Help: when do we know it's "time"?

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Help: when do we know it's "time"?

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Old 06-12-2019, 12:00 PM
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Help: when do we know it's "time"?

Fellow dog owners,

I need your advice. My partner and I are extremely conflicted. We have a 15yo beagle-terrier mix. In the past two years, her body has been aging very rapidly and we're not sure what to do.

Our conflict is this: we don't want to end her life too soon, because we want her to enjoy all of the treats, cuddles, love, and attention she possibly can in her short little life. On the other hand, we don't want to selfishly hang on to those moments while she suffers in pain.

We've laid out the pros and cons, we've consulted our vet, we've talked with friends and family, we've consulted our daily dog walker, and everyone says the same thing: "it's a really tough decision, whatever you decide, we know you're doing the right thing for her."

Our vet went so far as to say: "her organs are in tip-top shape, but she's obviously very uncomfortable." I'm just not sure what to take away from that.

So, here are the facts:
- She's 15yo; for 13 years, she was a terror... she never slept, was always running, barking, swinging from tree branches (yes, you read that right), and attacking rocks (also not kidding)
- Her vital organs (lungs, heart, kidneys, etc) are in tip-top shape
- She rarely has accidents in the house
- Her poops and pees are regular
- Mentally, she’s still completely aware and alert – you can see the love in her eyes when she sees us, her body relaxes entirely when we hold her and she’ll hold her head up to your heart and just fall asleep to the beats
- Her appetite has changed drastically; now, she eats maybe 1c of food every 2-3 days, as such she has lost ~50% of her body weight
- She still drinks water, but in spurts… she’ll go 6 hours without wanting a drop and then she’ll drink a gallon
- She has severe muscular atrophy and her joints are inflamed; mobility is not impossible, but is a big challenge – she’ll usually take 3-4 steps before she stops and waits for us to pick her up, and her joints crack on every move, when she takes deep breaths, etc
- She spends ~20hrs per day sleeping
- She’s deaf and her eyes are glossed over, but she can still see
- In recent weeks, she’s starting injuring herself; she had an episode while we weren’t home where she couldn’t get up, got herself stressed, had a very messy accident, cut her leg, and was very sore for several days after. Along those same lines, she still refuses to accept her limited mobility and has tried jumping off the sofa when we’re not around, she sleeps in bed with us and has tried jumping off the bed a few times, etc. We’re terrified she’s going to break a bone, but if we don’t put her on the sofa or bed, she cries.
- We’ve tried prescriptions and supplements, but nothing has seemed to help with her joint pain

She is our world and we’re trying our hardest to approach this as impartially as we possibly can. Knowing her favorite pastimes, we know she can’t be completely happy. It breaks our heart every time we see her try to move and people who know her and her past well, feel the same. At the same time, though, it’s hard for us to quantify how much that’s worth to her vs. being with us.

We’ve gone back and forth and around and around. We think we know what to do, but our love for her and her presence is causing us to second guess ourselves.

Based on what you’ve heard here, do you have any advice?

I really appreciate any thoughts and/or opinions.

Thank you sincerely,
Todd
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Old 06-12-2019, 12:54 PM
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We have a 15yo, same as yours, but he still eats well and only stairs are still an issue. It's hard to know. Some of my friends think that we should put him down, but he still walks, even if it's uncomfortable. I mean, I've had to put cats down, and it was obvious because they just wouldn't walk at all anymore.
IMO it just depends on the pain level. If it hurts too much to move, you have to think of her quality of life.
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Old 06-12-2019, 02:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by todoubled View Post

So, here are the facts:
- She's 15yo; for 13 years, she was a terror... she never slept, was always running, barking, swinging from tree branches (yes, you read that right), and attacking rocks (also not kidding)
- Her vital organs (lungs, heart, kidneys, etc) are in tip-top shape
- She rarely has accidents in the house
- Her poops and pees are regular
- Mentally, she’s still completely aware and alert – you can see the love in her eyes when she sees us, her body relaxes entirely when we hold her and she’ll hold her head up to your heart and just fall asleep to the beats

She is our world and we’re trying our hardest to approach this as impartially as we possibly can.

Thank you sincerely,
Todd
I've been through this as well, more than once. Losing a dog is devastating. My last dog had cancer and from the day of diagnosis I spent hours every day worrying about what to do and when and what would be the limit.

Your dog is older, but she has a lot going for her. Her weight is going down, and that's a worry, so make it a mission to find her food that she will eat. Homemade meals that tempt her appetite.

Her pain needs to be managed so she can feel her best possible. Consult another vet if you need to. Pain meds, anti-inflammatory meds, supplements, etc. Watch videos online for how to massage and help and elderly dog. Do your own physical therapy sessions with her. CBD oil could be a good option.

Make her daily life as comfortable and as pain free as possible. A nice bed that helps relieve joint pain. Rugs to walk on instead of slippery floors.

I think as long as she is happy and has life in her eyes that's the important things. She's older, so aches and pains are unfortunately just part of getting older. But just because she's older doesn't mean she doesn't have plenty to live for.

Research ways to make life better for senior dogs.

I have a senior foster dog right now. She has hip dysplasia, and cloudy eyes. When I first got her she couldn't get in the car on her own. I got her on a pain med, and anti-inflammatory as well as omega 3 and joint supplements. I make sure to take her walking so she stays active. She has a soft bed to sleep on..although she doesn't like beds that are too plush since they are harder to move around on with her bad hips. Tomorrow I'm taking her to get her teeth cleaned. And hopefully I can get her into a vet to get an opinion on the best treatment for her hips. She gets in and out of the car on her own now. I've even seen her jump on the couch a few times. She seems so much happier than when I got her. I just want to make her life the best it can be.

