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Hello Patti,

I had a female Lab mix who was 13 that developed an issue with her back legs about 1 yr ago.  She seemed to have lost coordination in them and they appeared to be getting weak as time went on.  About 3 weeks ago she suddenly lost her balance and fell in the floor having a seizure.  After this she was not the same and got progressively worse.  She was very weak and she lost some of her hearing.  She slowly lost her appetite and I had to force feed her with a syringe.  The vet I took her to said she had some type of Vertebral syndrome which was causing her problems in her back legs.  They said she also likely had a brain tumor which was secondary to some kind of infection, but to be sure they would have to do an MRI which would have cost several thousand dollars.  Needless to say I could not do the MRI, but bloodwork showed increased white cells (from infection), some kidney dysfunction (although she had no problem peeing), but she did seem to have an increased thirst (possibly diabetes??).

In the end she was so weak she could hardly stand up, let alone walk.  I carried her to my 3rd different vet in 2 weeks, in hopes they could do something for her.  They wanted to keep her overnight to give her IV antibiotics to try to eliminate the infection.  Well at 5:30am the next morning the vet called to say she died early that morning.  I was, and still am heartbroken.  

The reason I am writing you is that the vet had no idea what he was dealing with.  He could only guess, maybe her kidneys shut down, maybe the infection caused a heart attack, he really didn't know.  So I was wondering with all your experience with older dogs, does any of this sound familiar to you?  Have you seen any of these symptoms with any of your dogs, and were you or your vet able to determine what exactly led to their passing?   It has been nearly 2 weeks since she passed and I am still quite devastated from losing her after 13 years.  I think it's the not knowing why she died that is bothering me most.  She was the only family I had and it has been a very hard 2 weeks.  

I'm sorry this letter is so long, but I wanted to explain what happened to get your honest opinion.



Hi Gary,

I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your beloved dog. Losing a pet is one of the hardest things to endure.

Unfortunately, your story sounds all too familiar to me. I lost an elderly dog about a year ago and his symptoms were somewhat similar to your dog's. In the end with my Calvin, what was originally thought to be Vestibular Disease turned out to be a intracerebral hemorrhage, something which can be caused by a tumor or blood vessel that bursts. Vestibular Disease is something which "self-improves", showing marked improvement in movement and coordination in a matter of days. When our Calvin showed no improvement, we knew there was no hope, and put him to sleep. That sounds very cut and dry, but it was a heart wrenching decision to make.

Without the MRI, no veterinarian would be able to give you a definitive diagnosis, so you may never get the firm answers you're looking for. The educated guesses the last vet gave you might be about as good as it gets.  In hindsight, your dog's problems of having the seizure, and getting progressively weaker may or may not have been related to the condition which ultimately took her life.  It's not at all unusual that an elderly dog would not bounce back completely from a medical trauma. Just the same as with an elderly person, a single event can be a turning point in an elderly dog's health.

If there's anything good in this, it's that your dog had a fairly long life for a dog of her size, and that the condition which lead to her demise lasted for a period of weeks, and not months.

If you would like to speak to someone about your feelings of loss and grief, there are a free helplines you could call. You can read about these services here:

Remembering your dog may be painful at first, eventually that pain will turn into sweet memories. While your dog was irreplaceable,  the loss of your dog left a hole in your heart. The loving bond you had with your dog is something you could once again share with another dog when you feel the time is right.

I hope I've been a help.


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To date, I've owned 7 dogs, all of which have lived into old age. Having cared for them in all stages of life, I feel I can offer sound advice to other pet owners, and people considering getting a dog. I am knowledgeable about the AKC (American Kennel Club) dog breeds, training and exercise, caring for sick and elderly pets, feeding, as well as many holistic treatments pets can benefit from. My only request is that you write me using standard English and punctuation.


My life experience in this field is more like "on the job training" rather than an actual degree in animal welfare. You may benefit from my experiences over the past 30 years. Aside from the dogs I've owned, I'm also involved in "breed rescue" and have fostered several dogs, all of which have been adopted to wonderful "forever homes". I find helping people who want a dog very rewarding.

Real life experience, based on over 30 years of dog ownership.

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