Our baby is nearly 14 - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 30 (permalink) Old 07-07-2013, 07:53 PM Thread Starter
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Our baby is nearly 14

Hi Everyone,

I visit here often to look for advice, and have posted once before. I'm here once again, looking for your thoughts. I apologize in advance for the long, rambling post. I'm not the best with explaining myself, so please bear with me.

I'm not sure if we need to be thinking that it's time to put our senior baby down soon or not. Everywhere I turn, people say (or I read) that "I'll know it's time when she tells me", but I really don't know if that's true. I actually did read one article where it said many people actually wait too long (they quoted an average of 6 months too long!) to put their dog down. And although I know our baby best, I'm afraid I may be "too close" to the situation to be objective.

So, here's some background...

Our WGSD/Malamute mix ("Grizzly") will be 14 in 2 months. We rescued her at 2 months old. She's always been a very active, sassy girl. And when I say "very active", that's putting it mildly!!! Physical activity has been her love her entire life. She has liked mental stimulation a tiny bit each day, but the physical is what she's always been about. Walks, walks, walks...wrestling, running, walks, and more long walks!!! Understandably, her abilities have lessened quite a bit the last year or so, but we altered things to suit her and keep her quite content and exercised. One activity that really helped her with her slowing down was to drive to a park, and walk a shorter distance, then have a nice sit-down for a while watching the kids play, other dogs walking by, bike riders, etc. After about an hour or so, we'd head home. She still would get several other walks per day, too, in various parks and neighborhoods, for variety of scenery and variety of things to sniff! Very often at home, she also wanted to lie in the front yard for many hours (leashed with me watching her for safety), and watch the neighborhood activity. This has been working wonderfully for the past few years.

Now, she rarely wants to stay at the park for more than a few minutes, and she rarely wants to lie out front, either, even if I'm out with her. She also is having a pretty hard time even getting into the car now. Many times she doesn't want her bedtime walk, either. In addition to this, she needs to be on a restricted diet due to pancreatitis, and the only things she'll eat that she's allowed to eat, she still needs to be coaxed into eating many times. I know this is because she wants more flavorful food, and not because she doesn't feel well. She's just being picky, as she's always been a picky eater. I don't blame her (I would hate that boring food, too), but giving her the flavorful food will also give her a painful tummy, so we need to stick to the bland food. Also, she's mainly refusing her Rimadyl now, and I have to force her to chew a pill once a day. She should have it twice/day, but she seems to be okay physically with once, and since I have to force her to have that these days, I only do it once now. (If I cut it out completely, she does limp way too much, so no Rimadyl is out of the question.) She still gets excited to do some things daily, but it's really for such a short amount of time total, that it's heart-breaking. She still wags her tail some, and will even do her "excited yell" and "trot" (if you can call it a trot now) over to the door when I get the leash, but even so, sometimes after that, she refuses to actually go outside. Also, I notice her tail is down very often now when she stands, which normally it's curled up over her tooshie. She'll still lay down and "wrestle" with my husband daily, which is really just a lot of loud barking and growling and trying to "get" his hand as he taps her nose or slaps the ground near her or pretends he's going to get her chewybone. But she barks quite vigorously, and does enjoy this with him about once a day. She does sleep a lot, but half the time I think it's from boredom, although she rarely wants to do things now, so it's sort of a catch-22. (We've tried many "mental stimulation" activities...she's just not interested in that either.) Otherwise, she's relatively "healthy", especially for a dog of her age, and still has great potty and poop control. She does struggle to get her back end up most times, and sometimes falls down, but is doing okay with that overall. She has many moles on her body, too, that she often licks and licks. They aren't cancerous, but they just keep popping up on her, and really it's not feasible to keep a cone on her for the rest of her life, so we just have had to basically "accept" that she'll lick them, and try hard to tell her no if she's bothering one too much. Lastly, she does NOT ever want to be alone any more, which is out of character for her, too. It's only been the last year and half, approximately, that she's just so upset when we leave her.

