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What are the signs that I should put my dog down?
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What are the signs that I should put my dog down?

Two days ago I noticed that my 11-yr-old Boxer mix seemed to have a "lazy eye".  There was no excessive tearing or redness and she was not rubbing it so it seemed she was not in pain.  The next day I noticed a slight swelling of her upper eyelid causing it to droop.  Maggie is an indoor dog and to my knowledge she has not suffered any head injuries.

My vet said the pupil in the affected eye was much larger than the normal eye.  When my vet started asking me various questions, I realized there may have been signs to which I paid no attention.  For example, within the last few weeks my dog stumbles, loses her balance occasionally and bumps into things.  I truly thought this was a sign of old age, since she's also lost most of her hearing and her joints have stiffened in the past year.

My vet said she might have suffered a mini-stroke and mentioned the possibility of a blockage behind the eye or a brain tumor.  She said that different sized pupils were a "very bad indication."  She said there was no way to know without an x-ray or catscan.  She suggested I get a 2nd opinion from a specialist.  In the meantime, she has given me arthritic medication for Maggie.  The earliest I could get in with the specialist is in 2 weeks.  

Maggie's weight, heart and breathing are healthy for her age.  She still has her vision and though she's much more lethargic these days, she still has her moments of spunk.  She's a tough girl and doesn't show pain which makes it all that much more difficult.  I can't afford the catscan so I doubt the specialist will be able to help much.  What if she doesn't even make it long enough to go to the appointment?  I'd be wracked with guilt if I though I prolonged any misery she might suffer.  Are there common signs of pain in dogs that I might be overlooking?  I just need to know that if I make the tough decision to put her down that I'll be doing the right thing for her.
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Although Maggie is showing signs of aging she still seems to be "with it" and seems to have a fairly good quality of life.  Steroids should help to keep the swelling behind the eye from growing much larger for awhile and may even be able to shrink it slightly for the time being.  

I think steroid therapy is worth a try for a while,  and when Maggie does show obvious signs of pain, or becomes "out of it",  or severely lethargic, and is not interested in eating, than it may be time for her to go.
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Aleda M Cheng, D.V.M., C.V.ABlank
American Animal Hospital
Randolph, NJ
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