Wondering if any dog owners might have insight for me. My vet has been great (we moved an hour away but he still takes my calls), but I feel like I keep coming up with questions and am feeling weird about calling the vet now that the dog is gone.
Long story short, 14yo JRT. Diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Progressed pretty quickly form stage 1 to stage 3/4, but we put him on meds and he responded GREAT. No bloating, no coughing, back to his happy self. His liver was enlarged, but we didn't know if it was a result of the heart failure or whether he had a mass growing. At 14yo we weren't going to pursue treatment. The vet said ultrasounds were very inconclusive for growths in the liver/pancreas.
We went away at the end of April and a friend looked after him for the week. The day before we picked him up she called to say that he wasn't eating and looked sick. But by the time we went to pick him up, he was fine. And then a few days later, NOSEDIVE. We took him to a local vet that ran bloodwork but was convinced it was his heart. Took him to the old vet (that I love) and saw the elevated white bloodcell count, but him on antibiotics and the dog bounced back. We were so RELIEVED. But then halfway through the antibiotics course he started to slip again. I thought maybe the pills were making him sick to his stomach, but we finished the course, and then it was jet a slow decline that turned into a fast decline. In the space of a couple weeks he went from being a finicky eater to not eating at all. From having a hard time getting started on the stairs to not being able to climb them at all. I could get him to eat a scrambled egg and bread crust, but that would be it. And then 24 hrs passed where he didn't eat at all, he threw up a couple of times, was completely skin and bones and very lethargic. I'd carry him outside and he'd walk slowly across the driveway, and then slowly back to the door, but that's as much as he'd walk.
In the end, he presented with jaundice. I freaked out and was so afraid I was letting him suffer needlessly just because I was so scared to lose him and not ready to feel the grief. But now I'm wondering if maybe i jumped the gun? I feel like once you make the decision (esp. with an old pet) the vets try to be supportive. But I need someone to be frank with me. THe old vet says it was text book liver tumor. His liver was enlarged for a long time and then, in addition to his symptoms (white poop, orange-ish pee, loss of appetite , etc) he presented jaundice. He obviously had very little quality of life...but I never even thought to ask if there was something we could have done to alleviate his symptoms. Maybe he could have had a couple more weeks.
SOrry for the long post. I'm just still really sad :(
Haven't BTDT, but it sounds like you did a lot for your dog, in trying to care for him and find out what could have helped him. It does sounds like he may have had several health problems that just made things worse all at once.
I am sorry for your loss.
Our dog had to be put down last summer. She was youngish, 8, but she had battled cancer before and then her kidneys gave out. It is a fast dive, in my experience, from not fabulous but good quality of life to horrible. Our vet told us that dogs tend to try to hide how bad things are or how much pain they may be in, instinctively. They are animals, and in nature, signs of weakness would be dangerous. But for owners, it seems like they're okay and then suddenly they're very ill. I'm so sorry!
Book loving, editor mom to 2
You made the right choice, but I understand how you feel a little confused about what really happened. It seems like with dogs, it happens so fast, not allowing us to process the decisions we have to make. Something with nature...animals can't show sickness in the wild, so they are really good at hiding it until it it usually too late.
We had a Dalmation who was generally healthy except some skin issues. She did a few courses of antibiotics over the years but was doing really well. When she was about 9, she got a cold and it took her a long time to recover. Then she got sick again, and it took a long time to recover again. I think this was a sign, along with her lower back getting wider, that there was something going on, but we never looked into it. The vet saw her several times and never suspected anything major either. Then one day when she was 10, I let her out in the yard and the moment she came inside she had a messy poop all over the carpet. She hadn't done that in years. She couldn't keep anything down after that. Xray showed mass (on adrenal glands?) Vet had suspected cushings over the years, but tests were inconclusive. I guess cushings can cause these tumors? Got her home and she got so sick and weak she couldn't stand. This all happened in a matter of days. She would try to stand and fall and cut her elbows on the floor. It was hard to watch. Vet said he could operate but her chances would only be 50/50. I knew she was probably too weak, but she was my husband's baby and he wanted to try. Vet called and said she survived the surgery, but he would take her home with him to watch her overnight. When he woke up she was gone. It was very sad. Like you, I had lots of questions, but either way, I knew it was too late and I didn't want to watch her suffer any longer. 14 years is a very long time to have with a pet. I really don't think you should be so hard on yourself about possibly having missed out on a couple of weeks, when you don't even know if that was possible, or if it would have been painful for your dog.
Our Dalmation has been gone over 5 years now, but I have a 12 year old Italian Greyhound who had a pancreatitis attack that landed him in pet ER last year. Thought we were going to lose him. His third eyelid was out and it looked so weird. Apparently that means they are in a lot of pain. Switched to a lower fat food and cut out scraps. He also can't take most medications..too hard on his system. Got sick the other day but got better on his own, so he seems to be better. He's starting to look a little stiff at times, but he is in good shape for an old guy. We got a puppy last year and she keeps him moving. Vet says he is in very good shape for an old guy...even has decent teeth for a small dog which is an indicator of good health. Keeping our fingers crossed that we get a few more years with him.
Wanted to thank you all for the responses. It helps to hear that things can go wrong so quickly. That what has been the hardest (and most confusing thing) about this. Deciding to have him put down and then taking him to the er to do it are the most difficult things I've had to do. DH has been a rock through all this and it helps that I'm not grieving alone. I know that I didn't want him to suffer needlessly, but there is still something very unnatural about making the decision to end a pet's life. They rely on you and trust you and even though you do it because you love them, it feels wrong.Fourteen years is a LONG time to have a pet and I still come home expecting to have to let him out and see him out of the corner of my eye. I guess I didn't realize what a huge part of my thinking and my routine he was. I'm thankful we had that first bout of sickness just because it gave us several more weeks to really include him in things and focus on him. Don't think that dog had ever had so many car rides and short walks as he had those lost weeks. Anyway. Just sad, is all. It's so final and he is such a big part of the fabric of our family that I really feel his absence. There is a pit in my stomach that I know time will heal, but for now, I just feel sad all the time.
I understand. I think you did the right thing.
We went through a similar thing with our 10-yr-old Cardigan Welsh Corgi last fall. For a few days he just didn't seem like himself, then his appetite dropped off (this was a dog that hadn't missed a meal in 10 years). Our vet suspected a bleeding tumor, but didn't want to operate because he didn't have an adequate blood supply in case the dog needed a transfusion. He refered us to the University of Minnesota Animal Hospital (the Mayo Clinic for animals). Surgery revealed large cancerous tumors on his liver and spleen. Our options were 1) to remove the tumors and do chemo, then wait a few months for the tumors to return; 2) to remove the spleen and most of the liver, do chemo, and wait a few more months fo the tumors to come back; 3) let him go peacefully, on the operating table.
DH was in Minneaplis with the dog; my teenage sons and I were at home on the phone. We decided together that the best thing for the dog was to let him go, rather than set him up for additional suffering. We couldn't see bringing him home and waiting for him to get sick again. It was a horrible decision to have to make, but I believed then and I believe now that it was the right thing to do.
Now, 10 months later, one of my sons still has pangs of guilt for euthanizing Topper. We cry together, and I remind him if we had made one of the other choices, Topper would still be gone by now. And if we didn't love him so much, it wouldn't hurt so much.
The joys of having a dog far outweigh the pain of their loss.
If the chips are down, the buffalo is empty.