Help caring for sick, elderly dog (dementia, arthritis, 2nd Lyme disease infection)

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Help caring for sick, elderly dog (dementia, arthritis, 2nd Lyme disease infection)

This is a discussion on Help caring for sick, elderly dog (dementia, arthritis, 2nd Lyme disease infection) within the Dog Health forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Dogs category; I haven't been here in a little while, but I'm finding I need help again with my elderly dog. She was walking pretty delicately for ...

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Old 04-03-2016, 05:18 PM
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Help caring for sick, elderly dog (dementia, arthritis, 2nd Lyme disease infection)

I haven't been here in a little while, but I'm finding I need help again with my elderly dog. She was walking pretty delicately for several months and struggling to walk in the kitchen, but I got her some dog socks that gave her the ability to stand up a little easier on linoleum. Last weekend, she suddenly and completely lost the ability to walk or stand. She was (and still is) alert and interested in eating and drinking (and she still potties okay), but her legs just wouldn't work. This is how she behaved when she had Lyme disease a couple years ago, so she went to the vet last Monday and did, in fact, test positive for Lyme disease again. She was sent home with a month's worth of antibiotics as well as painkillers. (As a side note, she's also getting Glyco Flex III biscuits every day and she takes Selegiline for her dementia.)

The thing is when she had Lyme disease before, I saw an improvement in her energy levels very quickly. She was on her feet within two or three days of starting on the pills. However, she's been on her current pills for almost a week and I haven't seen a ton of improvement. Today was the first day I actually saw her manage to get up on her own, stay standing and walk around (kind of shakily, but it's a start). A vast majority of the time, she's laying down and won't stand up; I try putting her on her feet and her back legs will just buckle under her (they don't seem to bend much either). I don't know if she's taking so long to show signs of improvement because it's her second time within two years contracting Lyme disease (she was vaccinated against it after her first bout with the disease), or because she was already in a less-than-ideal state of health when she fell ill the second time.

Food and water can be a challenge at times. I used to hold her up to her elevated food bowls to eat and drink, but holding up 30 pounds of dead weight while bending at the waist for several minutes does put a bit of a strain on me (yes, I'm out of shape), especially when she has to hem and haw about whether or not she wants to eat or drink. Sometimes she'll just inhale half her bowl of water in one sitting, but other times she'll stand with her snout in her bowl and lap every five seconds. I eventually just started sitting her up partially on her blanket and putting the bowl under her nose so she can lay down and drink, occasionally tilting the bowl for her.

Kibbles are another story. I don't know if she's losing her sense of smell or she's just sick of her food or what. I put her kibbles in front of her a few times and she'll burrow her nose into them, but won't usually eat them. It's like she's trying to figure out if it's food or not (mind you, this is the dog that used to pick out the red meat kibbles from her bowl and leave the rest). She is definitely still interested in eating, but her energy levels and interest in certain foods seem to wax and wane. She's been getting her pills rolled in a spoonful of the wet food she likes ever since she started on the Selegiline, and normally she eats it without an issue, but today she absolutely did not want it. I need to figure out what to give her; I also wonder if I should try to feed her to help her gain weight. She's lost a couple pounds due to the loss of mobility and subsequent fewer trips to the food bowl and I don't know if I should try to put those pounds back on her or if doing so would further aggravate her arthritis.

It's definitely become quite a challenge to take care of the old girl, but she's my baby and I'm happy to do what I can to help keep her comfy. I just don't know if I'm doing it right.
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Old 04-03-2016, 07:32 PM
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I think it would be best to just handfeed her right now when she's sitting beside you, and deliver water up to her face with the bowl. That would keep the strain off her legs and off of you too. The fact she's been just leaving her nose in the kibble sounds like she's possibly having difficulty controlling her neck muscles to move her face out of it. I would be careful leaving water out if this happens often because she might drown or just inhale a lot of water. If she can't walk much, you might want to invest in one of those dog body harnesses that can lift up their middle and you hold the handle to help them up like a suitcase.

