GO!

Decision time

Share advice for keeping your aging dog happy and healthy

  


Member Since
01/01/2013
 
 
Barked: Tue Jan 1, '13 2:27pm PST 
We have a 17 year old Westie named Oliver who has taken a turn the past few months. We joke and say I married my hubby because of this dog that was initially his. He is one of the truest loves of my life.

He is mostly blind (mostly cataracts on his pupils) and mostly deaf but has done well until recently. He seems to have a sort of dimentia (my dad passed from Alzheimers, it's like reliving that all over). His legs get a little shaky now and then, and although he can do the 3 steps out our back door, any more than that I help him with. We have 2 other dogs, one senior and one adult. He sleeps a lot during the day (not surprising).

He still is VERY interested in food, his nose is his strongest sense and he still follows the other dogs where they go, wanting to be part of things. He will still chew on treats I give them, and still often will trot along with us when we are outside. The recent snow, however, is making things troublesome. I imagine all the white and brightness makes it harder for him to see at all.

He seems to be a little troubled by the added challenges. His confusion has increased; he now will just stand for periods of up to 15 minutes, or walk around, not settling. He's also been at his privates the past day or so. His annual exam and bloodwork were all glowing, but, I am now questioning his quality of life.

We are/were planning a home passing, burying him in our yard (it's legal here) but, with the snow, I'm not so sure. I prepared myself for this, but, these changes have caught me off guard. I was hoping that we'd get him thru the winter. Its becoming more troubling to keep an eye on him, although, up til the last couple days, I can't say he's seemed to be in distress. I welcome any thoughts anyone out there has. So hard to know when to let them go. Thanks...
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Belle

Will Take you- On!
 
 
Barked: Tue Jan 1, '13 5:49pm PST 
It's a very gray area, and ultimately only you can make the right choice.

I've had two seniors of my own who were in very poor health for a very long time - both over a year. There are always things you can try, although you reach a point where there are no longer any feasible ideas. When you have multiple health issues, it becomes a balancing act of what you can try versus overall quality of life.

So, looking at things you can try... What stood out most to me about your post was that he's suddenly become obsessed with his privates. Was a urinalysis included in his recent vet trip? Just a basic UTI could produce a lot of the symptoms you're seeing. If the infection has reached his kidneys it could even exacerbate dementia.

Even if everything looks clear, a course of general antibiotics could help - we actually saved Belle at least 3 times by giving general antibiotics and steroids. She was failing, the vet couldn't pinpoint a problem, so we decided it was worth a try. There came a day when it didn't work anymore, but the 3 times it did were worth it.

I don't know if he's currently on any medications for his cateracts, but if not, they may help too. Have you looked at any websites for blind dogs? I spent a lot of time reading from various support groups when Vance lost his right eye and it was very helpful.

It's worth looking for info on blind and deaf dogs, too. It's so common - and can mimic dementia quite a bit too. I had a petsit client who'd had both eyes removed from glaucoma and gone deaf... I only lived with her a week at a time, but I developed a pretty good system with her using a short lead to guide her so she didn't get lost - even in the house. I did a little with scent too but I didn't have time to get too detailed... If she were mine I would have tried to drop some kind of unique scent trail to her bed, because she would get up at night and get lost in the kitchen every few hours.

In terms of snow glare, there actually are doggie sunglasses. I don't know anything about that particular store, it just shows the product well.

Dog gear like that seems so silly, but by my Vance's last winter, he was wearing snowboots and a flannel-lined wool jacket most of the time. He'd never have accepted it as a young dog, but by the time he needed them, they made him feel so much better that he was very happy to wear them. The complicating factor for you is the dementia. It's very possible he won't know how to deal with wearing something on his head, but it may be worth a try.

All of it depends on what he and your family can manage. I'm sure you'll know best what direction is right for all of you.

Edited by author Tue Jan 1, '13 5:51pm PST

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Member Since
01/01/2013
 
 
Barked: Tue Jan 8, '13 8:31am PST 
So hard to determine what his personal quality of life is at this time. I am home a good part of most days with my pets. I am realizing now, that the past couple weeks seem to have turned another corner. He doesn't seem to do a lot of interacting.

