Surgery or not given her age? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-20-2017, 02:47 AM Thread Starter
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Surgery or not given her age?

So our 12 yo GSD Nica has developed/is developing loss of control of her hind legs. It is somewhat minor at this point but she needs help getting up (occasionally does it on her own), and some times is much more pronounced than others. She has slight dragging of her right leg. Some times gets the "drunken sailor" walk. We have been to the vet, to an ER at a local vet school and are in the process of scheduling an appt with a neurologist.


This is what we know- DM has been pretty much ruled out- it is more pronounced on her right side than her left (vet suggested DM is usually equal on both sides), she does appear to have some pain associated (also not generally associated with DM) with it although she is on NSAID's so that may have mitigated some of the pain which led the vet at the vet school ER to push us to have blood sent for the genetic test for DM. Our breeder has said her dogs have been tested for years and not found to have it and also DM is very rare in 100% East German Shepherds (which is all this breeder has).


The X-Ray's today show arthritis (which the vet had prescribed the NSAID's for a few weeks ago) and they believe there may be some disk and/or nerve issues going on causing this. I made a doggie wheelchair for her although we have not used this yet. Tonight I made a harness so my daughter can help her up from the hind quarters.


We will know more when we see the neurologist but here is my question (I know....finally right? ).....she is 12....would you subject your dog to an MRI and then potentially surgery? Each will require full sedation which has its own risks. Plus I am not sure what we would see from an improvement in her health or for how long?


The breeder has said she would not recommend surgery on a 12 yo dog. A very close friend who has raised many dogs himself, his Dad raised and trained dogs for years said he did not think it was a great idea given the anesthesia, the drugs and rehab that would be needed. He said he felt the best thing would be to make sure she is comfortable for as long as possible and then kindly say our goodbyes.


Its a very hard decision in our house. Its my wife's first dog and she is willing to do absolutely anything for even a few months of potential better life. I am not so sure that this makes sense for Nica (not to mention the $9K should both the MRI and surgery be done). I think the quality of her life matters and I also think we will have to make tough decision(s) when the time comes because she (Nica) can't make them for herself.


I'm just curious what others feel about this and welcome all thoughts/suggestions. Thanks!


Here she is last winter helping me in the snow.
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post #2 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-20-2017, 06:07 PM
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She is a beautiful girl and I think all of us on this forum appreciate how heartbreaking it is to have to make these kind of decisions as our beloved friends age.


Personally, I would not opt for surgery if she was mine because I would not want to put her through the pain of healing and rehab at her time of life. It may be that if you talk to your vet, you might be able to find a middle ground. When my 13 year old yellow lab developed mouth cancer, we decided not to do chemotherapy, but we did have the tumor in his mouth removed. The vet also gave us a small amount of a steroid pill, I cannot remember the name, but I only used it when Max's back legs became like noodles. After a couple of days, he would be able to walk again and then I would not give it till the next time.


On our end, we had a ramp built for the stairs and the car and a sling to help Maxie walk and we gated off any of the floors not carpeted so he would not slip and fall. Other than that, we spoiled him and kept him comfortable every way we could. That is what I would do if Nica were mine.
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post #3 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-20-2017, 06:18 PM
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I would not do surgery.

I lost my 2nd GSD after anesthesia at 10 years old and she was pretty healthy!

Have you considered Chiropractics followed by an Acupuncture treatment and possibly a TENS machine attached to the acupuncture needles? This is non invasive and could help. Several treatments would be involved.

This needs to be done by someone certified in both modalities.

If you tell me what state you are in, I can give you a list of Registered Holistic Veterinarian's that use these techniques.