There's one other thing I have to say. Forgive me if this upsets you (or if you're already aware), but I don't think your dog is just sick and elderly, it sounds like she's dying. If your dog is old, ill, rarely able to walk/potentially losing muscle control and motor skills, and only moderately shows interest and ability to eat and drink, the end is near. It's very, very hard to cope with a furry friend failing but I think along with caring for your dog, you need to understand that this care is now hospice. She's very likely not going to get better, and I think trying to feed her extra to gain weight might not work. Everyone is different with how they want to care for their dog at the end of their life, but I'm of the belief that if the animal can barely eat, drink or loses control of bodily functions, it's best to put them down. This is your personal choice, and of course you should be listening to the advice of your vet, but this sounds very serious. I wish you the best of luck in caring for your old girl. *hugs*

Last edited by traciek88; 04-03-2016 at 07:37 PM.
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Old 04-04-2016, 04:35 PM
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Oh don't get me wrong, I fully acknowledge that my pup is close to the end of her life (don't know how close, but I know she's no spring chicken anymore), but I don't think she's cashing in her chips just yet. She is still, in fact, interested in food and water, and I know full well she won't recover from either her arthritis or her dementia, but she still seems to have a spark in her.

Also, sorry if I made it unclear, but she doesn't leave her nose in her kibbles. For a few days, she would push her nose into her dry food and move it around, sort of like she was trying to dig to the bottom of the bowl, or thinking, "Hmmm, is this food?" Also, her bowls are elevated, so there's no chance she'd fall and drown in her water bowl. Her neck seems to be working fine too, as she can hold her head up (in fact, her neck was one of the only things she could move for the last week), eat and drink and still shakes her head around every so often. But I didn't know there were dog harnesses for mobility problems, but I'll definitely look into one for the times she needs a little help getting up or holding herself up. Thank you for the recommendation!

She seems to be getting better, at least in terms of mobility. She got up and walked around a lot today and even took herself to her bowls by herself and both ate and drank more than once. She still walks very delicately and I did have to help her up a couple times (this was normal before she developed her most recent illness, due to her arthritis), but she does genuinely seem to be getting better in regard to the Lyme disease. She's even gone back to spitting her pills out no matter how much food they're hidden in.

She does sleep/rest quite a bit, but considering her age, this doesn't surprise me. I'm just glad to see her marching around again, even if it is in circles. I think I'm going to start giving her a little boiled chicken on top of her food, though. I know she'll eat meat and if I can at least help her to gain back the weight she lost recently so she's not so bony, I don't think it'll hurt her. I know for a fact she still very much wants to eat, drink and move... it's just she has a little trouble doing so at times with her limbs and her mind not working at 100 percent anymore. But just because she's feeling the weight of old age doesn't mean I'm ready to give up on her yet, especially if she's not suffering.

Thank you for your advice and suggestions, though, especially the harness. I think that'll make things easier for her and for me during walks and when she needs a little boost at her bowls. I trust that my old girl will let me know when she's ready to leave me (as have all my other pets), but right now, I don't think she is. She's senile, but she still has life in her eyes.
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Old 04-06-2016, 05:04 AM
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Sounds like what you really need is a dog support harness. When my Zola tore her ACL last year, we decided not to operate on her and instead went with conservative treatment, which meant that we had to totally restrict her activity. Our vet told us to also use a dog knee brace to immobilize her leg while it healed, which we ended up buying from an online store called Ortocanis.

But total restriction meant that we wanted to even restrict as much as possible her standing up and laying down, so we also got her this support sling from the same store which was perfect for helping her stand and walk around and for getting her up in the morning to take her out to do her business. I was really happy with the harness and the dog knee brace and to top it off the items were really reasonably priced (in my opinion!)

It sounds like your dog is still a trooper! If she's still happy and has life in her eyes like you say then there are many options that can help her with her mobility problems that will make her life, as well as yours, easier!
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Old 04-06-2016, 05:05 AM
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Smile Harness option for improving mobility

Sounds like what you really need is a dog support harness. When my Zola tore her ACL last year, we decided not to operate on her and instead went with conservative treatment, which meant that we had to totally restrict her activity. Our vet told us to also use a dog knee brace to immobilize her leg while it healed, which we ended up buying from an online store called Ortocanis.

But total restriction meant that we wanted to even restrict as much as possible her standing up and laying down, so we also got her this support sling from the same store which was perfect for helping her stand and walk around and for getting her up in the morning to take her out to do her business. I was really happy with the harness and the dog knee brace and to top it off the items were really reasonably priced (in my opinion!)

