I just have to ask about my female chow mix, 14 years old. I am wondering for the signs to put her down, so she will avoid misery. Now, I do know if a dog won't eat, or if a dog "checks out," or has terminal illness, the dog is put down. We're seniors, enjoy dogs, we know the drill. But I don't know so much about just a plain old dog. She's the first to be the way she is. All the others showed the signs I said.
The vet said she has muscle wasting from very old age for a chow, which is how come she has some trouble getting up and wobbles walking around. I'll describe what kinda shape she's in. She'll get "stuck" in tight places in the house to where she needs our help to move along, and sometimes her front right leg really doesn't support her very well at all so she leans to the right on walls, and before we started keeping a constant eye on her, she would fall and it was pitiful. She takes hip type medicine, so hopefully she is not too painful, but that discomfort issue does worry me. Those shoulder blades are bone on bone, it appears, and her front legs splay out when she lays down. If she lays all the way down on her right side, she also gets "stuck." And becuz her muscle mass is going, she appears thin, like an old person. She eats maybe half what she used to last year when all this began, but she does dig in for at least one meal each day, be it breakfast or dinner, and she gulps down plenty of water several times a day, eats ALL treats. She is semi-incontinent, but we don't care, we'll get the carpets cleaned one day, but she is let out onto the enclosed back deck for 15 mins a few times a day (we set timers sometimes), she heads to that door, so we help her on out there.
As for her mood, she responds well enough to us, even tho she does not hear or see very well, and she knows when snack time is, her pill time and meal times. She DOES still walk around by herself ever so slowly, and she smiles when she finally gets comfy on her bed, or on the carpet beside us at the computer, or just leaning up against a soft recliner edge to sleep. Her fun for the day is feeling the breeze outside and listening to distant dog barks, rubbing her chin on her favorite blanket, smelling treats put before her nose, and any encouraging phrases from me will give her courage. She feels safe near me in the afternoon, and near husband after dinnertime. And we ease her fear when she panics on the occasions she gets "stuck," by our soothing words and sure touch.
Thank you. I guess I'm most worried about her point of view and pain levels. She has good days and bad days, and on some of those bad days, her eyes say she's had enough, and then the next day, she's steadier, clear-eyed. I THINK she's kind of not totally upset about the whole situation yet. She's just an old dog. And she will not get better. Any tips for her comfort, or sigs for when she's done (is it just the checking-out thing that will happen?), or tales of similar experiences I can draw wisdom from? GG
It sounds very much like she is growing old in her own way.
Omega fatty acids and antioxidants also help increase muscle mass by reducing muscle damage and acting as an anti-inflammatory. This is important for older dogs with arthritis. Reduced swelling reduces pain, allowing dogs to stay more active and use muscles, which helps prevent loss of muscle mass.
I would go for Omega 3 supplements, plus Glucosamine and Chondroitin (I have forgotten the exact dose of Glucosamine/Chondroitin per pound of the dog's weight, but I give my 28lb dog the max. dose for her weight which is 500mg Glucosamine, and 200mg Chondroitin, so maybe you can calculate from that....ie, if your dog weighs twice what mine does, then double the dose, etc)
It is very possible -so long as you are aware of any signs of pain that isn't helped by medication- that she is quite content in her own way, and is enjoying what remains of her life.
You can certainy support her, and hopefully she may improve some.
Part of her problem could also possibly be that her senses have dimmed somewhat, so slightly reduced eyesight and hearing may cause an element of confusion sometimes. Dogs can also get mild dementia sometimes as they age.
The only thing that makes me slightly wary is her water consumption, plus "accidents" on the carpet... This an signify a few things, even some kidney insufficiecy going on....or it may simply be age-incontinence. You may not want to trouble her to go down the route of diagnosis for that, but a blood test plus urine test would show if maybe she needs to be on a special low-protein, low-phosphorus Renal diet....? Just a thought.
Another thing...if all else is ok, then you could even try acupuncture for her limb weakness. It might help?
My dog is twelve, and still in pretty good condition, so I really don't have any good advice. I was wondering what type of meds your dog is on, is it something that would help with arthritis pain? Also, after reading your article I have to tell you I think your dog is a very lucky dog to have such good owners and be so loved.
Thanks Ginger and Linda! You have helped me a lot. She recently did get her blood test and urine test, was put on antibiotics becuz of numerous bacteria in her urine, and she's good to go now. But I think she got incontinence from just before all this happened last year, took a tumble on the four steps off the deck when we used to let her go in the yard, but vet says some dogs just get it and he did not find the tumble injured her back.
