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 Post subject: Low quality of life - is it time to put him down?
Post Posted: Jul 22, 2007 7:10 am 
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When is a dog's quality of life so low that it is time to put him down??

My friends and the vet keep saying that, "I will know." But I don't know. Others say when he no longer wants to eat. But is waiting until he has lost the will to eat waiting much too long?

Spencer, who turned 13 in May, is not suffering pain wise when he is lying down - from what I can tell. But he is on pain meds. He can rarely stand up or even walk without my assistance. He can no longer squat to poop (he lays down to do it). Breathing is difficult after standing, but is fine when he lays back down. He wags his tail when I am near and enjoys the presence of his younger brother. He has a huge appetite. But all he does is lay down between the door and his food & water bowls (all day and all night). He only moves when I urge him to get up to go outside to do his business (about a 20-30 process from start to finish). Or to be out on the deck with me and his brother. He still enjoys gnawing on a bone or a tennis ball. And he will still smile and sparkle when I talk to him in a loving, soothing, playful manner.

Is there sufficient quality of life going on here? At some moments I can definitely say yes, but at other times ... well I just don't know. Is Spencer actually suffering but is so stoic it doesn't show?

I am also terrified that his brother, Barkley (who was recently diagnosed with bone cancer) will decline quickly after Spencer is gone. The vet says Barkley could have 2- 6 good months before his leg goes from uncomfortable to painful (it's been about 6 weeks since he developed a limp). But will grief at the loss of his brother quicken this process?

Pic of Barkley & Spencer when they were 7&8 respectively

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Post Posted: Jul 22, 2007 7:55 am 
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I know what you're going through... this is a very difficult time. I had to put my first dog down a few months ago and I know how hard it is. But trust me, YOU WILL KNOW when it's time. You will look into his eyes and he'll let you know that he's ready. I think that as long as he's eating, drinking water, doesn't seem to be in pain, and responds positively to you, he's OK. He'll let you know if he's suffering. Hang in there... it's not easy. But you can take comfort in knowing that you've given them a wonderful life.


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Post Posted: Jul 22, 2007 7:58 am 
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We recently (about 5 weeks ago) went through this with our lab mix. She could barely get around and fell often when negotiating stairs or going around a corner. Her life consisted of getting up to eat (with help and a lot of encouragment from us) going out on a leash although she could only go as far as the end of the driveway and sleeping. She did not appear to be in a lot of pain but was uncomfortable standing and getting up and down. She was on meds for pain and inflamation but they seemed to make little difference in her abilitiy to get around. She could no longer get into the car without being lifted and like your Spencer could not comfortably squat to do her business. We agonized for many weeks about her quality of life...even getting a printout sheet from our vet that gave us some benchmarks to use in trying to quantify it. She still ate pretty well although slowly, and seemed to enjoy the petting and attention she got from us but we needed to go to her she couldn't come to us.

We finally concluded that we were avoiding the obvious because of our inability to make a decision. We were putting our feeling above her best interests and ignoring the signs that it was indeed "time". Like you we had another dog, a golden retriever, 2 years younger who was raised by the lab and they were devoted to each other. We worried about his reaction to becoming an only dog and how he would cope with it.

Decision made, we followed through and had Jesse put to sleep as we held her and cried.. but knew we had given her the last gift that we could. I cry even now as I write this but have no regrets for giving her peace. The retriever did have a period of adjustment, but less than we had feared. Perhaps he knew even before us that it was her time to go. He is more clingy than before but that is gradually declining. He has however benefitted from being "only dog" and is probably more spoiled than ever. We can take longer walks than before when he had to adjust his life to the lab's limitations. And he gets first crack at the water bowl and the coveted place under my desk in a thunderstorm.

We didn't KNOW it was time, we just made the decision based on our feelings for her and our best judgement. We put aside our own desire to keep her with us for as long as possible and tried to focus on what was best for her. I don't know if that helps you any, but hope it at least lets you know that we all face the same agonizing decision.


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Post Posted: Jul 22, 2007 8:20 am 
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I have given them a GREAT home! I know that. I am very proud of that. They have been spoiled in every good way possible.

The first half of their lives were hell - I can't even begin to tell you the amount of abuse and neglect (it would make you sick). They were rescued and brought to the Golden Retriever Rescue of the Rockies (GRRR) in mid August 2001. GRRR would not let them be separated (they are biological brothers or at least half-brothers, they had the same mom). I had been wanting a dog for years, but I was just a little concerned about all the responsibilities and being tied down.

But as I was lying on the couch, sobbing for days, glued to the TV watching the horrors of 9/11. I kept wishing I had a big hairy dog to cuddle with. A week later I began a search for "my" dog.

On Oct 10th 2001, I brought Barkley and Spencer home with me. They are the most awesome kids a woman could ever hope for. They are absolutely the best thing that has ever happened to me. These past 5+ years have been the best years of my life without question. I am so very grateful for how they have changed me, how much they have taught me about life and for all the love and joy that we have created together. It has been the most glorious journey. I will miss them more than words could ever describe.

