Traveling Dog Lady: 5 Do-It-Yourself Ways to Test Your Senior Pet's Health Status

Monday, June 30, 2014

5 Do-It-Yourself Ways to Test Your Senior Pet's Health Status

I've been wearing my veterinary hat this past week with Hobie (and Charlie Brown who got stung by a horsefly -- OUCH!).  [No, I'm not a veterinarian - just a pet mom doing the best she can.] Hobie had some kind of "attack" the other night, and we really thought we were going to lose him.  I feel that we saved his life, and we were given a great gift -- more time with our beloved senior dog.

I've had a ton of experience (and am so lucky to be able to say that) with senior pets.  But it's been a while, and this sort of snuck up on us.  Suddenly Hobie is "old".  We haven't had a senior pet since Maggie.  It took me a minute to get up to speed again!  Hobie needs me. There are things that need to be done that no one else but I will do. He communicates with me, and I know what he's trying to say. No one else has that connection.

My buddy needs me, and I'd do anything for him.  It means giving up my summer vacations and trips to Cape Cod this summer.  It means sticking close to home and taking a "stay-cation".  It means sleeping on the couch, in case he needs to relieve himself in the middle of the night.  He is not able to bark.  We think he may have "lar-par" (laryngeal paralysis).  We will be having that checked out by the vet, and if he is a candidate for lar-par surgery, perhaps it will improve his quality of life.  He can't wag his tail because of paralysis in his spine.  His back legs collapse, sometimes.  Sometimes he slowly spins in circles with one leg "stuck", almost like a painful-to-watch ballet pirouette.  But he's happy.  He is always with us, right in the middle of the room, "where the action is".  He isn't hiding in a corner, brooding or depressed.  He greets us at the door, even if the other boys knock him over in their enthusiasm.  He gets up, dusts himself off, and participates.  He reminds me when it's time for his medicine!  He is not ready to die.

Today (and it isn't even cool outside) the darned dog walked up the long stairway from the backyard up onto the deck!   He hasn't been able to do that for a couple of weeks.  He still cannot go DOWN the stairs.  I carry him out the front door (only 4 steps) and we walk to the back yard.  It's our together time, twice a day. This morning,  I turned my back for a second, and there he was up on top of the deck! The little bugger!  So, yeah, he's having a good day.

A few people have told me we should euthanize our dog.  One was just someone who doesn't get it -- that this is a member of our family! You don't just "kill the dog" because the dog has become an inconvenience.  Others are fellow dog parents who have had to go through it themselves. Everyone wagging their finger at me, telling me not to be selfish.  Me?  Selfish?  Sorry, but I am one of the most un-selfish people I know, and people are always telling me how un-selfish I am.  So, no, it is not Hobie's time yet, and when it is, we will "do the right thing".  We will do what is best for the dog.

We are not beginners at pet parenting, far from it.  We've had a lot of elderly pets.  But as hard as it is to believe, we've never had to euthanize any of our many (many!) pets.  They've all been taken by mother nature (or, in two cases, accidents) before we had to make that decision.  Sometimes on the eve of the decision... "I'll call the vet in the morning..."the animal passes away in the night.  We've been blessed not to have had to make this decision. It's clear to me that, probably because Hobie is the one I've loved the most, he's going to be "the one" that we will have to make the decision for.  And I dread it, I will not lie about that.  But not today.  Today is a good day.

Wondering how to determine if my pet needs euthanasia, I started searching around online.  Experts say there are five things you should keep track of, and if any of these become problematic that requires you to evaluate your pet's quality of life.  Evaluate these things daily, and keep a journal.  Remember that pets sometimes "rally" or bounce back, only to have a terrible day the next day.  Here are the five quality-of-life signs you should watch out for:

  • Peeing
  • Pooping
  • Eating
  • Drinking
  • Playing

The first four (peeing, pooping, eating and drinking) are going great for Hobie.  The last one, Playing, was difficult to determine because he's always been one of these dogs who doesn't really play.  He "kills" toys instead of playing with them.  He's a relatively "serious" dog, even as a puppy he was like that.  But, I picked up one of the other boys' antlers off the floor and held it up.  Hobie came lumbering over and grabbed it in his jaws!  Check!  Yep, playing!

We get another day with Hobie today.  A gift.  And it's a good day.  He's calm.  He's in a cool spot in the house.  His ears are forward and his eyes are alert.  He ate breakfast.  He has fresh water.  We took our walk together from the front yard, to the back yard.  Then, dog-gone it, he climbed the stairs!