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Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

How do you cope when your loved pet is very sick?

Asked by Earthbound_Misfit (13139points) August 9th, 2016

My 14-year-old dog is very sick. While we were away, his appetite declined and it’s now almost non-existent. We’re coaxing him to eat with anything we can get him to take. However, he is also vomiting and has the runs. He’s lost a lot of weight.

We’ve been to the vet (and we’re seeing a specialist now). They’re doing tests. So far they haven’t found anything conclusive. It could be anything from doggy Crohns to cancer. We’ll know more tomorrow when the latest tests come back and we can decide what to do next.

I’m feeling very pessimistic at the moment and just heartbroken frankly. I have to go to a work thing over the next couple of days, and I can’t avoid that. I’m dreading not being here. I know there’s nothing I can do, and I’m not sure why I’m asking this as I know I’ve just got to wait and hope he’s okay or to make sure we do the right thing for him. I think I’m really just sharing.

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40 Answers

Coloma's avatar

Awww….poor guy. Was he home alone or were other family members home during that time? I ask because he might have ingested some foreign matter, like a sock or…and may have a blockage of some sort. Have they taken any x-rays?

Will he be home alone again or will someone be with him while you are away? I know this must be very hard, to be away when he needs you and you want to be with him. Hopefully you will get some answers tomorrow. Yes, not much you can do until you know exactly what is the matter. best wishes to you all!

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

My daughters were with him while we were away and he’s had an ultrasound to check for any blockages. They can’t see anything.

There will be someone with him almost all the time. When I’m not here my daughter will be and my husband is going to work from home for most of tomorrow and Friday.

It is hard. There isn’t really anything we can do but try to tempt him to eat. I don’t want to do that too much if he’s going to vomit or get diarrhoea again. He does have some anti-nausea medication too.

Thanks @Coloma.

gondwanalon's avatar

I know just how you feel. It’s so hard when your geriatric pet is suffering. Wish I had a suggestion that would help in some way.

I’m now going through this with my 16 year old female cat. Since last December she’s been going through cycles of feeling good and acting normal to having the following symptoms:

Bloody stools
Crying in pain
Weight loss (from 12 lbs to 7 lbs)
Lots of strain while pooping
Not using the cat litter box

Took her to the veterinarian 3 times. All tests including stool parasite analysis, blood chemistry and cell counts were normal. Vet prescribed a high fiber diet and probiotics and she started eating, pooping and peeing and she gained 2 pounds. Also she started using the cat box again about half the time. I’ve had to confined her to one room of the house (a 18’ X 23’ sun room). I can’t trust her in the rest of the house as she will poop and pee anywhere.

Now she seems to be relapsing again. I can tell because she has hardly eaten anything for the last 2 days. I’ll be taking her to the vet again tomorrow. My wife wants to have her euthanized. I say that it’s too early for that.

Good health to you and your elderly dog.

ZEPHYRA's avatar

All the best for the poor little soul. I am certain that your family will keep an extra close eye on him and keep you informed. Other than what you are doing, believe me there is no more you can do. Just wait and see. Your love and support means the world to this creature and he is very lucky to be ending his life in your hands. All the best to you all, either way the dog will be content.

ucme's avatar

Our dog Penny died 3 days after the xmas before last, she was only 4 & full of life absolutely adorable. She’d apparently eaten something nasty on our walk & contracted food poisoning which we had no time to react to, she died before our eyes on the living room floor 2hrs before her vet’s appointment, we were all completely heartbroken, i’m crying as I write this at the memory of how loving she was & the sadness her untimely death brought to us, her family.

None of this will be helping you @Earthbound_Misfit because we had no time to prepare or wrap our heads around what was happening, one day she was fine & the next, well, was like being hit by a train. Just know I completely empathise & you’re in my thoughts, I wish him & you well, all the best.

janbb's avatar

@ucme I remember you writing about losing Penny and how sad it was.