How do I really gauge "quality of life" in our situation? If she's "happy and engaged" for say two hours total, split up throughout the day, is that "quality"...or am I being blind to the fact that maybe it's time to let her go? I've seen people before, where I see their dog and just can tell the dog is miserable, but the parent/owner won't put them down. I know our baby isn't "miserable"...but is just a little happiness each day enough "quality"? Is she probably "fine" still, and this is more my issue than hers? It just really breaks my heart to see that she can't do, or doesn't want to do, all of things that she's always wanted/loved to do. We don't want to keep her here just "for us" (me and my hubby...no kids), but we also don't want to put her down too soon.
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post #2 of 30 (permalink) Old 07-07-2013, 08:16 PM
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If she is happy for a little bit every day, that makes it very hard. I had to struggle with that question with my 14 year old a couple of years ago. We left for a few days and our son took care of her. When we came back and I had a little distance, it was very apparent that her condition was miserable and was only going to get worse. We arranged for in home euthanasia and spent a few days spoiling her with shrimp and pets. Her passing was very peaceful.

Each situation is personal and different. In any case, it sounds like Grizzly has had a wonderful life. It doesn't sound like she's in pain. Our old girl had arthritis and was in a
lot of discomfort.
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post #3 of 30 (permalink) Old 07-07-2013, 09:03 PM
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I think if you can control most discomfort with one rimadyl a day, she still enjoys the wrestling, no potty issues and enjoys at least some walking, I'm not sure it time yet. Does she still like the car ride?
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post #4 of 30 (permalink) Old 07-07-2013, 10:47 PM Thread Starter
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Nigel, some days she seems to still enjoy the car ride, but mostly I think she just sort of tolerates them now, because she wants to get to our destination. She used to LOVE them! Some days, though, when my husband is driving, I look back at her and she looks absolutely miserable. We only go on short rides now, where before she enjoyed longer trips. Sometimes she just refuses to get in, which is not normal for her in her lifetime. Car rides have been a multiple-time-everyday thing for her since we've had her.

She also eats grass almost every day, which is "new", although she doesn't throw up or have stomach-gurgling, as long as we stick to the restricted diet.

Blehmannwa, I'm sorry to hear about what you went through with your sweet 14 year old. What you said about my baby being happy some each day making it hard is my biggest struggle. That is what makes this so hard to know. As I think I said in my original post, I don't think she's miserable every day, but that doesn't make deciding her quality of life an easy task. I sooo wish she could speak clearly to me. I'm afraid she'll try to speak to me, and I won't recognize what she's telling me in time.

She does go to the vet again in a few weeks for her rabies vaccine. He's known her for more than half her life, so I'll see what he says. I just always thought I would "know", but it's just heart-wrenching where we are.
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post #5 of 30 (permalink) Old 07-07-2013, 10:56 PM
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She sounds like she is not ready yet. It is hard to explain, but she will let you know. She will give you a look as if her spirit is no longer with her. Give her a hug every day and love her like it will be her last.

"A House Is Not A Home Without A German Shepherd"
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post #6 of 30 (permalink) Old 07-07-2013, 10:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GrizzlysMom View Post
How do I really gauge "quality of life" in our situation? If she's "happy and engaged" for say two hours total, split up throughout the day, is that "quality"...or am I being blind to the fact that maybe it's time to let her go? I've seen people before, where I see their dog and just can tell the dog is miserable, but the parent/owner won't put them down. I know our baby isn't "miserable"...but is just a little happiness each day enough "quality"? Is she probably "fine" still, and this is more my issue than hers? It just really breaks my heart to see that she can't do, or doesn't want to do, all of things that she's always wanted/loved to do. We don't want to keep her here just "for us" (me and my hubby...no kids), but we also don't want to put her down too soon.
We are dealing with exactly the same situation. Also a 14 year old. Had the talk with the vet already but DH and I couldn't agree yet if the time was right. Dog must have overheard the conversation and is perking up for the last few weeks. Unbelievable. He is more engaged but still sleeps most of the day. I realized that it could have been my own anxiety of the nearing end that would want to put him down and "it being over with". It is so hard to be constantly faced with the decision. So I changed my thoughts about it and put the entire plan on the shelf and enjoy that dog again. Maybe that helps him being happy as well. I am glad we waited but that is our situation. Good luck to you, it is tough when they walk towards the bridge.
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post #7 of 30 (permalink) Old 07-08-2013, 06:49 PM Thread Starter
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Loneforce, I always thought that I would see "that" look in her eye, and I don't see it yet, but her spark is fading. I do hope that I see it when the time comes. That will help make the decision much easier.

