Disclaimer: My post goes into detail to the signs leading to my dog's eventual death and what was happening to him on the day of his death. I hope this post helps those with GSHs know the signs that their GSH is nearing death in hopes of preparing you. My dog's death hit me suddenly; in part because I felt naive and unprepared to come to terms with the inevitable as well as the rapid process that occurred in my dog. Lastly, I think this will help with my healing process, and thus, I hope others can help me too. Thanks in advance for you kind words, I really appreciate it!
P.s. My avatar and the attached photo is my boy. The attached photo was taken four days before his death. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to take this photo and his smile says everything about him
A little background on my dog: Giga was born on May 1st, 1999. I was nine years old at the time my father bought the dog. It was really spontaneous and unplanned by my family. I often read about people concerns about finding the right breed and the right bloodline, but in all honestly, I don't think it matters. It's overly hyped up matter. The important thing is giving a dog a loving home. Anyways, we just check the classifieds in the newspaper and found a person who was selling their puppies. The owner had a farm where he had a male and female gsh on site protecting his farm. We never asked about history, bloodline, etc. We just simply picked a puppy that we felt attached to. As I mentioned, I was nine years of age at the time and I was an only child. As you can imagine, my dog became a brother to me. It really felt amazing growing up as a child, becoming a teenager and now an adult, to go life's major transition with him by my side. For a solid 11 years, Giga didn't experience any health problems or concerns.
Signs of aging and health concerns:
At around 11 years of age, we noticed our dog was walking slower than usual. It would take him longer to walk up the stairs and he was on average, walking at a slower pace on our walks.
At 12.5 years of age, we noticed our dog showed a drastic decrease in energy levels. He was sleeping the majority of the time (day and night). He showed little signs of enthusiasm for walks, food, play, etc. We took him to the vet, where they told us that he had very low levels of thyroid hormones, which we learned was the reason for his decrease in energy. The vet gave us 0.8mg of Thyro-Tab, which is a blue tablets containing Levothyroxine Sodium. The vet also recommended that we give him vitamins for joint support for prevention. We brought him the 500/100mg Glucosamine & Chondoritin vitamins. After giving him the thyro-tab and the joint support, we noticed a drastic improvement in his energy levels for the next several months.
At 13 years of age (approx 6months before his death), we noticed that he was moving and getting up much slower. It would take him a while to go from standing to the sitting position and then an even longer time to lie down. Also, he tried walking down stairs when he then fell down (luckily only a couple of steps). After his fall, we blocked the stairs from that day on in order to prevent another accident. Also happening at this time, my dog was experiencing bowel incontinuance. This happened on a daily basis. It was sad to see him that way. It seemed as though he had lost overnight the ability to hold his bowels. There would be times where he would sleep and he would dispel his bowels without even knowing it. There were other times when he would be sitting near us and all of a sudden, he would start to release his bowels. I think this was one of the very big alarm belsl that my dog was nearing the end.
A couple weeks before his death
The weeks before his death, he would experience the frequent need to go outside. He would just go outside and lie down in the background for hours. We would call him to come inside, but minutes later he would ask to go outside and do the same thing. Also, he drank an abnormal amount of water. He seemed to be thirsty most of the time, especially during the night.
Approx a week before his death:
The need to go outside increased and the duration he spent outside was increased. The need for water stayed constant, but again, it was an abnormal amount of water. The strange thing is that my dog's appetite never diminished; instead it increased, in particular with bones and human food. In addition to these, my dog was breathing heavier. He would be lying down and be panting as if he went on a long run. Another interesting thing that happened during the night. I woke up in the middle of the night to hear him growling. As I went downstairs, he was looking at the stairs very intently. As I started to pet him, he went to the door requesting to be let out. He went outside for several minutes, and then stood by the stairs looking up and walking around very anxiously. Seeing this odd behavior, I decided to let him go upstairs (he walked very slowly) and then he approached my parents bedroom (he slept there the entire time before his fall). It was at this point I had a gut feeling that he had this need to go and see his sleeping spot that he had. You often hear dogs knowing when they're near death, and I had that sudden realization that he wanted to check out our rooms one last time. I remember helping him walk downstairs and started to hold him and console him thinking this was the night it was going to happen. I cried with him as he lied down with me and we spent a wonderful time just holding each other. He luckily survived that night
After this incident, I left for the States on the 9th of November to visit my girlfriend (I went to the States for college). I said goodbye to him and that I'll be back really soon. However, I didn't know that this was going to be the last time I would ever see him. My dog passed away on the 11 of November at 11am (remembrance day!). Deep down, I feel as if he knew that I wouldn't be able to handle his passing well. It's like he knew he had to fight on for an extra couple of days to spare me hurt and anguish. I remember coming in from the flight and my father told me about Giga's passing. I just stood there in my father's arms crying for minutes unable to comprehend what just happened. People often say pets are just "animals," but honestly they're so much more. You become so attached to them and they become such an integral part of your life that it hurts so much to lose them. Waking up and going downstairs is extremely weird. He would always greet me and now he's not there. Coming home from work and seeing him not there hurts... The pain is terrible. So much grief and so much sadness!
The day of his day according to my parents:
My dog requested to go outside again. About half an hour passes when my mother notices that he went to the very far corner of the background (something he does not do). Upon calling him to come inside, my dog gets up really slowly. My mother notices that his legs are shaking a lot and he was having a hard time retaining his balance. Then he collapsed in the backyard. My parents carried him in the car. They noticed his breathing decreased and became more shallow. Arriving at the local vet, he said his gums were very pale. The vet wasn't able to do much and he gave my parents the address to the animal ER. When my parents arrived in the ER parking lot, they described the following: "we parked in the ER. We looked back at him, and he look back at us. He took inhaled and exhaled deeply twice, and then he passed away."
This whole experience took me by surprise. I'm really happy to know that his passing was natural and painless for the most part. We didn't do an autopsy, but we heavily suspect that he died of a heart failure. The thing that strikes me is that I just don't understand how his health went downhill in his final year and a half. For a solid 12 years he was a very healthy dog. I always suspected that it would be a gradual progression. I guess this post looks to help you become aware of the possibility. Please be aware of the signs. I hope this helps some of you as I know this definitely helped me talk it over with the people on this forum. I love GSHs and I'm so thankful he was such a loving and affectionate friend to me!