@Earthbound_Misfit I had something more similar to yours. My beloved gormless Prince was 14 and a half. He fell down the stairs one night and then vomited and peed. We took him to an after-hours hospital where they detected a huge internal mass. They rehydrated him, kept him for a few days and then sent us back to our regular vet. The vet said we could operate which would be risky and painful or we could just treat every day left as a gift. He made it til just after Christmas – another 6 weeks – and then we had to put him to sleep.

There was a hole in the house in the places he used to be, especially by my reading chair.

It hurts but you have to let them go if they are suffering. You’ll know when.

It is such a shame that our animal companions live such short lives.

jca's avatar

My parents have a bassett hound that is 15 and is literally on its last legs. It was just at the vet/kennel when they went on a trip and the vet discovered the dog had hookworm. They treated that and she is eating better, but still, it’s like a geriatric person, can barely walk and if she falls down, she can’t get up.

In your case, @Earthbound_Misfit, my thoughts are with you. I know it’s stressful when you have to work and you have an issue like this. Extra stressful, I should say, because your mind is not on work.

I always say the more pets you have the more heartache you’ll have. It’s inevitable they’re probably going to go before we do and it’s so hard. Hugs to you.

canidmajor's avatar

Oh, @Earthbound_Misfit, I am so sorry to hear this. this is the hardest part of loving a pet. I’ll be thinking about you and your family and your old pup, please, if you’re up for it, let us know what happens.

Lemley's avatar

When you’ve done everything you could possibly do, and still the situation doesn’t seem to get much better… you just have to wait. Even if you can’t be there, you know you did all you could. Your dog 100% knows you love him. they always know
I’m crying just having read your story and everyone’s comments..
My animal friends are both alive and doing well, luckily. I do have a story to share, though. A couple years ago, my cat vomited like six times the same night (a Saturday night) and he wouldn’t eat anything at all, wouldn’t drink water either, so I took him to this 24hour pet clinic. They kept him for the weekend and I took him back home on Monday, after a bunch of tests and vets making me think my cat would die or something. He did have a minor problem with his stomach, but things went well and he was all happy and normal after a few days of medication and a special diet. The actual bad part is how they treated him at that clinic. They put him in a tiny cage (he’s a big cat, he could barely fit in there), and that awful young vet that was supposed to act like a doctor there, didn’t know shit about animals, obviously. He normally is so nice and quiet, but there I heard him hiss for the first time. When I brought him home he was dirty and smelly, and was even afraid of me. He didn’t even let me sit close to him for the first days, and whenever I tried to touch him he looked frightened. Like he thought I would hit him or something. (I’m emphasizing here because he always trusts me so much, he even let me wash him when he decided to sit in a bowl full of sauce.). But eventually things went back to normal…

I really hope there is a chance for your beloved friend to recover, please stay strong.
I wish you and your dog the best.

ucme's avatar

@janbb Yeah, still hurts, I melt into a teary mess whenever I think of her, big daft softy that I am

MrGrimm888's avatar

The truth is, you cant. The way we love our animals is like a family member. My dog is my daughter.

George Carlin once said that ‘buying a pet is , is like buying a small family tragedy. ’ With, of course, the likelihood of a human outliving the pet.

I worked as a technician in a emergency veterinarian hospital for 9 years. We had cardiology, oncology, neurology and surgical specialists there as well. Nobody would like to hear the negative things I saw there, but we saved some animals too. But I had a soot ,by a radio shack, where I would pull over to cry on the way home some nights. Even if you don’t know an animal long, you can form a bond with them. And seeing the owners reactions to the problems that their pets dealt with was terribly sad. So much grief and misery. I don’t miss that part of the job. But just having the pleasure of interacting with so many animals was worth it. They’re better than us.

I wish you the best @Earthbound Misfit. You have my condolences. Good luck.

Peace n love.

BellaB's avatar

It is always awful when our pets aren’t feeling well. So hard to know how far to push treatment.

I try to cope by focusing on the animal. Are they in pain? is it pain we can help them manage? do they still seem to be overall comfortable?

