I have a 15-year-old dog…and it’s true, every day is a gift.
He looks awful. He is just skin and bones, and can barely stand. However, when you know your dog, you know if he has a good quality of life. In the case of Dazzle, he’s eating (although, having a diminished appetite, we are trying Cyproheptadine, an antihistemine …to increase his appetite, and it seemed to work very quickly), he’s still housebroken, and although he sleeps a lot, he was never an active dog.
I also give Glucosamine Chondrotin to aid in joint flexibility. So, while he looks awful, he’s ok.
For me, the tell-tale signs that a dog has given up are:
1. walking into a corner & just standing there;
2. eating & pretty much immediately vomiting;
3. becoming incontinent;
4. personality change–usually for the worse–possibly snapping or growling if startled, or in pain.
Dogs can suck up a lot of pain and stress, so you have to take a number of factors into account. I am amazed at the number of people who think that bringing a puppy in will liven up the old dog. This rarely works. It’s one thing for a dog to be just old, but not having signs of decline. Quite another to bring in a pesky young’un to harass the older guy. That’s what puppies do.
I have several clients who have had dogs get what veterinarians call Labyrinthitis or vestibular disease. Usually the dogs suffer some sort of episode of paralysis, and they can’t focus their eyes: their eyes seem to spin. The dogs may be dizzy. I’d give the dog 48 hours, and then, if his condition doesn’t improve, you really have to make a choice. I think Dazzle has had several strokes, with similar symptoms. He would be particularly lethargic & although he would move a bit, you could tell something was going on. This has happened several times, where I though it was the end. But he snapped out of it and is ok. Thing is, I can see he is losing control of his hind quarters, and there’s no doubt about it. He has but weeks.
Having worked with so many dogs for so many years, and having seen people hang on way too long, with paralyzed, incontinent dogs, not wanting to admit the dog is not comfortable and the situation is not going to improve, I am particularly sensitive. Dazzle has probably been the best dog I have ever lived with. He has never gotten into trouble in the house. I can count on one hand the number or housebreaking accidents he’s had. He’s been healthy, patient, obedient, ans sweet. Not a watchdog. Not a competition dog. Just a nice companion Saluki.
I have friends who raise dogs who say they ‘don’t do old dogs well’. That’s a shame, really. Me? I don’t do puppies well. You have to be all over them, like being all over a toddler. I would sooner take another mature dog—even an old dog, than I would a puppy.
In fact, about 20 years ago, I took a 15-year-old toy Poodle from a grooming client who didn’t know whether to have the dog groomed, or euthanize him. Turned out his bad teeth were causing him a lot of pain. When the veterinarian was finished, all Chuck had were incisors, but he perked up immediately, and lived to be 18. He died of a stroke,the day after a huge party where he ate everything that dropped on the floor. His people just had never really bonded with him, and they all grew up and moved out, and he was a bother. I know he loved being with us.
For me, my dogs have defined stages of my life. I feel I might be getting too old to have a large dog. I could never afford a full dental on a dog again, like we did for Chuck so long ago (thankfully, there are now many topical products you can use on dogs’ teeth that keep the teeth in good condition). I just know that all the dogs enriched my life, and it will be hard, again, to get another dog. Something to think about.