I’ve been blogging about my dog a lot. I will move onto other topics, but please bear with me for the time being!

Monday morning, Jan. 25.

Mike: Oh no!

I run down the stairs to discover Sassy’s watery vomit all over the floor.

We clean it up and I email her vet. She hasn’t been eating, so the vet says to try cooking her some chicken and rice. Mike walks to Acme, buys chicken, and makes her a delicious meal. She inhales it.

Wednesday, Jan. 27 through Friday, Jan. 29.

She seems to be drinking water and peeing excessively. She wears a diaper all the time, and even though I let her out throughout the day, she still soaks four or five diapers per day.

I start Googling her symptoms, and get enough information to convince myself that she’s in kidney failure.

Sunday night
Sunday night

A test last year hinted at possible kidney trouble, but the vet needed to collect the urine in a sanitary manner to confirm. During the same visit she also said she might have a heart condition, so I opted to put the kidney test aside and get the heart thing addressed. And, $500 later, her heart thing is nothing.

So the kidney thing is back, I tell myself.

I read more articles.

Shit, renal failure is a leading cause of death in older dogs.

Should we euthanize her soon?

I search my soul, talked to Mike, talk to friends, and make an appointment for Monday, Feb. 1.

Given her dementia and all her other problems, I thought, maybe this is the best thing to do. After all, we waited too long to say goodbye to our cats Callie and Scratch and they suffered. And Sassy is 16. Come on.

List five things she used to love, an article suggested. Now cross out the stuff she no longer cares about. If you cross out too many things, her quality of life might be so poor that euthanization could the compassionate option.

Walks, food, treats, running around in the grass, spending time with me and Mike, running around the house after a walk, chasing the cats. That’s seven, and she pretty much all likes these things still.

She maybe cares less about walks, but she seems happy once we’re outside.

She now loves Acme chicken and brown rice with chicken broth poured over it, heated up. She dances on her back legs when we get it ready.

She doesn’t like normal dog treats anymore, but she loves cocktail pups from Trader Joe’s.

She spent Thanksgiving and Christmas running around Mike’s parent’s yard with her mouth wide open and her tail in the air and didn’t want to come in.

When neither Mike nor I are downstairs with her during the day, she howls.

The video below shows she still loves to run around the house after a walk.

And chasing the cats remains her favorite passtime.

Then again, she gets into these states where she just stares at the wall. She still paces for hours. She walks under our small dining table and needs help finding her way out. Sometimes she ignores an open door and instead stands at the hinge side and we have to physically move her body into the door opening. And we still have to carry her up the stairs.

She’s still her old self in lots of moments, but the light inside her is dimmed.

So, completely confused yet convinced her kidneys were failing and it was time to say goodbye, we try to give her a good weekend. I cry and tell my friends she will most likely be euthanized Monday.

Lake Tahoe, 2004, two months after her adoption
Lake Tahoe, 2004, two months after her adoption

Saturday, Jan. 30.

At Trader Joe’s, Mike asks if we should get the large portion of chicken for Sassy or the smaller one.

“Chances are she won’t be with us after Monday,” I said.

We buy the smaller portion.

Monday morning, Feb. 1.

My heart is heavy when we walk into the exam room at the vet office. But then! The vet says she doesn’t necessarily agree with my suspicion that she’s going through kidney failure. She’s still eating, she’s still excited about some stuff in life. The symptoms could have many explanations.

And her excessive water drinking and peeing isn’t a daily occurrence. It happens most days, though.

Mike doesn’t want to put her through what his Scratch experienced — he had kidney disease and medication didn’t work, and he had a long illness.

Is anything really wrong with her, though? We just had suspicions but no data.

I opt for a blood test and urine test to find out what’s going on, exactly what Mike and I agreed not to do. But I’d feel better if I had more information.

We’re supposed to get the results today or tomorrow. From there, we’ll decide what to do. But if there is something really wrong with her, I don’t want to put her through more tests and medications and vet visits.

Feeling like Sassy just won an 11th hour reprieve, we bring her home, something we didn’t expect to be doing.

I feel like I emotionally manipulated myself. I was prepared to say goodbye and, gratefully, she’s still here.

Last night I wasn’t sure we did the right thing, but with some distance now, I see that I was most likely jumping the gun, wanting so desperately to prevent her from suffering that I was actually preventing her from continuing to experience joy. She’s still capable of it.

Monday night, Feb. 1.

Mike: We’re almost out of this Trader Joe’s chicken.

Jen: I’ll walk to Acme tomorrow and get more.

Mike: You might as well just buy her a whole chicken.

I guess optimism has won.

Grand Canyon, 2006
Grand Canyon, 2006

Addendum: Tuesday, Feb. 2, 11:30 a.m.

As I was about to publish this blog post, her vet, Dr. L., called. Sassy is, in fact, experiencing kidney failure. At this point, she is at stage 3, with stage 4 being the terminal stage.

She listed the treatment options, including subcutaneous fluids, more meds, weekly monitoring in the vet office and blood draws.

“I don’t want to put her through all that, but I don’t want her to suffer. What do those options look like?” I asked.

Dr. L. said to give her Pepcid AC, which could help her feel a bit better. She added that that’s a completely reasonable route, given her other problems: dementia and glaucoma.

Sassy most likely feels okay now, she said. The first sign that she’s getting really sick is her first skipped meal, and vomiting.

She stopped eating last week and vomited, but now that she’s interested in this fancy Acme chicken, she’s eating again and the puking stopped.

I’m glad we didn’t euthanize her yesterday because she still has some pep in her step and she is taking joy in things. Look at this video below, which I took right before we left for her appointment!

But who knows how much longer we have with her before she starts to suffer and it’s time to say goodbye for real. Days? Weeks? Months?

