I know, I know… it’s bad enough having to deal with one’s own eventual losses, but I really do need some guidance!
Bo, my canine companion of the last 13 years, may still be wagging his tail and eating his food, but he is definitely showing signs of age. I want to do right by him, and I need to know when I should be ready to end his suffering, if that is what is happening. Can anyone give me any advice on what factors I need to consider, before I make this decision?
Are there any obvious signs I need to be aware of, that will indicate my dog is not really happy anymore, and may actually be in considerable pain? It’s driving me to distraction him not being able to communicate that he might be in distress.
My temptation is to wait until he can no longer walk to his food bowl, but I know that this would be unfair on him, and I would like to hear some Doper’s comments.
Other than being old, is there some specific reason you think he’s dying?
At any rate, one time I was watching “Animal ER” on Animal Planet (laugh at me if you must) and a nice family brought in a dog with a persistant cough. On x-ray the dog was covered in cancer, although seemingly in good spirits and health. The family was shocked and asked the vet how to proceed. His advice, which I found wise, was:
Think of three thing you believe make your dog the most happy, such as eating, playing fetch, jumping on the couch or whatever. Three things. When he can no longer do two of those three things, it’s time to put him down.
You have my sympathy; it is terribly difficult to watch a cherished companion animal decline. I second the advice about the three things. If your pet is in otherwise decent health, then that would be the time. He may have arthritis, chondroitin has helped my parent’s senior dogs quite a bit, alleviating the inflammation. Do.On’t forget the value of slow walks as well.
I lost my Bo, who was a 17 year old cat, almost a year ago to bladder cancer. I’ve also had to let go of 15 year old Gandy (dog) and 13 year old Bandit (dog) in the last 4 years. For me, when they start refusing food it means it is time. I don’t mean refusing a meal or two, because all animals go ‘off’ their chow once in awhile, especially elderly animals - but when you are forcing them to eat most of the time it means something that used to be a high priority isn’t anymore, and it is probably time to say goodbye.
My vet prescribed pain meds that helped my dog live a bit longer & more comfortably later in life. He had really bad hip dysplasia. Between the pain meds and having a ramp built out the back so he didn’t have to go down any stairs anymore, we had about 4 more months together.
A trip to the vet to talk about the changes you are noticing is a good idea. It could be that there is something treatable or manageable going on.
One thing to know is that it is never an easy decision to make. It’s very tempting to keep them going to avoid your own pain of losing them. Used to be I always felt I waited too long to make the decision. I vowed not to do that with my last dog. So instead I sometimes question whether I did it too soon. When I think about it, though, it was time. There just wasn’t ever going to be a good time to lose him, but he was starting to suffer. I’d already done all I could to keep him comfortable.
Even though he still seemed interested in life, it agonized him when I went to work. He wasn’t feeling well and was in pain, and wanted me by my side. If I could have afforded to stay home, I would have, but that’s just not a realistic option. So it was his psychological suffering as much as his physical deterioration that made me decide it was time.
Anyway, I’m sorry Bo is starting to decline. Sounds like you could still have a little time left, though, so do what you can to keep him comfortable, and savor the moments with him.
I lost my dog, a 14 year old lab-retriever-basenji-pitbull-???, around four months ago. She wasn’t eating much, but she was enjoying life most of the time. She could walk, but she couldn’t get up without help. When the process we used to help her up started hurting her, that’s when we decided she had suffered enough. We think she had arthritis, but we couldn’t afford the medicine nor the thousand-dollar blood work to check. I think the process is different for everyone. Good luck.
I hear you loud and clear, Gatopescado. That was another thing on my mind. I buried my last dog in '94, in my Mum’s garden( I’d had Bracken, my rotty bitch for 11 years!), but I know she doesn’t want Bo in there. I’m not really surprised; it’s getting like something out of Pet Sematery in there. She might change her mind, but I doubt it.
When we got the shocking diagnosis that my cat had advanced liver cancer, we were told the same thing by the vet. My SO and I looked at each other, perplexed. We couldn’t even think of three things she liked doing that much. Um…she’s a cat - she doesn’t *enjoy *things, she tolerates them.
