Dogs/Very elderly dog advice
Hi. I have a terrier mixed named Freddie who we adopted from the shelter when she was 4 months old. She is now 17 1/2. Last year she began having trouble standing up, and was urinating on the rug, so we moved her into the laundry room for sleeping. It has two doors to the house, so she is not isolated. Because she also has cataracts, she can only go in the front yard with supervision, (it is completely fenced, though) and in the fenced patio w/o supervision. We have a pool in the back yard, so she cannot go out there with her sister the Great Dane. Here is my issue. She is not sick. Just very old and frail. She doesn't see well or hear well, and despite a hearty appetite, she is skin and bones, so I no longer cut her hair off. I remove uncomfortable matts, and groom her head and around her eyes. Her lower spine is deteriorating, so her back legs will give out. Yet she can and does walk around for up to an hour at a time in the patio. People say I should have her put to sleep, but I don't see any suffering. I have quite literally bitten my nails off ( a nasty habit I thought, at 60, I had outgrown!) I have prayed a lot about what to do for her. She is a lot of work, but that aside, she deserves an end of life being loved and taken care of no matter the cost. So, can I sort of put her on hospice and give her aspirin to help ease the pain? She had a check up last year, with blood work, and all was well. The vet gave me Vetprofin for her, but I stopped giving it to her after a month as she was having very loose stools. I had three left, and started giving them to her yesterday, and I can tell she feels better, in less pain. I just think buffered aspirin might be better. The weather here in Central California is warming up, so she can stay on the patio more, in case she has very loose stools or throws up from the aspirin. I'm sorry this is so long. Freddie has been part of our family for so long....I want to do the right thing now at the end.
Dealing with the issues of old age might be the most difficult time of dog ownership.
First, have you spoken to your vet about your dog's intolerance of Vetprofen and aspirin? If you haven't already tried it, buffered aspirin might be better tolerated. Give it with food, to help prevent stomach irritation. Since you mentioned you live in California, medical Marijuana is something that might really help your dog. It's good for inflammation and pain, and it won't get your dog high. Here is an article on it:
If you can't get a prescription for medical Marijuana, there is a legal marijuana derivative called Cannabidiol (also known as CBD). This supplement is non-psychoactive. I'd talk this over with your vet, and do a trial run of this supplement to see if it's effective. Here are a couple of links so you can read up on CBD products, so you and your vet will be able to select a product that might be helpful to your dog (brand suggestions are in the article):
You didn't say what you're feeding your dog. Altering her diet might help prevent the diarrhea that the medication is causing. Adding powdered Slippery Elm to her meals might be very helpful. Slippery Elm is an herbal treatment prepared from the inner bark of the Slippery or Red Elm tree. The term 'slippery' refers to the remarkable viscid gel that is formed when the powdered bark comes in contact with water. Slippery elm is often recommended for acute cases of diarrhea, as well as for conditions like colitis and stomach irritations. The herb helps these digestive ailments by reducing inflammation and lubricating the digestive tract with the help of it's natural mucilage. Many health food stores carry Slippery Elm, if you can find it in powdered form, give a ¼ tsp of powder for every 10 lbs of body weight. Mix the powder into her food or some yogurt.
One of my dearly departed dogs had stomach issues in his later years, my vet prescribed Sucralfate tablets, which like Slippery Elm, coats the stomach to protect it, but Sucralfate won't prevent or help diarrhea like Slippery Elm would. Speak to your vet about this. A dose of Sucralfate before feeding and medicating with Aspirin might help your dog from getting an upset stomach from the aspirin.
If you want to treat your dog’s pain without any pills, you might consider the Assisi Loop or tPEMF (targeted pulsed electromagnetic field) therapy. Approved by the FDA for human use, tPEMF has been shown to drastically reduce pain from osteoarthritis, diminish swelling after surgery, and can help heal wounds and acute injuries faster.
The Assisi Loop is a light, portable 7.5-inch loop of wire that emits a football-shaped field of electromagnetic waves. Simply place the Loop over the place where your dog is sore and press the “on” button. When using the Assisi Loop for two (or more) 15-minute treatments per day, pet owners have seen an incredible reduction in pain in their animal companions. As a completely safe, non-pharmaceutical and non-invasive therapy, owners can also rest assured that there are no negative effects like there can be with medications. Read about these options here:
Giving your dog a good quality puppy food might help her gain some weight. It has more calories and nutrients than adult dog foods. Look for one with a named source of meat as the first ingredient. Start out slow, mix just a little bit into her regular food, and if it's tolerated give a little more of the puppy food at each feeding over the course of a week, until she's just eating the puppy food. Look for a food that's 30% protein and 20% fat it's dry kibble, or 7% protein and 5% fat, or higher, if you’re feeding a wet food.
If this were my dog, I wouldn't be looking to put her to sleep just yet. I'd first see if I could get her pain under control. There is a scale to help you assess when it's really time to consider euthanasia, it's called the HHHHHMM Scale (the letters stand for Hurt, Hunger, Hydration, Hygiene, Happiness, Mobility, and “More good days than bad".) See the HHHHHMM scale here:
Feel free to get back to me if I can be of further help.
Best of luck,