I will get the Omega 3 stuff, great idea. And as for what meds she's on, I couldn't remember it yesterday, but it is Rimadyl, really helps becuz if she misses a dose, she doesn't do as well. I asked the vet for additional pain killers, but he said the Rim is the best thing on the market for her kind of bone and joint discomfort. She also gets monthly Revolution flea/heartworm treatment. For those that got a flea problem, that stuff takes care of it. One time I gave her one of MY pain pills, I looked it up first and codeine is given to dogs, but I saw no difference. I'm sort of afraid to try one of her Rimadyls to see just how good the stuff is, to make sure it's enuff.
Ginger, I really liked your insights on what it is like to be an old dog. How sweet are you!? It comforted me a lot and informed me. And Linda, your comment about our lucky dog, one time we kept rabbits in the house, let them hop around, no cages, and one of the bunnies came from a coworker, and after she listened to the way we took care of them, she goes, "That is one lucky rabbit!" I laffed and laffed. It's true, we do get rather involved in our little critters' lives, but it's all a joy. But this getting older thing had me scared, until I read what you two wrote. I will reread them whenever I am afraid. GG
Oh, such a sad situation. It is so hard to see our beloved pets sick and aging. I've been through similar situations over the years. It certainly sounds like she is nearing her final days but these animals can just overcome things I'm sure we couldn't. I'm dealing with a 12 1/2+ year old Greyhound here that is slowing dying from Lymphoma. For the past two weeks, I thought tomorrow was going to be the day to call my Vet then he would rally so we continue on this journey but I know it is close at hand. Like my Vet said, sometimes the decision if made per how much *you* can tolerate in situations like this. When there is just no quality of life there then it is time. You know your little dog best.
Well I know what it's like to be an old dog -because I AM ONE! LOL!
Seriously now....there is nothing wrong with growing old. Some of the effects of aging aren't so comfortable, but with all the support and help you can give her, I think she will roll along in her dotage quite well, considering.
Age is not an illness. It's a different condition of Being.
The achy joints, the muscle weakness, and the other things can be carefully supported by one method or another, even if not "cured".
Another thing that almost certainly will help her is massage. Massaging a dog is a meditation, and well worth doing. Warm compresses on her joints and legs might help too. When you have massaged her for a while, then gently stretch out her limbs. You might find she stretches with you. That's a good sign of relaxation.
Ginger, thanks for the idea about massage. I already massage the one leg that doesn't support her very well, where it pulls in her armpit on the tendons, so that's an idea I'll do for all over her. Brushed her the other day for that very reason.
Margot, I feel for you and your greyhound with lymphoma. We had a German Shepherd Dog that died of that, but by the time the vet diagnosed him, he was alfready having trouble walking at all, and the doc said he had it all throughout his body, so we made the difficult decision of having to put him down.
I don't know what it is, but every time we have to put a dog down, it always fills me with guilt. But I've seen dogs die naturally, too, and it's not something I want to see again. We lost our other older dog this past summer, had to put him down, the vet said there was no question he needed to go. I just kept hoping he'd get better. First he had trouble walking, and that was complicated by bad diarrhea (both dogs and husband had it), and we never could get him back up again, he began to spit up bile and gray stuff, he howled out pretty much all of his last two days. And now I wish we had let him go before those last two days, but I still feel guilty. Sorry, just a little extra ramble there about end-of-life issues. GG
Fourteen is quite a good age for a chow! Kudos to you, you have obviously been a great dog parent to her for her to have reached such a great age for a large-ish dog! :)
It doesn't sound to me like she is ready to "check out" yet. From what you have said, you know her VERY well, and as such, you will know when it's time. You will be able to tell, beyond a a shadow of a doubt, by the look in her eye that she is ready to go when she is ready. She will have a look in her eye that says "Daddy, I love you but I just can't do it any more". Don't rush into anything. Just continue to be patient with her and allow her to do things in her own time. The only thing that KIND of worried me in what you wrote was the fact that you said that she gulps down plenty of water several times each day. As long as her water consumption isn't unusual for her, then it's fine. But drinking large amounts of water frequently CAN be a sign of diabetes, and the muscle wasting can also be a sign. Has the vet ever tested her for diabetes? If not, it might be a good idea. She could be treated with medication or even diet, and at her age, as long as you keep her properly fed and/or medicated, even being diabetic will not shorten her life to any real degree.
I hope you decide to stay around and participate in our community so that you can keep us up to date on her situation. :)
Thank you so much, Ghilly, on the "when to know" information, and also the tip on diabetes. Our vet is one of the best, and he has run quite a few blood tests and panels, so I assume he checked for that. However, I WILL ask him about that, either by calling him special, or whenever we visit or call anyway, and I'll doublecheck our paperwork today to see if that was checked.
