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I've read a lot of articles about how to know whether it's time to put a dog to sleep, but I'm still torn about what to do in our particular situation. My pup is 11 years old (a long-haired dachshund mix) who I've had for 8 years. In the past couple of years, he's developed worsening arthritis in his back legs, a high-level heart murmur, an enlarged heart, and canine dementia accompanying separation anxiety with destructive tendencies.

Things took a bad turn a couple months ago when we came home after a trip to the grocery store to find my dog had taken a chunk out of our apartment's door frame. He had a history of occasional destructive acts and barking/howling when alone so we'd been giving him medication for his separation anxiety, which apparently was no longer effective. This prompted a couple months of Prozac and Xanax from the vet, neither of which made a significant difference. We also tried anti-inflammatories and Gabapentin for the pain. My dog started waking up throughout the night and scratching at doors even when we were home.

For a lot of the day, he's okay. He rests or cuddles with me. But then he'll get into modes where he wanders the house, pants, shakes, hides under the table, and does weird things like climbing on a night stand and scratching at the stove.

He wasn't eating much for a couple of months but his appetite returned when I stopped the Prozac. He went from 16 lbs to 12.5 and has stayed there despite eating regularly for two weeks.

I've seen the vet several times. They've done labs, urine analysis, and an ultrasound. Most was normal besides some elevated liver levels. He had a chest x-ray last year showing the enlarged heart. The vet told us two weeks ago that it was up to us about when to put him down. That was back before he started eating again. He said things will only get worse and my dog will eventually likely suffer a seizure or heart failure at some point. When I called and told him my dog was eating again, the vet said not to get my hopes up.

The biggest issue pressing things is our inability to leave him alone without fear of further destruction to our apartment. I work from home, which is the only reason this has been tenable at all, but now that the weather's getting nicer we're going to want to get out more. We just moved to a new town last August and have been severely limited by not being able to leave our dog for more than an hour or two without paying for a sitter (which we have done, but I'm disabled and low-income, so it's hard to continue justifying, especially at this point).

My boyfriend thinks it's time. I know it will be soon, and I know it will never be an easy decision, but it's hard when he still eats and cuddles and enjoys playing with other dogs and meeting new people. When he's not having an anxiety attack or up half the night wandering the house, he seems pretty content. His walking is getting wobbly but he still enjoys short walks (though he does start panting quickly and hesitates on steps).

I guess I'm wondering if it's time to make the appointment or if I should wait until he takes a more serious turn (unable to walk, stops eating, peeing or pooping in the house, etc.). Does anyone have any insights on this? Any similar experiences?

I'm afraid I'll regret doing this too soon, but he does seem to be in pain and anxiety, and our quality of life is suffering pretty severely between the stress of caretaking, constant trips and payments to pet sitters, and feeling held back from going out.
 

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I'm so sorry that you're going through that with your elderly boy. I know how heartbreaking it is.

What, Shadow, my blind, severely arthritic, had 2 major strokes, and canine cognitive dysfunction, 17 year 8 month old dog taught me is that it's better to let them go a couple weeks too soon, then to wait a couple days too long. I waited those few days and I'll always have the memories of my boy slowly shutting down. My vet had said that it would be alright to let him pass away naturally at home that he would not be in any pain. Visions of him drifting away in his sleep danced merrily through my head, the reality was very, very, different.

Shadow taught me that it's alright to let them be so long as they are comfortable, eating well, and are not suffering.

He taught me that elderly dogs will continue to get worse, that even though they may recover from something they never fully recover, so they continue a slow downward spiral. That us owners need to keep track and notice when the bad days start outnumbering the good.

He taught me that it's O.K. to pull out all the stops and to try whatever we can to help them, but that ultimately we need to realize if we are doing so for them or ourselves. At the end of Shadow's life, he had stopped eating, had barely eaten more then a bite here or there, so I took him to the vet. I should have just said put him to sleep, instead I opted to try some medicine that might have triggered his appetite. Looking back I know I did it for me, not for him, and that is a regret I have to live with.

Take what you can from the lessons I learned. Ask yourself questions.

Does my boy have a good quality of life? Is he suffering? Is he eating enough, or is his appetite going?

Are his good days outnumbering the bad? Is there anything that I can do to improve his quality of life and help with any issues he's having?

(((HUGS))) I know you love your boy and you'll make the best decisions for him.
 

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My dog has severe separation anxiety and the benzodiazepines that your dog takes caused adverse reaction in him. They basically disinhibited him too much so he'd be knocked out for a few hours and then hyperreactive and sensitive, like an angry drunk.
For him the antidepressant Zoloft made a world of difference and I can leave him alone eight or nine hours every other day. For shorter periods I can leavore frequently. He's not thrilled but not frantic or destructive anymore. The behaviorist who saw him was a renowned expert who wrote a book and has since retired but called my dog the most severe case of separation anxiety he'd ever seen.

If that's the main reason you're considering euthanasia now and he's otherwise eating, happy, moving and having more good days than bad, different meds could make a difference. Many regular vets aren't comfortable prescibing specialized medication for separation anxiety, so you might need a consultation with a veterinarian who's also a behaviorist specialist. Ideally you can see if you can get a phone consultation or if your vet would be willing to consult with one on the phone for advice on what to try prescribing.

I've had several vers consult on the phone with various specialists for various elderly or very sick cats and for my very sick ancient horse last year, which saved her.

I know it's a tough time and decision. I just thought I'd offer information about my experience with severe separation anxiety in my dog. Good luck.
 

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This is probably the most difficult decision a pet owner has to make. You want them to get absolutely the most quality life they possibly can, but not at the cost of letting them suffer. I think you ask yourself the following question. Am I keeping him/her alive for him or her, or for me? How you answer that question will guide you as to which fork in that road to take.
 

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What would you want if you were him?

It's really difficult and sad to see our furry family members get sick or old. I had to make this decision for our cat a few months ago, and our dog 2 years ago. You said, "he still eats and cuddles and enjoys playing with other dogs and meeting new people", all positive. But he has heart problems and arthritis etc. Heart problems and arthritis (having a hard time with stairs and such) are something that is expected with an older dog and unless his quality of life is seriously impaired then I'd fight to make his time better. You also need to be sure that you won't have regrets. Maybe try to see yourself as him..what do you think you would want if you were him?
 

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My first beagle only had a hearung problem when got older like 15 years. One night her was laying near me as I was operating my computer. Her just got up and ran into the other room like her was chasing something.

Her at that point was just laying there. So i picked her o]up and put her on the couch. When a dog is in perfect shape the dog will resist being picked up.


But, that nine when impicked up the hound to put her on the couch her did not even resist. King of flip floppy. So I let her lay there. Her then moved to the opposite end of the couch. Then her just later still with out moving.

I have a friend that works in the medical business that has a stethoscope. Her checked the hound for a heartbeat. There wasn't one.

So the hound died a peaceful way. Like her just went to sleep.




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