When our old girldog was in her last days, she simply got more and more tired. She’d been blind for a few years so we had to monitor her travels up and down stairs very carefully as she got tired and weak. I lay on the floor and read to her every night as it seemed to make her very happy. She was a happy girl to the very end. We were able to manage her pain and allow her to fade peacefully with us, without having to deal with the torment of travel and strangers.

marinelife's avatar

I absolutely don’t cope. Two nights ago our 16-year-old dog was having digestive issues. He was in so much discomfort. I would trade places with him if I could. I can’t bear to see him in pain. My husband and I were both up all night with him (no sleep).

I am so sorry for what you’re going through. We have decided no vet treatment and no heroic measures, just palliative care.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Earthbound_Misfit I am so, so sorry. It is so very sad.

ZEPHYRA's avatar

@BellaB and @marinelife bless you both for treating them so tenderly. Such lucky animals to have had you.

Coloma's avatar

Any word yet on the test results?

LornaLove's avatar

I’m really sorry to hear that your dear pet is ill. It really is so heartbreaking because the worst part is they can’t tell us exactly how they feel. They do feel love and comfort though. Can he drink fluids at all? To stop him becoming dehydrated. I do hope he just has something like an off tummy as they can’t find anything.

Do let us know how he is getting along.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

Thank you so much everyone. You have no idea how much it helps to hear your stories and to have your care and support. It’s a truly horrible time and I feel quite helpless to help him. I’ll write to each of you individually later, but I’ll give you an update now.

He’s pretty much stopped eating at all and is shedding weight quickly. We’ve taken him for an ultrasound that shows he has intestinal inflammation, but no growths, no blockages and pretty much left the vet going “I really am not sure what’s going on here?”. Oliver is a conundrum. So we had more blood tests to check his protein levels etc.

The options we have been given are that he has an endoscope to see if the vet can find any more info. Or he could have surgery to see if they can find out what the problem is. In both of those options, he would need sedation (endoscope), anaesthetic (surgery). The blood tests show his protein levels have dropped more, which isn’t surprising since he won’t eat. However, it makes it much less likely that he’d survive exploratory surgery and increases the risk during an endoscope AND the results will take four to five days to come through and frankly, I don’t think he has that long if he doesn’t eat.

So our only two options are euthanasia or cortisone. We can start him on cortisone and see if it makes any difference. It should boost his appetite, but might lead to some further muscle wastage, but it’s really the only option we have at this point. And if he picks up, we can have the other tests later if we want to go that way. So very soon (in an hour or so) we’re going to take him for an injection. It could go the other way and send him further downhill, but I don’t see that we have any option but to try.

The frustrations are that he was super healthy until he wasn’t. And, there is no clear evidence of exactly what is wrong. As long as he’s happy and has quality of life, I’m good to have him treated, but I totally agree with those counselling about ‘knowing when it’s time to say enough’. Even though he won’t eat – and we have tried EVERYTHING – he seems pretty happy. So, I’ll let you know how things go. I feel better being able to DO something. We had a public holiday here yesterday so we were really in limbo with no results and no answers and he wouldn’t eat. So we spent much of last night crying together and he got to sleep on the bed in between us. I think he’ll be glad if we stop dripping all over him.

Thanks everyone, I will write back to you all later on.

MrGrimm888's avatar

@Earthbound Misfit. Yes, try steroids. They can work miracles . Be ready for increased water intake, and therefore urine output.

In addition, having inflammation in the intestines can mean that there WAS a foreign body that has passed through. Dogs can digest amazing things. It’s possible that he had a blockage that finally worked itself out. The resulting inflammation may simply clear up, restoring him to normal.

Keep hope alive.

Peace n love.

canidmajor's avatar

Recently my old boy (15½ years) has been refusing his food. Amazingly, a combo of peanut butter and puppy food has been working. I am aware every day of his age and declining abilities, I’ll be rooting for your pup!