Despite the bad news, it’s still a relief to know what’s wrong.

With my heart a bit lighter, this afternoon I’ll walk to Acme and buy her a whole chicken, along with some Pepcid.

Optimism still wins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday was a painful day for me, Mike and Sassy. I know Sassy’s physical pain far outweighed the anguish we felt, though. She was diagnosed with canine glaucoma, a very painful condition that could result in blindness.

When I got out of the shower Saturday morning I noticed Sassy had vomited some watery, foamy stuff, and a few minutes later, she curled up in a tight little ball in the upstairs hallway.

I knew something was wrong because she usually paces back and forth during that time of day. I went over to her and saw she was trembling and didn’t seem to be able to open her eyes. I called Mike and asked him to come home immediately from the gym, I called the vet but they were closed, so I called the emergency vet and was told to bring her right away.

sassyeye1
Waiting and waiting and waiting, just trying to comfort her.

We were there within minutes, but we had to wait three hours to be called. During this time, she was really struggling and appeared to be in a lot of pain. Mike took her outside to see if she had to pee, and she bumped into things outside — she seemed to be blind. I sprawled out on the floor of the waiting room with her on my lap in an attempt to soothe my baby.

Finally they brought her into the back. We couldn’t be in the exam room with her; we were told to leave and come back in 90 minutes. We headed to a pub for lunch but it was hard to eat when all I could really do was cry. What would life be like as a blind dog? How could we prevent her from getting hurt? Then again, there are some cool blind people, like Stevie Wonder, right? I thought the cause was something neurological, like a stroke or seizure.

When we returned, the vet brought us into an exam room and told us she has canine glaucoma in her left eye, characterized by a great deal of pressure caused by  fluid buildup. It’s much more serious and painful for dogs than humans (and I read that humans rate the pain level as 12 on a scale of 1-10) but the good news is she’s not blind right now. The vet said Sassy was in a lot of pain and was keeping her eyes closed or squinty to help ease it, so that was a relief.

sassymike
More waiting.

Canine glaucoma can come on suddenly, and it’s always an emergency. The vet said she believes she has secondary glaucoma, which means it’s probably caused by something more serious, like cancer. It does cause blindness in dogs, but we got her medical attention quickly, so it looks like that was mitigated or delayed.

We were sent home because the vet wanted to stabilize her before she was discharged. I trudged up the stairs and I fell asleep on the bed and awoke a few hours later when my cell phone rang around 8 p.m. The pressure in her eye was finally down to normal levels, and it was time to pick her up!

We were given three different types of eye drops as well as three oral medications (not to mention a bill of $611, but I feared it would be much worse, so I was happy to pay this). One of the meds is a painkiller, which knocked her out. It was good to see her resting and feeling some relief.

Today the bloodshot squinty eye condition came back. She seemed to be in pain even an hour after getting her pain meds, so it was difficult to see this. She was pawing her eye and rubbing her face on the bed — poor puppy. We’re going to make an appointment with her regular vet tomorrow, because this is a lifelong condition and it’s likely that the right eye will also experience glaucoma. And we need to pinpoint the cause of this. Cancer? Something else?

sassysunday
Her eye this afternoon — a setback?

She’s now on three meds for dementia, three oral meds for glaucoma, and three eyedrops for glaucoma.

I’m so glad I work from home because she can’t really be left alone now.

She’s my interspecies life partner and I’ll do everything I can for her.

Has anyone else experienced this?

 

 

About a year or so ago I noticed that my dog Sassy had lost that spring in her step. She wasn’t as eager to go out for a walk, which had always been her favorite thing to do, preferring to nap and snore (loudly). Mike and I just attributed to her becoming lazy. The vet last year said since she’s an old girl (she’s 15) she was probably just slowing down, like people do.

I work from home and I spend practically all my time under the same roof as Sassy, so it was hard to notice when things really began to change. Also, she’s always been a very anxious, nervous dog, and that’s one of the symptoms of dementia, so it was hard to identify what’s normal for her and what’s not. Here are some unusual behaviors we noticed:

  • She needed help in finding her way out of her crate when the door was wide open
  • She pooped on the kitchen floor immediately after getting home from a walk
  • She’s easily startled
  • She seems to not recognize our regular walking route. She’s walking with less confidence and seems unsure as to where to go.
  • The big one: Pacing. She can pace the floors for hours, both day and night. (And the clicking of doggie nails on the wood floors and the clanging of her collar tags is enough to drive anyone mad!) This is what opened our eyes to the fact that something isn’t right with our pup.
notesonsassy
Notes I jotted down about what we’d observed in Sassy.

I read about a medication created to treat canine cognitive disorder, selegiline (brand name Anipryl), so I made a vet appointment to ask about it.

I described her symptoms and the vet agreed that she seems to be showing signs of dementia. She said she could be a candidate for selegiline, but suggested first starting her on supplements to see if that would work. She sent us home with a big bottle of omega 3 liquid, which we squirt on her food once per day. The vet said to go on Amazon and buy a bottle of Cell Advance, an antioxidant meant to improve the immune system, and she gets one capsule per day.

She’s only been on these things for a few days and it could be our imagination, but she seems more on the ball and less confused and more active. Then again, she has good moments and bad moments, so it could just be that we’ve hit a string of good moments/days. Either way, I’ll take it! (As I’m typing this, she’s pacing, and pacing, and pacing… Spoke to soon?)

It’s so heart wrenching to watch my best buddy get old. I just want her to have a happy life and I’ll do my best to make sure she has one.

Here’s a really great video on what canine cognitive dysfunction looks like. Sassy isn’t quite this advanced yet, but watching it was helpful.

Have you gone through this before, or are you experiencing it now? I’d love to hear about it!

Sassyvet
Waiting for the vet to come into the examination room