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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?:rolleyes: ).....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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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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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.
Moms
 

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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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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. :wub: 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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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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Discussion Starter #7
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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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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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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I also agree with everyone else.
 

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just being devils advocate, it breaks my heart to see so many people say they lost their old gsd to anesthesia ....
I am sorry that is just plain ****TY medicine! Every day we do surgery where I work and most patients are VERY old. Oldest was 24 year old CAT, and yes it lived for quite a while after its procedure. Today it was a 14 year old ShihTzu with a IV/V heart murmur. Age is not a disease!

Now that being said, it sounds like your vet thinks that your dog has some type of herniation . In my experience this is something i would have a hard time doing on ANY large dog, much less a 12 year old. Gravity is not big dog friendly and its just harder for bigger dogs to recover from a back surgery . I worked for 5 years in a specialty center and most big dogs had complications, and very frequently, did not recover enough to walk with out assistance . I experienced it with my dog Griz.... and i didn't do the sx because my husband was in Iraq and I was home with 2 small kids... Griz was 120 pounds and i could not do the nursing care by myself ( and the $$ was prohibative with single military income). I DID do acupuncture and rehab and it was like voodoo. Unbelievable the improvement , with 2 herniated discs!

I would definately do SX on my old dog, depending on what it was. Broken tooth, sure extract it. Wound repair? yes. Injury to the eye requiring enucleation ? yes
Bloat? No Hemoabdomen ? no fractured pelvis? no hemilaminectomy or ventral slot ? No OSC in an hind leg with HD? no

Hope your pup is doing well and is comfortable
 

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I've been going to my vet since I was 14, some 34 years. The male vet has been there all along, and the gal, well she has been there for over 20 years.

I have asked the question, "If this was your dog, what would you do for him?" If you trust your vet, you can ask them what they would do if it was their dog.
 

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My father in law has been a vet all his life. He told me that most people wait too long but that he has been "guilty" of that himself as wel with his own dogs. I guess we all try to hang on one more day, and another because we just can't part with them. At that very moment, most people told him that they will never get another dog so they wouldn't have to go through this another time. But then sometime later they show up with a new puppy for its first shots. That has always made him happy. It is the cycle of life and dogs give us so much that their entire life is worth the heartache in the end.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Thank you again for everyone who responded. I sincerely appreciate the comments and thoughts relating to our problem.

Well we had the consult with the neurologist who discussed the MRI as being ultimately necessary to determine if it is a disk, cancer or something else. We discussed the risks of the anesthesia and felt that we should do it to determine whether treatment was an option or not. Nica had the MRI today. Sadly we were given the news that she has cancer in her spine and its growing into the spinal canal pressing on the nerves, this causing the paralysis in her legs.

The Neurologist brought up the images from a variety of perspectives (side and straight on views) so we could see the masses (two primary ones) as well as how the canal is being impacted the nerves being compressed. She recommended prednisone to see if that would provide any reduction in swelling and referred us to an oncologist. I don't think she felt radiation made sense, but she wanted us to know what our options are. She could not have been more caring and gentle delivering the news. It was hard to hear, more so for my wife as Nica is her first dog and she was her daily companion on walks, playing in the yard etc.

We got her home and gave her the prednisone. Tonight my wife spent a lot of time with her and realizes that even if the treatment is "successful" it's simply buying some time but at a substantial cost to Nica. We will probably wait a day or two, I don't know yet. But I think the decision has been made for us and sadly it means we will need to make that difficult decision for Nica and help her transition to doggie heaven. I have reminded my wife of the good times we have had with her and no matter what dogs live on a different life cycle than humans. We cant expect a dog to live into its 80's. But we also recognize that she has had a great life, running all day every day (we live on a corner lot and she would "chase cars" running in the yard (underground fence so truly in the yard), but from about 1-6 or 7 she would run about 5-10 miles a day going round and round in the yard. Everyone knew her....the UPS guy would slow down then "speed up" as she raced down the long part of the yard, she would spin when the bus stopped....getting ready...then when the bus left she was off like a rocket....running like crazy, she was awesome to see, playing with kids, herding the family on hikes in the woods (I would have her off leash and she would trot from the rear of the line to the front urging the last child to hurry up a bit and the first child to slow just a bit), mountain climbing, camping, road trips, on the pond on the winter with us. She has been a great great dog. I will miss her dearly as will our entire family. But I think my wife knows the right thing to do and that means not prolonging her pain. Fortunately we have medicine that seems to help her pain and she is sleeping soundly. But it is a hard time for sure. I am glad we went through the diagnostics to know what the issue is. But I don't think more is wise for her at this point.
Thank you again for listening. :(
 

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I'm sorry. It wasn't what we were hoping for you. But now you know, and you can choose the best course for her given all the information.
 

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I'm sorry. It wasn't what we were hoping for you. But now you know, and you can choose the best course for her given all the information.
Thanks seltzer. No it wasn't. But I wont prolong her life and cause her more pain. I want to remember her like this instead. This is her on the top of Mt Washington. I named this pic "waiting on a train" (the cog railway is behind her). :)
 

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I am so sorry you have terrible no good news :( I hope you can find comfort in knowing that when the time comes you have did every thing you could for your sweet girl. She's beautiful :)
Hugs!
 

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I am so very sorry, I know your heart is breaking. You have given Nica a great life and now, it sounds like it is time for you to help her go.

Use whatever days she has left to spoil her. Let her have the things she loves to eat and let her do the things that have always given her pleasure. Snuggle with her, play with her, giver her belly rubs and talk to her. If she is capable of a short little walk, take her. Let her lie in the grass with the sun on her back. Keep her as pain free as you can. And take a few pictures/videos for yourself if she is having a good day.

If you can, you might think about a vet that makes house calls come to the house for the end. I did with my Max and he died peacefully at home with no fear at all. As far as Max was concerned, the vet was the nice lady who came for a visit, petted him and gave him cookies. She gave him something to relax him and then after he was sleeping, she gave him the other medication. He died in my arms.
 

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Oh my, this is so sad. it always makes me tear up and bring back memories of my rainbow dogs. I wish you well and strength. What a beautiful dog.
Of all dogs lost, parting with a German Shepherd has been the way, way worst of all for me. Love her, spoil her. Hope she will pass gently.
 

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I am so sorry. I know it is difficult. I agree with everyone else. Keep her happy and comfortable for as long as you can. Don't give up too soon. You will know when it is time.
 
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