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

Thanks @canidmajor. That’s all we can do hey? I’ll post an update in a few days. I hope your old fellow picks up too. It’s so hard to watch them suffering and feeling unwell.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Our old dog has hip problems. We started giving her ibuprofen every 2 or 3 days and it really, really helps her a lot. I heard that it can cause liver problems “In the long run.” Well, what’s the long run in this case? She’s German Shepherd and she’s about 13 years old. It gives her relief now.

BellaB's avatar

I hope the cortisone gives some comfort and stimulates appetite as well as thirst. As noted, be prepared to keep that water bowl topped up.


Setanta mentioned something the other day that I’d forgotten. For some reason, when our two old dogs were old old, they stopped drinking water downstairs and would only drink from bowls upstairs. We never figured out what that was about.

Babies and animals – so much guesswork when you don’t all speak the same language.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Can dogs get dementia?

Coloma's avatar

@Dutchess_III Sure, I had an old siamese cat “Jerome”, that became totally demented in his old age. I had to sit on the floor and coax him to eat and then he would just start to wander away and I would say ” kitty food!” and back he came, again and again and again. It took like 30 minutes to get him to eat his can of cat food. haha

@Earthbound_Misfit We’ll be waiting with baited breath to hear more updates. Thinking of you. :-)

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

An update on Ollie. He’s eating! Lots! His appetite has returned and he’s a happier boy. We know this is a reprieve and not a cure, so we’re just giving him lots of love and attention (and food) and enjoying however long we have with him. We know this is a last chance thing and it’s really just bought him some time, but we’re very pleased to see our happy, hungry dog back. Thanks again for the support everyone. I’ll keep you informed with his progress. Hopefully, he will put a bit of weight on. He’s very skinny.

BellaB's avatar

@Earthbound_Misfit , that is nice news on a rainy morning. Keep tempting Ollie with treats/snacks he enjoys and offering him plenty of water.

Enjoy your happy boydog.

canidmajor's avatar

It’s always a relief when they’re eating! I’m so glad to hear this, @Earthbound_Misfit. :-D

Coloma's avatar

@Earthbound_Misfit Oh, good news indeed! Did they ever figure out what the underlying problem is?

marinelife's avatar

I’m so glad it worked, even if it is only a for a while.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Oh, how nice @Earthbound_Misfit! But I echo @Coloma. What was the underlying problem? How do you know the reprieve is temporary?

Lemley's avatar

@Earthbound_Misfit That’s great! It might last more than you think :)

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

On Friday, after his health declined very rapidly and past the point where we felt it was right to try to keep him going, we let Ollie go. Just as I cuddled him when he came into our home, I cuddled him as he left us. It was a peaceful end and he was surrounded by his human family. I’m pretty heartbroken, but I know we’ve done the best and right thing for him. We’ll all miss him terribly.

MrGrimm888's avatar

My heart bleeds for you. But it sounds like you did was the right thing.

What you did was an act of love, not an act of giving up.

Peace n love.

BellaB's avatar

@Earthbound_Misfit , farewell to your dear friend. I am glad you could be there with Ollie at the end.

Coloma's avatar

Awww…..RIP Ollie. My condolences to you @Earthbound_Misfit

marinelife's avatar

@Earthbound_Misfit I am so sorry that you lost Ollie.

Coloma's avatar

@Earthbound_Misfit Were you able to bring Ollie home for burial or did you have him cremated?
I have several pet cemeteries around this county from the last 25 years. It’s always nice if you can bring them home or in a lot of my cases they were euthanized at home. :-(

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

@Coloma, yes we too have a pet cemetery. We’ve got plenty of space here, so all our furry loved ones are in a particular part of the garden. I’m going to get some sandstone pavers and chisel their names and the dates of their births and deaths and place them over their resting places. We’re not planning on moving for a long time.

I think I’ve raised my daughter to be too rules-oriented. She said ‘you’re not allowed to bury pets in the garden mum’. I told her she can visit me in gaol, because that’s where he was going. I’m still really glad we had the vet come here. It’s a comfort that the process was so gentle and peaceful for him.

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