Kidding aside, we decided that once she stopped coming on to the bed to sleep with us then something was really wrong. As it happened, one night she was unable to get up on the bed (not for lack of trying), and the very next day she collapsed and barely made it to the vet to be put down. It was very sad, and at times I wondered if we should have done it sooner. But I think if we had, we would have always wondered whether it was the right time. This way, at least we knew.
When my dog died, I had him cremated, since there was no way I could dig a hole big enough for him. One of my neighbors, who only speaks Spanish, asked where the dog was was when he realized he hadn’t seen the dog in a while. My Spanish is pretty rusty, but it was easy enough to explain that he’d died. What was tricky was when the guy asked if I was going to bury him in the garden.
Nobody ever teaches you the words for things like “cremation” in high school Spanish clases, and I couldn’t remember the word for ashes, let alone come up with the phrase “scatter his ashes.” So I said my dog’s body was now small and dry. That didn’t seem to help, so I pointed to my chimney and tried to ask what was left in the fireplace after burning wood. Big mistake. The guy got the idea that I’d mummified my dog’s body in my fireplace, which made his body small and dry, and I would be burying that in the garden. :eek:
Although I could understand that he misunderstood, I simply couldn’t figure out how to correct the misunderstanding. My Spanish just isn’t that strong. I finally gave up, and to this day, my neighbors think I mummified my dog. The thing is, it really didn’t seem to phase the guy that I might do such a thing.
So sorry your dog isn’t feeling well. My “Horse” (his name, not his species) is starting to get quite rocky, too. (He has severe arthritis, which is only partially helped with meds.)
I don’t know if this will be helpful or not, since your dog doesn’t seem to have any particular disease that you know of, but when I have had dogs with cancer, the vet said to watch out for when they stopped sleeping, as it meant that they were actively in pain. Your dog sounds like he’s just “getting up there,” and although he isn’t cute and springy anymore, he may not actually be suffering yet.
Just use your best judgment, and remember that if you do decide to have him put down, you’re the only one who will be distressed by it. To him, it will be just another trip to the vet, so don’t feel guilty about it as long as your choice is made out of love.
Tenar (who has had WAAAAY too many pets put down).
Good advice. I would only add that for each of my own pets whose Time Had Come, I held them in my arms, or had my arms around them (Great Danes, mostly, not lap dogs) as the needle was given. It’s harder on you, but easier on them, not to be left alone with the vet & assistants. You won’t regret staying with your pet afterwards, I promise you that (though you may cry; I always did).
I would rather err on the side of sending them to the Rainbow Bridge too soon than too late. I hate the thought of preventable suffering in an animal. I think the first thing the OP should do is get a vet’s opinion on the whining, age, etc. They are knowledgeable; it’s their job, and I’ve never yet met one who wasn’t sympathetic and helpful, especially on such an issue.
Yeah, me too. But when you think about how much love & joy they give you … believe me, if I were still able to have a pet, I would have one.
It’s definitely OK to feel bad, even in the face of another’s pain. Thank you for updating us, and for sharing something of Bo’s meaning to you.
Thank you also for paying attention to how your dog is feeling; I’ve seen people who cared way too much about how they felt about keeping their pet around and needless suffering on the part of the pet, as a result.
My Siamese cat Triskadecaphobia started to get weak. He was 21 years old.I knew the end was coming. The dogs started deferring to him. They quit chasing him around. He could barely walk. I put a box next to my bed with comfortable padding . I was petting him when he died. He closed his eyes and the fleas vacated all at once. i did not even know he had them. He died knowing he was loved.
I had to put my beloved companion Bitz the Wondermutt down last week. I’d always wondered when I’d know it was time. She let me know.
She went off her feed and wouldn’t eat no matter what treats I made her. She lost energy and didn’t respond to treatment.
When it was clear after a week she wasn’t going to get any better, my wife and I decided it was time to call the housecall vet. On her last day my best friends and my wife were all around her as she got the shot. She hadn’t risen to greet any of us as we came in, even though she could still walk. She just wagged hello and thumped her tail on the floor. She knew, and so did we.
My life hasn’t been particularly more hard or soft than anyone elses, but telling that girl goodbye was the single hardest thing I’ve ever done.
Get your fella checked out by a good vet that you trust, pay attention to any significant declines and let him tell you when it’s time. Then, no matter how much it shreds your guts, do the right thing by him and help him go comfortably.
Here’s hoping for a long time still together for you two.