This is something I just don't want to think about, of course. I've got two 13 year old dogs (one nearing 14), both approx 50 pound mutts, so I think they are getting to be elderly-ish. In some ways they both have a little puppy left in them.
Ruby (the older one) is mostly in very good shape and still acts like a puppy when its walk time. She is incontinent, which is a big pita for me, but I don't think it's too bad for her. It's 98% controlled by meds. But, she is significantly slimmer than she used to be or should be and has lost 10% of her body weight in the last 8 months, going from 48 pounds down to 44, which vet thinks is pretty significant. We're gonna bring her back in for a weight check in a few weeks. But vet's feeling is that there's some likelihood of cancer.
Muddy is also in fairly good shape, though he probably has some arthritis and he has a miserable skin condition (not sure if this is in any way related to age, he's always been very sensitive, but in last six months it's become monsterous) and we've got him on steroids until the weather cools off (seems possibly seasonal, got dramatically worse at beginning of summer). We probably wouldn't have him on steroids except that it was just going on and on, he'd get better for, at best a few days after a course of antibiotics, and then be miserable again and we were worried that he'd spend his last years feeling horrible and we'd rather see him relaxed and comfortable. If he doesn't get spontaneously better by, say, the beginning of october, though, we'll have to revisit the steroid thing.
But anyhow, this post was prompted by the fact that I found a growth on his chin last night. :( It is about an inch away from a growth that we had removed maybe about a year ago or a little more, and another one about an inch in the other direction in between. Biopsy on the first came back benign and the second inconclusive, I think. Whatever it was it was not CANCER and it was not definitely not cancer. I'll have to talk to the doctor about it again.
So of course my heart just sank when I saw this thing. I haven't even mentioned it to my husband yet because I am not ready for the discussing and decision-making and I don't want to force it onto him, at least for the weekend.
Each time we have one of these removed, it's been like $1200 and some amount of trauma for him (he shakes like a leaf when we go there, he's so scared). And then there's the biopsy... which I kinda think we have to do. I would hate to wish later that we'd done it because we don't know what's going on, kwim? So, I just don't know what makes sense to do. Like, if we think we're not going to treat it aggressively because of his age (and I have no idea if that is realistic -- he's OLD, but he's in good shape and happy), should we even remove it? Or just let it go and hope for the best. If it is cancer, will his life be prolonged by us getting him in as soon as possible and having it removed? Or is he likely to die of old age before this growth becomes an issue?
And then, one thing I think about with any of these questions is that these dogs are a pair. If one goes, I think the other will really be lonely. I don't know how much that is anthropomorphizing on my part, but when I bring one back from the vet there is a huge celebration and the one who's been left behind won't eat or drink (at least not much) until the other's back.
I just feel like a dear caught in the headlights about all of this. Is there a book or website that I should be reading? Or a pet forum somewhere that's busier where they might have a lot more discussion of this stuff?
Jayne, sewing up a storm mama to ds1 9/03, ds2 2/09, and 2 sweet furbabies.
you are looking for a variety of opinions? go on facebook with your question. i have friends who do ANYTHING for their cats. they spend tens of thousands of dollars on hopeless cancers, and then go on to lose their pets anyway.
on the *practical* side, you just have to accept that that's the trouble with dogs. they don't live long enough. 13 years is a good long life. they're a pair, they are happy together, it's great. but one will probably die first, and then you will probably face the other's decline. such is life.
decide with your husband how much you can reasonably spend on vet bills and go from there. you don't have to have the growth removed! sometimes those things are very slow growers and may not be cancer anyways. frankly, in your situation, that's what i would probably opt to do. just careful watching of it. if it starts to take off and ruin dog's quality of life, then you can face the next step.
frankly, i think vet bills have gotten totally out of control. i think it would really suck to sink $10,000 into aggressive treatment, and then lose your animal anyway, and be left with a huge debt that you still have to pay.
doesn't it cost $400 just to have one dog put to sleep, too? budget for that, and work backwards from there, deciding what you can reasonably spend.
if you decide to just watch and wait, you can spend some time and money on spoiling your dog in her last days, weeks, months. take pictures while they are still reasonably healthy, go on extra walks, etc. that's what i would try to do anyway.