As for updating our girl's condition, she has had a string of rather "good" days. Husband remarked "she is one tough dog" as relates to how she keeps trying to walk around. Right now my main objective is to prevent her from hurting herself, so I guide her very carefully over the little door rise when she goes out to pee, and if a leg gets wrapped around a chair leg, we'll try to get it loose very carefully. But despite our efforts, I know sometimes she is hurt, having a hard time. That "look" in her eye, I only saw it once in all this, when she was having a very bad day, which consists of not being able to walk hardly at all and wearing herself out all day with trying to.
She watched me eat breakfast this morning, I had given her the Rimadyl pill for her pain, she was laying next to her dog bowls. I LOVE it when she joins me for breakfast. And this dog has always been hungry, so ANY scent of food in the house, and by golly she gets to where we are for her regular handouts. And while she likes to be near us more, she also likes to get away from all activity, alone down a hallway or in the spare bedroom. GG
It's so sad when they get old. I had to say goodbye to my girl this past May. She was a 15 year old Collie and she was my world. I have a new puppy (Australian Shepherd) that I am FINALLY starting to bond with after 5 months, but it is taking me a while because I just miss her SO much. I feel bad that sometimes I don't feel like I love him as much as I loved her, and it is made worse by the fact that he is SUCH a NUT with TONS of energy, so he requires a lot more patience and understanding than she did. She was my canine "other half", she knew what I was thinking before I did. Him, not so much and I KNOW that it will take years for him to get to that point, but it's still a daily struggle and with me still missing her as much as I am, that doesn't help. So I know exactly what you are going through.
You are an EXCELLENT dog mom, she is VERY lucky to have you. I hope you still have a considerable amount of time with her. It sounds to me like you have the situation well under control. And again, you will know. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, when the time comes. I can't explain it any better than that, but to just say that you will know. In the meantime, treasure every day that you have with her. We're always just a post away if you need to talk.
My dear Ghilly,
I am so sorry to hear about the passing of your Collie last spring, and 15 years is a very long time to share with a pet, hurts so much when such a big part of your life goes. To quote a line out of a book on dogs, they said Collies have "immense" intelligence, so obviously not many dogs will have your's wisdom and sensitivity. And I too am somewhat concerned of what it would be like to have a new pup who is quite active. Gosh, we had to go thru miles of training with our Husky mix when he was a pup. I cannot imagine going to training class at our ages now, but we do know how to train and socialize one ourselves, I think.
Oh, we've gone thru lists of kinds doggies to eventually choose, wanting a big dog again but knowing we're too old to do it right, but a dog not so small that, as husband said, "We might accidentally step on it." For me, the appearance of our other dog, the husky mix, who passed in August, Gandalf, that's something I've keyed in on. He was one beautiful dog, tan, black, white, with one blue eye. We both like photography and I think that dog's eye has to be the most photographed dog eye in the world. Haha! He was a very big part of our lives, got him at four months old, husband called him son, died at 14.
So, I look at pics of medium-small dog hybrids that have lots of colors and of course blue eyes. I'm sure when you picked yours, there was SOMEthing that attracted you to him, also. I suppose you could do a meditative thing for a few days whilst with your dog, by staying in the now and focusing on that moment of meeting, and also compare how active your Collie was when younger to this one's energy level, and just share his kind of fun until you are tuned in, and choose to laff and let be when he wants to rip it up. I don't know.
On us, we both still want a German Shepherd Dog, that one took most of our hearts, despite our devotion to the others. There's always a favorite. We will always want Beauregard back. I felt great sympathy towards Gandalf when we took in Beau (I worked with Animal Control, helped bring him in, he was on death row) becuz we fell like a ton of bricks for Beau, and while we tried to give special time to Gandalf, he knew... he knew. I learned then that one dog, for us anyway, is the only way we can do it. And of course as you have finally begun to bond with yours, there will always that one that was special.
I just know you must watch Cesar Milan on TV, he'll take those herding type dogs, like your Aus Shep, out to a sheep farm, let them do a little herding. And so, when we were thinking about getting the eye color right, I looked at the Aussie blends, and I found out they can be taught to herd several fairly large plastic balls, filled with air, and they'll bump little groups of them over into a corner of the yard. WILD! We have two yards, one enclosed by another larger one, but I could picture those balls flying up over the fence, and THEN WHAT. We're not up to climbing down into the creek to retrieve them, and gosh, what if the dog goes over the fence after it!?! I guess we could net the upper part of the smaller yard, keep the balls in that area. But that's only if we go that way. I think a more sedate breed is for us.
Oh, well, just wanted to pass along my thoughts on your poochie perils, you missing the best of your dogs, going from elders to youngsters. We share the same concern. EVERYONE, sorry I got so off-topic. But I do think these sorts of situations are common to all people who go thru the shattering experience of letting their older dogs go. GG P.S. Goldwyn is still hanging in, still having good days. Somehow the bad patch went away for now.