He had a gastro episode last Thursday night. Took him to vet. All tests show normal, and very "good" numbers on his blood test. Yet, today, he is barely walking around, a little stumbly, and his sight I *think* is almost completely gone because he has walked into a few things that you would think he could see. He balks a bit whenever you touch him, but he still loves to get his scratches, comes trotting (or at least walking quickly) for his food and still rallys with the other dogs when they get excited about things.

I was hoping to get him through the winter and let him enjoy some nice days. If he doesn't thrive with the good weather, then a nice spring/summer day feels like a good time to say our goodbyes. So much harder imagining it in the winter. And, how do you literally weigh the good vs. the bad. Hate to think he's in "pain" or "suffering." When he seems lost or confused, or not "with us", he seems to then have a moment where he is decisive, gets to the couch or his bed, and sleeps.

I do think that he is enjoying affection, scratches, etc., less and less. I suppose if I start a journal then I can keep track. So hard. Wish the good Lord would just take him in his sleep. But, isn't that what we all wish for? And the fact that we've become so "able" to extend their lives past what it would be in the natural, I cognitively know it's our duty out of love to not let them suffer. Tell my heart that.
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Pippin - My Forever- Angel

Secret agent in- charge of- Squirrels
 
 
Barked: Tue Jan 8, '13 11:13am PST 
It's so heartbreaking when our loved ones reach this point in their lives. Even if there were a definite "checklist" or something that would tell us when it was time to let go, it's still so very difficult. I think your idea of a journal is a good one. Maybe you'll find that there are things that seem to help or triggers that make his condition worse. I wish the best for you and your pup and will keep you in our thoughts. hug
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Yoshi

XD
 
 
Barked: Wed Jan 9, '13 9:31am PST 
Bell is right, only you know Oliver best and can make the decision of whether he has some quality of life left. If he still enjoys affection, then I'm sure he can last through the winter. Has he become incontinent yet? Based on your post it doesn't sound like he has. Perhaps you and your vet should have a discussion and maybe he can give you his opinion. You know you can make him a profile on here and keep a diary. Hugs and best wishes to whatever you may decide. I'm a pmail away if you ever need support.

xoxoxo
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Belle

Will Take you- On!
 
 
Barked: Wed Jan 9, '13 9:07pm PST 
I like to get a vet's opinion, but at the same time find vets very focused on the scientific end of things. On paper, Belle should have been dead a year before she passed, Vance at least 6 months. I have known vets to talk clients into euth'ing because "the bloodwork looks bad" without much or any thought of how the animal is feeling.

When he jumps when you pet him, he likely just isn't sure it's you. Being blind and deaf, he has no indication of what that feeling is until he recognizes the pattern of your petting. With my blind/deaf client, I used to slowly wave my hand a couple inches from her nose (far enough she wouldn't bite me if I startled her) so she would know I was there before I touched her.

Here is a blind/deaf dog support group. I think it's very likely he is slowing down, and keeping a journal is a great idea. His loss of sight is probably a big contributing factor to his confusion too, and talking with other owners may give you a better sense of what is coping with loss of senses, and what is cognitive dysfunction.
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Member Since
01/01/2013
 
 
Barked: Sat Jan 12, '13 9:36pm PST 
Thank you all so much! Great resources that I will be utilizing!
I started a journal, and then we had a horse colic to the point we had a hole dug. Luckily, amazingly, actually,she pulled out of it. I then got bad news about another senior dog I have. Either way, the focus was taken off Ollie, and just updated my journal today. I am going to check out the diary on this site, as well.
Funny thing is, due to the all around bad news over the past few days, hubby and I decided to take all 3 dogs for a walk to the barn, despite the crappy weather. Mr. Oliver was slow to start, but perked right up, trotting all over (shock) and has seemingly rebounded in a significant way!
Took him to the vet today (made the appointment last week). His bloodwork is great, his weight is great, she thought he seemed like an 8 year old. We laughed thinking he "knew" I made "THE appointment" and decided to rally. Whatever the reason, I'm thrilled to see him so upbeat, and will be taking him on many more walks, as long as he can handle it. At 17, I know his days are numbered, but I have realized, in a big way, to just embrace whatever we get. THANK you all so much! Today I'm lucky enough to report a good ending for now! applause
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Pippin - My Forever- Angel

Secret agent in- charge of- Squirrels
 
 
Barked: Mon Jan 14, '13 1:44pm PST 
So glad to hear that Ollie is feeling better. dancing I hope that he continues to do well and that you have many more wonderful days together.
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