Wolfy Dog, I'm so glad that your baby "overheard" you, and decided to say "not yet!" I try so hard not to let my worry and sadness about Grizzly cloud my time with her, but it definitely has. I just worry constantly about her, and even wake up in the middle of the night, needing to check on her, even though my husband is up all night with her these days.

Thank you everyone, for your thoughts. It helps to hear from others that it doesn't seem like we're having our baby suffer needlessly. We'll keep on spoiling her, and trying to enjoy every second of her spunk that she has left, and I'll try to sneak in extra snuggles here and there (she is NOT a snuggly dog...much to my chagrin).
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post #8 of 30 (permalink) Old 07-08-2013, 07:00 PM
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she sounds like she's doing pretty darn good for a dog her age.

Having had a few seniors, around that age, I did just "know"..Its so hard to explain how I "knew", but I did and I think you will to.

They DO slow down, they don't exercise or want to go out as much, sleep alot, and I see this with my 13 yr old aussie who was a spitfire..she still has alot of spark left, and I see it every day,,she's deaf now, but thankfully I teach all my dogs hand signals when they are young..

I notice with Jynx, she does alot of pacing, follows me around alot more(she was always an independent girl!),,but doesn't have a problem with me being, say outside and her in..

She is still snappy and fresh with Masi (5yr old), still has no problems with pottying, has some arthritis, she's just a sweet old girl (and I hate saying "old")

It doesn't sound like Grizz is suffering at all, she's just in a different place in her life, and living with a senior can just be different than living with the youngsters..

Bless her heart that she is still hanging in there..Enjoy every moment

Diane
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post #9 of 30 (permalink) Old 07-08-2013, 10:01 PM
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I just want to say how blessed you are for having Grizzly so long! I think 14 is hard to attain for large breed dogs. You have taken great care of her! My Aussie lived to about 16, my collies about 9 or 10 years, it is hard to see old age set in. One collie bloated and passed, 1 became paralyzed suddenly and the vet couldn't find the reason, so 2 days later after no improvement and no life in his eyes (you will know that look when you see it) and at the suggestion of the vet, we helped him cross the bridge. My Aussie, we helped her go as she begin to pass, it was just time.

My GSD is 4, and I try not to even think of her aging, I don't ever want to be without her.

I hope each day you have left with Grizzly is a blessing and that you get many more "good" days.
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post #10 of 30 (permalink) Old 07-09-2013, 05:28 PM
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So sorry to hear your girl is losing interest.

I have a 13 year old GSD who still likes her pets & food, but has mostly lost interest in toys/walks. She has lost most control in her rear legs but is still continent. We have to use a sling now to take her out to potty, and she will comply with anything but doesn't respond with the same enthusiasm to her name, or to "want to go potty?".

The vet says DM, and she does not show she's in any pain. She's on Rimadyl for any little bit of arthritis pain, and that seems to be working OK. Last vet visit, though, my vet said he had recently learned about Tramadol for large dogs who were having mobility issues and seemed to be "resigned" and losing interest in things. He says it helps them be a little less apathetic. Tramadol has very few if any side effects, so we said let's try it.

So far it seems to be making a small difference. She puts out a little more effort when we use the sling to help her up, and she is responding more to her name, and at feeding time. She is also trying to follow us around the house more, and showing more interest in the puppy. Of course this could be placebo effect, and we're supposed to give it a month to really evaluate it. But Tramadol is fairly cheap, it's a small pill, and if it's making any difference it's worth it. You might like to consider asking your vet about it or doing some googling.

Best of luck with your senior girl,
Cassy
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