Ghilly and others,
I pulled up my post again to let you all know that we finally put down our beautiful dog Goldwyn yesterday, just broke husband's and my heart. I have to say this last week was the worst week of my life, and I've lived a lot of years and been thru a lot of heartache. There was just something about us wanting her to live, and yet her life was so miserable, that we were confused. Also, her inability to walk came on gradually, it's like we got used to her being all goofed up. We remarked many times thru this period that she was one tough dog, always was, and just did not see that this was her misplaced stubborness. "Do not go gently into that good night," that was her.
I am in cancer recovery, quite tired, still hurting somewhat, been thru nine straight months chemo, surgery, and radiation, I'm just a few weeks out from my last treatments, and this has been extra hard on me because of that reason. Husband stood up to it a little better. But it wasn't until our next-to-last talk about the situation that I realized he had more or less wanted to let her go a week ago. My mind is confused from all that happened to me health-wise, so I just didn't understand. And the vet had thought she should go two weeks ago, which I also did not understand.
So, I finally did get to the point where I saw just how miserable our dog was, and also I could not deal with her needing to be continually moved around, she was a determined little soul, would try to get up and couldn't and would start wimpering, and this went on all day long. Only when she ate or slept was she really normal. So, I finally saw that she was suffering and I had not realized it.
Underneath it all, she was just a little puppy in there, trying to be free. She is free now, and as she was put into her deepest sleep, I sang "Guinevere" (Crosby, Stills, Nash) for her, as our Goldwyn had golden hair like in the song, and the song has the phrase many times, "We shall be free," very appropriate for our girl. GG
I am SO very sorry for your loss! As I sat and read it it took me back to Kate's last year and it seems she lived with the same philosophy as your Goldwyn. Hopefully they have met each other by now and are enjoying the fresh air and sunbeams of the Rainbow Bridge while they wait there for us. I am sitting here typing this with tears rolling down my cheeks for you and what you have gone through because I know exactly what you are going through right now.
Brian (my Aussie puppy) and I have made considerable strides in the last couple of weeks and, while things are looking a lot better, I still wonder if I did the right thing by getting a puppy that had such a high energy level while I am, of course, not as young as I used to be. He learns AMAZINGLY quickly, though, and as nutty as he is, and as much as he just loses it every so often and runs amok at the end of the flexi-lead, he WANTS to learn and he WANTS to please. I can't help but giggle at him when he temporarily loses his mind. He will be neutered right after the first of the year. He does have a dominant personality and if I don't have him neutered I can see the day coming when there will possibly be dominance issues and I want to nip that in the bud. But in all, I think that unless someone comes along, seemingly out of the blue that can offer him a wonderful home, he will stay right here with me and in 5 or 6 years I'll look back at this and go "how could I EVER have thought of rehoming him!?!".
I hope that when you are ready to let a new little one into your hearts that you'll come back and introduce us to him or her. In the meantime, I hope that the upcoming holiday season brings you peace and many wonderful memories, and know that your girl will always be in your heart.
I am so sorry about your Goldwyn. They pierce our hearts don't they?
But it's always better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all....with a good dog.
Her beautiful Spirit is set free from the trappings of this world. In my heart I feel we may well meet our loved ones when we too pass over.
The music we were listening to when I had my dog put to sleep, the last usic he heard in this world -was "The Lady of Shallot" by Loreena Mc Kennitt. I can just about listen to that now without crying but couldn't for many years.
I am so sorry to hear about Goldwyn. Even though she lived a long life, I'm sure you hoped for much more. Please know you did the right thing in the end, and gave her a really awesome life. You have to TRY and relax and concentrate on getting better now, you've been through a lot. Good Luck.
I am so sorry for your loss. You definitely did the right thing, and you gave her so much love during her life. I lost my 14yo pit bull this past may. It's so hard but it is a gift we can give them when they are suffering. My thoughts are with you.
Thank you all for such encouraging posts! It helped me breathe deeply as I read them and gave me confirmation that we did the right thing. And of course now, as I look back on it, I KNOW it was right, she really was just struggling to be free, bless her heart and soul. My dear mother, upon hearing the nose, said, "I'll bet she gets to see Gandalf," which was our other dog. We both believe in the afterlife, and I also thought Gandalf would be there to greet her and show her "the ropes." And an interesting thing happened to me several times yesterday. I felt the presence of Gandalf, right at my knee, talk about a powerful presence, he was letting me know things were fine and he was giving me strength. I usually don't talk about such things, as Stevie Nicks says, "I keep my visions to myself," but thought you all would relate. Hearts and hugs to you all, and most of all to our beloved doggies. GG
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