It sounds like your dog is still a trooper! If she's still happy and has life in her eyes like you say then there are many options that can help her with her mobility problems that will make her life, as well as yours, easier!
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Old 04-06-2016, 07:08 AM
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"she doesn't leave her nose in her kibbles. For a few days, she would push her nose into her dry food and move it around, sort of like she was trying to dig to the bottom of the bowl, or thinking, "Hmmm, is this food?"

My Sheltie with cognitive dysfunction did this at the end of his life. He was super excited about the food being prepared for him, but once the bowl was on the ground he would just look at the food like he had no idea of what to do with it... If hand-fed he'd happily chew and swallow. In his case we started assisting with his feeding, as he was still going strong in all other departments but his mind. With your girl, hopefully once she feels stronger physically she will begin to eat on her own accord. If her confused behavior is a result of her dementia you may need to help with feeding her long term...
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Old 04-07-2016, 02:47 AM
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She seems to only be confounded by her kibbles. Just about anything else, she'll eat. Her kibbles definitely smell the same (as in they aren't stale and haven't lost their aroma). She just looks like she's digging for treasure in her bowl sometimes. She used to pick certain bits out of her kibbles when she was still a little more sane, so maybe she's still trying to do that, but doesn't quite remember what to do once she's eyes-deep in her food. I think if she's left to her own devices with her food, she eventually figures out that she can eat it. I'm still trying to figure out if it would be better for her to have elevated bowls or not. Perhaps a floor-level food bowl so she can lay down and eat, and an elevated water bowl.

Also, and I hate to sound like a cheapskate, but a lot of the harnesses you guys linked are a little on the pricey side. It's not that my pup's not worth it, and those harnesses look wonderful, but I'm on a tight budget and I don't think I can afford these ones. I see a lot of good reviews on the Solvit dog harness and was leaning toward that since it's reasonably priced. The more I see of these things, the more I feel she definitely needs one... not just for her sake, but for mine. It's tough trying to hold her up while completely bent over at the waist and it's painful for me to do this for a long time.

The old girl still likes to get up and march around, and she's already going back to some of her pre-Lyme disease habits, such as getting stuck behind/under things and playing the song of her people when she wants to get up, but needs a little help. In other words, she appears to be fully recovered from her most recent illness and she's still kickin'.
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Old 04-07-2016, 05:03 AM
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If you are looking for a simple inexpensive lift harness, check out the Outward Hound PupBoost Lift Harness at Chewy.com.......it's only $8.08! It may be too big but take a look ? Hope you have many good days left with each other!

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Old 04-10-2016, 01:20 PM
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Thanks very much for the suggestion, LuvMyFluff! I'm familiar with Chewy.com, as I get my pup's Glyco Flex biscuits from there. I'm not sure if that particular harness would work for her because she's only 30ish pounds and the Outward Hound harness says it's for dogs between 50 and 90 pounds.

I was leaning more toward a harness for her back end since she seems to be perfectly fine standing on her front legs... it's the back ones that buckle under her. But a problem I'm seeing is pretty much all the rear harnesses have straps that wrap around the dog's lower belly/pelvis. My pup has developed a habit recently where, if pressure is put on her belly, she will completely empty her bladder. I used to support her at her bowl by cupping my hands under her belly to hold her up, but I'm no longer able to do this because she'll wet all over the floor. So while the rear end harness would work for her mobility problems, it will also result in creating a whole other issue of her possibly peeing everywhere if I use the harness.
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Old 04-26-2016, 07:07 AM
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Harnesses for rear support only

$8.08??? I had never seen that harness before.. with a price that low makes you wonder what the quality is going to be like.

The Ortocanis rear support harness is only approx. $35 plus the shipping.. and could work for you if you only need rear support if the front legs are still working well.

Besides, if your dog still has strong front limbs it's extremely important to keep him/her using them as much as possible.. you don't want your dog to suffer from muscle atrophy when it's unnecessary just because the harness you bought was an all over harness and the dog stopped using their front legs despite them being healthy.

I bought from the Ortocanis store before and my experience was really positive. I would recommend them to anyone.
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