It's so tough to watch our dogs get older. The good thing is, they have us here to watch out for them and help make their life the best it can be.

Best of luck to you both!
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Old 06-12-2019, 08:10 PM
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This is without a doubt the most difficult decision we have to make for our beloved dogs. Ours is almost eleven, and though she has certainly slowed down, and climbs steps more slowly, she is still running a lot and getting around ok. We know at some point, hopefully not for many years, we too will be confronted with having to make that decision. I think the question you ask yourself, is, Am I keeping her alive for her, or for me? An honest answer to that question will be a good indicator of what you should be considering.
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Old 06-12-2019, 08:21 PM
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What pain meds has your vet tried? What works for one dog may not help another dog. It took some time before we found the right combination for our 11.5year old girl. She is on gallaprant which helps with the inflammation. If she has a very painful day I can give tramadol in addition to the gallprant.
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Old 06-13-2019, 09:18 AM
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This has to be a very difficult decision many of us will face and I can't imagine the stress it's putting on you. From your description, it does sound like she's having a rough time and I worry about her hurting herself. From what you've written I think it's getting close to being time. Please remember that dogs have no concept of their own mortality. If you do decide to put her to sleep, that is what it will feel like to her. She won't know the reality. I know there are services where the vet comes to your home, and you dim the lights and it's a time shared together with love and calm. She leaves the world at home, so her last moments will not be fear at the vet. I've looked into this, because my dog is 13 and is now having several health issues (she just had a cancerous tumor removed from her liver) and I know this decision will come for me one day. I wish you well- you are clearly loving people.
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Old 06-14-2019, 10:36 AM
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Thank you all for your thoughts and advice.

We've done a number of things over the past few years to help our little monster...

1) Meds and supplements: she's been on Rimadyl for about 2 years, prior we tried a couple of different meds that didn't seem to help at all. The Rimadyl helped her slightly up until about 6 months ago. We've also been giving her a number of different supplements... Phycox (which have phycocyanin, antioxidants, and Omega-3s) and Mobility Bites (which have a number of vitamins, plus Glucosamine and Chondroitin). And more recently, we started trying CBD treats with turmeric. Each of these have been tried individually and in a variety of combinations and dosage amounts. We had a combo that worked very well for a while, but in the past few weeks, it seems nothing we do helps her. Interestingly enough, the CBD hasn't seemed to help much with mobility or pain management, but when she has it, she stays awake and is more alert. That said, though, she walks on her ankles and her wrists are angled 30-40deg outward. Every step, regardless of the pain meds or supplements, is followed by a series of cracks. Pain or no pain, I can't imagine joints rubbing together and cracking can be very comfortable.

2) Food: what we found works to get her to eat a little more is melting peanut butter in hot water and mixing that with the food. This helped us get her to eat a little more. Our vet did suggest that her slowing down her food consumption isn't necessarily the worst thing since the more weight on her fragile little frame will make mobility that much harder and increase the risk of injury.

3) Comfort: Around our home, we've tried different sleeping arrangements for her. She has a "house" that has always been her favorite spot, so we've put a nice big, comfy pillow in there. Recently, though, she hasn't liked going in here because she can't spread out. We've found she's most comfortable on our bed or sofa, so we've laid out a few blankets on each for her, and just move her from one to the other. When we're not home, we lay her on the sofa and put piles of pillows around the floor just in case she decides to try to tumble down. So far, we've been tumble free. We've also raised her water and food bowls, so she doesn't have to bend down. Although, more often than not, we let her eat while she's laying on the sofa. We both work full-time with lengthy commutes... over the past two weeks, we've been noticing a steeper decline in comfort for her, so we've been alternating working from home to try to keep her as comfortable as possible. When we're away for extended periods, she just howls, which is a brand new behavior. In the the past, we always joked that she liked when we would go away because she could sleep and rule the house. There have been a couple of days in the past two weeks where we both had no choice but to go to the office, so we had our daily dog walker come a few extra times throughout the day just to cuddle with her.

Lately, she's been restless and keeps wanting to move around/walk. I have to imagine this is because she's uncomfortable, but I'm not sure. It could be her failing to accept her immobility too. Maybe a combo? A few minutes into her "adventures," though, and you can see her legs and body trembling.

Her love and cuddles have made this whole process beyond difficult. Like I mentioned in my original post, her eyes are just full of love and life. If I hold out a hand, she'll rest her head in it and just stare deep into my soul. We've tried convincing ourselves that she's asking us to do what's right, but in reality, I think she just loves looking at us that much.

She has her good days and bad days. Her bad days are tough to watch. Her good days make us forget about the bad days, or suppress them, at least.

I've been trying to find a way to weigh quantity over quality... we know there's not much else we can do to make her comfortable and it's only a matter of time before it gets worse. But, how do we know how much that matters to her? Do the stares and cuddles outweigh the discomfort when she tries to move? How do we know? We hate to rob her of more love, but we also hate for her to hang on just because we're too coward to deal with losing her.

Thank you for letting me ramble, and thank you for offering your suggestions and thoughts.
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Old 06-14-2019, 11:16 AM
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I feel for you so much. This has to be the hardest decision you may ever have to make. If only our dogs could talk. If the good days outweigh the bad for now, enjoy them. When that changes, I think you'll know. You sound like you are very in tune with her and notice any change, even if it's slight. I think when she's having far more bad days than good you'll know. Take care.
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Old 06-23-2019, 05:56 PM
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Todd,

I have something for you to try as far as eating! I have a post on this forum about my collie losing 21 lbs over the past year from not eating. Two weeks ago I found the answer to get nutrition in her. I tried feeding her using an oral dosing syringe. After 11 months of her not eating on her own, she accepts this very well and she is now getting 3 squares a day!! Perhaps you could try that?

Shannon's mom
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