thisstooshallpass Mon 29-Jun-20 09:20:53

@BookWitch beautiful girl.

Thinking of you xx

WantToBeMum Mon 29-Jun-20 09:22:39

I don't have any useful advice because I haven't been in your position yet, but just wanted to say she's an absolute gorgeous beauty! How lucky you are to have had her, and her you.

RickOShay Mon 29-Jun-20 09:26:56

She’s a beautiful girl. I would talk to the vet again. If I had one wish, it would be that dogs lived longer. Keep your millions.

Soubriquet Mon 29-Jun-20 09:27:14

Oh look at that white face.

She’s beautiful

relievedlady Mon 29-Jun-20 09:28:43

@bookwitch what a beautiful girl she is.

I lost my shadow a year ago after 13 years together.
He knew every routine in the house,he was my absolute life love.

I still think about him every single day but my memories now are happy ones and we talk about him a lot and laugh where as for a long time it was just pure sadness.

It does get easier op but it's so crap at the point you are now I know

TheDogsMother Mon 29-Jun-20 10:04:33

This was us in April. We (us and the vet) had been so distracted trying to treat a relatively minor ailment that we didn't look at the big picture. When his behaviour slowly changed we put it down to him getting older but with hindsight I think it was discomfort. During a vet visit I asked them to scan him and his kidney and liver measurements were really bad so we made the decision there and then. I still have enormous guilt that he may have been in discomfort for longer than we realised. It's a heartbreaking decision OP but perhaps better now than before she's in any pain. She's a beautiful girl. thanks for you.

TARSCOUT Mon 29-Jun-20 10:08:00

I would do it now. I left my 2nd last dog just that fraction too long and can still hear her screaming as she had a stroke. I am so sorry but do it now, she's ready to go. I'm sorry.

BookWitch Mon 29-Jun-20 10:24:29

Thanks everyone, I've just spoken to the vet. My normal surgery has just resumed appointments (I had to take her to the practice's other surgery 20 miles away for her xray, so that's good news)

They have a bit of a backlog so they can't see her until Weds, as she is not an emergency as such, but I have an appointment Weds morning and they will give her a thorough check up and review. We'll see what that brings, but I will ask the vet what they would do if she was their dog.

OP’s posts: |
thisstooshallpass Mon 29-Jun-20 12:38:33

Here is you need to talk before Wednesday. Xx

PollyPolson Mon 29-Jun-20 12:52:27

It is very difficult but I tend to look at things like behaviour.

Is your dog still happy to see you?
Do they attempt to greet you when you approach them, wag their tail,lift their head etc?
Do they get excited/animated for walks(even if they can not go far)
Do they get excited/animated for food ( not just eat it because you give it to them)?
Do they have periods of the day when they are not sleeping but mooching ?
Do they show interest in what is going on in the house

If your dog is doing most of the above I would say enjoy each day as it comes be aware of changes but you have a contented dog who is still getting happiness from each day.

I also learnt that you do not need to plan the final moments - literally take each day as it comes and make a decision on a daily basis

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