One very importance lesson they have taught me is the true meaning of love. Love is unconditional acceptance and deep appreciation.
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Last edited by CooknThyme on Jul 22, 2007 8:42 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Post Posted: Jul 22, 2007 8:23 am 
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They are gorgeous! This is a horrible thing to have to go through. Here's something I found (I apologize for being so lengthy):

"If your pet can no longer experience the things it once enjoyed, cannot respond to you in its usual ways, or appears to be experiencing more pain than pleasure, you may need to consider euthanasia. Likewise ... if the financial or emotional cost of treatment is beyond your means, euthanasia may be a valid option." [ from www.avma.org ]

My Siberian Husky is only six. Controlling his grand mal seizures is becoming more difficult. The next step in better drug treatment would cost $1,000 per month. There is absolutely no way I could afford that, and I'll be forced into a decision with him one day.

My brother just went through this with his 10 year old Rottweiler, that had leukemia. I asked him about Sam's quality of life -- "He's got a good quality of life; except for not being able to eat, not being able to walk on his own, the side-effects from the chemo, and the pain medicines he has to take." As he said those words, he realized it was time.

When I had another Husky put down quite a few years ago, he was 14, blind, deaf, incontinent, (which we dealt with), but then his liver and kidneys just started shutting down.

I spent a weekend deciding what to do, and three times, he came up to me and gave me "that look", like he was saying "I'm hurting, please let me go. It's OK. I know you've done everything you can. It's been a great life!" I still can't talk/type about it without crying.

The last dog I put to sleep was my Samoyed. She was 14, had arthritis, frequent stomach upsets, and was just old. One Friday night her stomach twisted. At the ER, she would have had 50% chance of surviving the surgery required. It would have cost $4,000 just to keep her alive through the weekend. I had absolutely NO access to that much money, so I had no choice. It really tore me up; it still does. Her age, though, made it a little easier. Sams and Huskies usually live only 10 - 12 years.

Other people I know going through this are having their vet come to their home to do it. If possible, that seems like a much less upsetting, warmer, calmer environment for the dog and the humans.

Please let us know how things are going, and when there's something we can help with. You are obviously one of "those dog people" (like me), who love and care for your babies with your whole heart. :love:

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Post Posted: Jul 22, 2007 8:26 am 
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Quote:
One very importance lesson they have taught me is the true meaning of love. Love is unconditional acceptance and deep appreciation.


That's beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

The most important thing to keep in mind is to do what's best for him. Try to be practical, even though your emotions are strong.


Last edited by light catcher on Jul 22, 2007 8:41 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Post Posted: Jul 22, 2007 8:39 am 
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Thank you wapiti5, those were the words I think I needed to hear. Not "knowing" but deciding it was time.

Aspenleaf, I so appreciate all you have said to me (in this thread and others). Yes, I think that maybe his current experiences of the pleasures in life (there are some) are completely overshadowed by his discomfort, pain and obvious embarrassment for how he has to do his business.

OMG, it is time. I am deciding this right now as I am writing. OMG, I can't stop sobbing.


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Post Posted: Jul 22, 2007 8:45 am 
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I know. It's a terrible loss, and one of the hardest things you'll ever have to do. But it's also one of the bravest, most unselfish thing you'll ever do.

You are not weeping alone. :cry:

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Post Posted: Jul 22, 2007 8:48 am 
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AspenLeaf wrote:
You are not weeping alone. :cry:


My thoughts are with you.


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Post Posted: Jul 22, 2007 8:54 am 
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Thank you.

I will tell you a beautiful story about the connection between Barkley and Spencer a little later. Right now I need to call a friend to talk this through.


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Post Posted: Jul 22, 2007 9:02 am 
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May I add one more thing:

My 14 year old Siberian LOVED chocolate. He could never really have any since it's poisonous to dogs. When it was his time, as my Mom drove us to the vet's office, I fed Nikki Milky Ways and Oreo cookies the whole way. :D

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Post Posted: Jul 22, 2007 9:14 am 
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CookNTyme, I extend my heartfelt love and empathy to what you are facing and realizing for your beloved dog. I am so sorry that this is also coming at a time of great financial difficulty for you. I admire your commitment to your dear sweet charges. I wish you well in your quest for assistance as you work and earn a way to be there for them and strive to make ends meet.

I posted awhile back when another cammer was facing this same agonizing decision about letting her beloved go. I call it the final kindness we give to our dear ones. I have had to grasp the reality many times in my life. It is always such a tremendously emotional time. I knew it was time to release my sheltie, Casey, when his bad days outnumbered his good, when his only REAL pleasure was sitting beside me, being petted and told what a good boy he was. Every other thing he did, eating, getting up with much assistance to go out, any and every aspect of his life, he only did at my request. He lived at my direction. It was not a quality life, it was an existence awaiting my next beckoning. And he would have continued on as long I kept encouraging him. I had to decide that a kind word from me did not counter every labored breath and discomfort or pain in each step. He was arthritic, had an enlarged heart and was on diuretics, I was not in a position to work at home but I could alter my day to go home several times and get him out to pee, he was so deeply wounded when he could not hold his water...so much regret in his eyes. I kept him as long as I did, for myself, not for him. The day I came to decide I had to release him, it was a remarkable day, a good day for him, his energy was up, his pain was minimal, he had his sparkle, I almost changed my mind. But I did not, he gave me that gift of a last happy day. I cradled his head in my arms, my face buried in the fur of his neck and whispered his name and told him what a very good dog he was, he gently wagged his tail a few times, then he gently left my grasp.
God Bless you for the forever loving home you have given your dogs. God bless you as say your good byes. You are not alone. We all know your grief and loss and embrace you at this time. Jo


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