I feel so bad for you and your wife.
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post #4 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-20-2017, 06:29 PM
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I have never put my oldies through extensive therapies. To me there is an end to this beautiful life and I want them to leave in peace. I will not opt for extending a life with a few miserable months.
I know how heartbreaking these decisions are but I never regretted saving them from surgeries, anesthesia and unnecessary healing pain, not to speak of the stress seeing the vet all these times in their old age. 12 years old is a very respectable age for a GSD. Well done.
I would love and spoil her, control her pain until she lets you know that her time has come. Warm thoughts your and her way.
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post #5 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-20-2017, 09:38 PM
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For me, I would not. Our Keefer will be 12 in August and he's been slowing down for awhile. He's still happy and enjoying life, but I would be surprised if he made it another year. At this point, anything is gravy. There's just no way I'd put him through a potentially risky surgery and a long recovery period at his age, because it's more important to me to keep him comfortable and enjoying life as long as possible. It's not worth it if he's miserable for any part of whatever time he has left, even if it buys him a couple more months.

If you do the surgery it's unlikely that she will live more than a year beyond that, maybe two. But she's already 12, so it may not even be that long. Is she in pain? Did you have the DM test done, or does the vet just think it's unlikely? I think you're on the right track regarding quality of life vs longevity. I hope you can convince your wife that that's the way to go. We did have one dog live to 14-1/2, and in retrospect, we should have let her go a couple weeks sooner than we did. Sneaker was our first GSD together and my first dog as an adult, and I will always regret that I did not force the issue with my husband and insist that it was time. He was just not ready to let her go yet. Finally he could not ignore that she had given up but by then she'd suffered more than she should have.

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post #6 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-20-2017, 10:22 PM
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I'm so sorry this is happening! I agree with the others, I couldn't put a 12 year old through the surgery, or the rehab after it. When my Dobe was twelve she had some fatty tumors and my vet said that putting her under at her age was more dangerous than just living with them. I would be afraid to take the risk.
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post #7 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-20-2017, 10:28 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you everyone for such honest and heartfelt responses. I know it's hard losing a dog (I still have my tags from my GSD I had as a kid). And I want to be smart about this, if it's something that is easy to fix, then I'm for it. But two sedations and surgery, I don't think makes sense for the reasons you've all articulated. Thanks again for the feedback. I will let everyone know how it progresses with her.
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post #8 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-20-2017, 11:16 PM
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I agree with everyone else. I have two girls who will be 12 in August. Jenna is still climbing up on the counter in her area. Babs is fatter and is have a tougher time getting around. She is missing a step here or there. So I understand that the inevitable may be sooner rather than later.

Evenso, as Babsy has now broken the 90 pound spot, I have put her on a bit of a diet. While she loves to help me eat, and I kind of like giving left overs to her, I have limited her kibble, so that removing 5 to 15 pounds of weight may help with her overall mobility, and maybe she will have a better quality of life over the next so many months.

There may be less invasive ways for you to help your girl as well. If she is at all overweight, cutting back might make a lot of sense. Some people swear by accupuncture, and others by chiropractors. If she is having a nerve-spine issue, a realignment might take some pressure off of those points. Also, if she does have any swelling going on, getting that under control right away, with steroids/antiinflammatories -- right now you aren't concerned about whether there may be long-term effects of using these drugs. Think as though she is on hospice. Give her the drugs if they make her feel better, if they help in the short run.

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post #9 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-21-2017, 11:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wolfy dog View Post
I have never put my oldies through extensive therapies. To me there is an end to this beautiful life and I want them to leave in peace. I will not opt for extending a life with a few miserable months.
I know how heartbreaking these decisions are but I never regretted saving them from surgeries, anesthesia and unnecessary healing pain, not to speak of the stress seeing the vet all these times in their old age. 12 years old is a very respectable age for a GSD. Well done.
I would love and spoil her, control her pain until she lets you know that her time has come. Warm thoughts your and her way.
Wise words, Wolfy! The past couple years have been brutal for me, losing seven, yes, SEVEN, dogs due to old age, one to canine hemolytic anemia, and one to torsion/bloat. I am a retired hospice nurse, and I provided end-of-life care for my dogs as I was able. My last Frenchie went to the Bridge recently, and it was almost a relief that he went fairly quickly. He was only sick about a week, that we were aware of. He was pretty stoic. I am so sorry the OP is going through this. Soooo hard. It never gets easier. If your dog has been loved and cared for, let that be a comfort to you. Again, so sorry you are going through this.
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post #10 of 22 (permalink) Old 06-22-2017, 09:20 AM
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I also agree with everyone else.

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