Thursday, March 29, 2012

Senior Pet Worries

My Dad and I got our first dog when I was just around 1, in the Philippines, where dogs did not have the same status as they have always had in the Western world. There are tons of baby pictures of me smiling delightedly with Snoopy, a mutt that looked somewhat like a Basenji. When we moved to Thailand, he lived with my Uncle, but always recognized us when we came to visit.

Since then, I've always either had a dog, or desperately wanted a dog. Just a couple of years after getting our next dog, Mitsy, my family became a two-dog household, bringing in Chloe the Beagle. After Mitsy passed away, we immediately adopted Swarley.

Now, Chloe is turning 14 next month. She's been sick since she was 10. She has Cushing's disease, which means that she has a tumor on her pituitary gland that causes her to produce too much adrenal hormone (this is probably totally wrong -- she's got a tumor on some gland that causes too much of some hormone). Basically, it means that she makes a whole lot of urine and there's something wrong with her liver. She drinks tons of water and pees a lot. She takes very expensive medication that costs us over $60 to refill, and we've been filling it for four years. We get funny looks at Walmart, because who would spend this much on medication for their dog. I ask you, who wouldn't? If you dog will DIE without it, you will find the $60 somewhere. She started out on a small dose of the medication, so that $60 refill used to last three months, but now has to be refilled more and more often.

We know that her current dose is probably no longer strong enough, because her urine production has increased, a lot. She's become somewhat incontinent. Sometimes, we've noticed that she's sleeping in a wet bed - because she just couldn't hold it. We try to be as diligent as possible, taking her out as regularly as possible when we're home with her. But now, that isn't enough.

We don't really know what to do. Taking her to the vet means doing a re-evaluation test of her current dosage. That test costs upwards of $500. We feel like awful people, but we're not sure that spending that much on a 14 year old dog is worth it. How much time could she really have left? And what if that test doesn't determine anything? We'll have spent that $500 for more of the same, more waiting and wondering what to do next.

We know that she still has a couple months in her. She can't control her urine, that's true, but that seems like a bad, lazy reason to make the decision. Other than that, she doesn't seem to be in any pain. She's grumpy, but she's been grumpy since before her Cushing's diagnosis, and well before she even hit double age digits. She's not interested in much, she sleeps, she eats, she sniffs around. It's tough though, having a pet that is becoming ancient. What's worse is that often times, B and I resent her. Resent her for having to constantly clean up after her. I do dog laundry more often than baby laundry! When we renewed our lease, they told us to call and schedule our carpet cleaning. I silently told myself that I would wait until... well, until they won't immediately be stained by our incontinent dog.

The issue at this point is how do you know when you're supposed to make the decision? When we made the decision for Mitsy, we were way too late. She was already so far gone, that I can't believe we waited that long. I very consciously do not want to make that same mistake. We did too much to try to help, too much to extend what was obviously already an uncomfortable life. But Mitsy's degeneration was quick. She lost the use of her back limbs, and we had time then. Time to take her to physical therapy, to walk her around the neighborhood in her sling. So far, the only real issue Chloe is having is that she can't hold her pee. She's showing signs of old age, of weakness, of grumpiness, but those aren't factors in my mind. Maybe sometime those will become issues, but right now, it feels like we're in a terrible state of limbo. Knowing that there isn't progress to be made, but knowing that we aren't at place where we can make any decisions. And the toughest part is trying to know when it's too early, and when it's too late.

1 comment:

  1. Over the years, we've had a lot of animals and have thus dealt with a of of animal end-of-life issues. Here is the thing: I have never felt I took an animal in too soon. Like you with Mitsy, my regrets are *always* that I've waited too long. And I've hated it when I've seen other people (family) wait too long.

    (I had one vet who would always try to talk me out of it. I hate that woman now, because I think she/I caused two animals needless suffering as a result.)

    If you're thinking this way now, you're close. You might be past time. And if you can, please don't let yourself feel guilty (the way I would and do) about the relief at the money/work you'll be spared. That's normal and the fact it *would* be a huge burden lifted is another good indicator that it's time.

    In any event: I'm sorry. This is the worst part of pet ownership. It's a big reason why we don't have pets now.