Daisy attacked & damaged 3 dogs, has heartworm, severe separation anxiety: is it time to put her down?
November 17, 2008 12:40 PM   Subscribe

My dog has damaged (bitten through the skin) 3 other dogs and was just diagnosed with heartworm. I know it's a bit impersonal to ask online, but can help me figure out when it is time to consider putting down my pet?

Daisy was adopted 3 years ago as a rescue dog, she was 1-2 years old and basically an adolescent, now an adult. She has attacked 3 dogs who were allowed in our house and damaged two of them. She has also attacked a family member's dog in that dog's house after they had spent much time there together over the past 3 years. In each case the damage was 1-2 lacerations caused by Daisy's teeth and on the area around the other dogs' shoulders.

We were concerned after her most recent episode that she may be ill as friends told us a sick dog can change it's behavior ... so we took her to the vet and found out that she is heartworm positive. We're waiting for the results of a confirmation test and an x-ray, possibly to follow up with a sonogram then the relatively costly (estimated at $650-1300) treatment which cannot guarantee a positive outcome.

Beyond these issues, Daisy has a severe case of "separation anxiety" which has improved over time, but is still classified as severe. She no longer damages herself while waiting for us to return home, but she has destroyed plenty of carpet, a door frame, and damaged some other items around the house. She is now able to eat a small amount while we're away, but still refuses to drink to the point that she will vomit bile if left alone for more than 8 hours. This makes her potential for adoption limited especially in light of her inability to be trusted in a home with another dog.

Given that (1) Daisy cannot live in a home with another dog or where interaction with other dogs must be closely monitored, (2) her separation anxiety makes her a poor candidate for adoption because of the damage she will likely cause to a new owner's home if left alone, (3) her dog-aggressive behavior, and (4) the risks and costs of heartworm treatment, is it time to put her down?

For now our plan is to contact a behaviorist and have her evaluated for dog and person aggression then continue her heartworm treatment if they think she can be rehabilitated to a reasonable degree.

My wife and I are very attached to Daisy, this makes decisions about her very hard to separate from our feelings. Our family (who also love Daisy) have let us know that they think it is time to let her go and find another rescue dog who otherwise would be facing death. As much as I can detach myself from the situation, I think they are right, but when I consider actually following through on that I fall apart and rationalize nearly any expense or problems.

I've contacted several Bay Area shelters and foundations regarding adoption possibilities and they are inclined to not accepting her because of the temperament and health issues.

Please help with identifying resources for dealing with these questions and let me know your thoughts on our situation. Thanks for your detached wisdom and thoughts.

Follow up emails can be sent to daisydogquestion@yahoo.com
posted by anonymous to Pets & Animals (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This is such a difficult situation and really, there aren't any good answers. I applaud all the work you have already done and my heart goes out to you and your wife for your care and thoughtfulness.

I have put a healthy, although blind, dog down for issues quite similar to Daisy's and while it was possibly the most difficult thing I've ever done, I don't, after nearly three years, regret it. That dog was human aggressive as well as dog aggressive, though, so it was perhaps a little more clear cut. It took all the strength I've got to go and do it and I cried for days but you know what? It was the right decision and it meant that no child or dog was harmed by my mentally ill dog. About a year later, another dog came into my life. He has issues of his own (I used to own furniture, and CDs, and gloves and dog beds and blankets, sigh) but he's one of the sweetest guys in the world, so we live with it and he's slowly getting better and less destructive. or maybe he just ate all the good stuff already. there is that.

If Daisy is still biting and dog aggressive after several years of trying to help her, chances are she isn't going to get better. Daisy, as you describe her, isn't having a great life most of the time. You cannot devote your entire lives, 24/7, to this dog: making sure that she never encounters another dog, never, ever leaving her alone, etc. That shouldn't make you feel guilty, because it doesn't make you evil or bad dog parents - it makes you human and sane. You are probably right in thinking that she is unadoptable and you are definitely right in thinking that there are lots of other, wonderful, nonaggressive dogs out there who need homes.

You are faced, here, with a terrible, terrible decision. After I made mine, a friend came forward and told me a more harrowing tale: she had waited and waited to make this same decision, hoping her aggressive dog would get better. Inevitably, he escaped from her fenced yard and attacked not just another dog but also a child. She said that the only thing she regretted then about having him put down was that she hadn't done it the day before. She has several wonderful dogs now.

It's tragic and it's heartbreaking and there isn't an answer that's ever going to make you feel happy or good about it but there are dogs who are so damaged - for whatever reason - that they cannot be saved.
posted by mygothlaundry at 1:06 PM on November 17, 2008 [7 favorites]

I'm not a behaviourist but my wife is one and has been responsible for screening shelter dogs for behavior-related euthanising. From what you say, I'm afraid Daisy would be a prime candidate. The problem is partly the dog-on-dog aggression, but the bigger problem is possible dog-on-person interaction. If a friend's dog were attacked and the friend tried to intervene it is quite possible they could end up getting injured, at which point the previous dog-on-dog interactions lay you open to a possible lawsuit.

At her age (5 yrs) the behaviors become much harder to modify and you can never really be sure they've been extinguished.

You obviously have a very anxious dog on your hands and I agree that few shelters are likely to take her, especially if they have a no-euthanize policy. If they do have a euthanize policy then I'm afraid that's likely where she will end up.

Sorry not to be more hopeful... a lot of my wife's cases are very similar to this one and there are no easy fixes. The only thing that CAN help to think about is that often it's not the dog's behavior that needs to be modified, but your own. A behaviorist can certainly give you tools to handle the separation anxiety etc but aggression is a much tougher call as even if your dog becomes less aggressive, it doesn't mean that under high stress she won't revert to the aggressive behavior.

How big is the dog?
posted by unSane at 1:10 PM on November 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

We've owned some dog aggressive dogs and were easily able to manage it by simply not bringing other dogs into our house and putting a ~really~ good recall on the dog for possible encounters outdoors. However we lived in a rural area- where the chances of meeting a strange dog are much reduced and the expectations of dog behavior are quite different. Farm or rural dogs can be quite defensive of their space and that's often seen as a positive for predator control and watchdog activities. Most suburban dog owners seem to need a dog that is extremely well socialized and can handle dog park situations, other dogs coming over to visit and being allowed in their space, which is pretty unnatural for a dog when you think about it. So basically the dog isn't a good fit for your lifestyle but might do really well on a ranch, for example. Or you could scale back your expectations of behavior and stop allowing friends to bring their dogs over.

The other thing is the ferocity of the attacks and what starts them. We owned a pair of female dogs for about 14 years. They slept in the same bed and were best of friends most of the time but still got into it enough to draw blood about a half dozen times over the years. They never really hurt each other but one of them was in charge and periodically the other one would challenge that and get a new lip piercing or a nip on the ear. If your dog is getting into fights over toys or food in her own house then it's not really her fault. If she's really trying to hurt the other dogs and keeps attacking after they've backed down or is unprovoked that's completely different of course. I would say that it largely depends on how aggressive she is. If it's fear or protectiveness then you can probably manage it easily by not putting the dog in that situation. If she's out and out aggressive that's a much tougher thing to deal with. It also depends on the size of the dog, a fearful papillon is much less likely to get you sued than a mastiff.

Ultimately it's your call and whatever you do you've given the dog several great years with people who love her.
posted by fshgrl at 1:36 PM on November 17, 2008

I suspect you should have the dog put down I'm sorry to say. Although treatment for heartworm might be enough to fix the behaviour, and separation anxiety is treatable (with discipline, persistence and a room where you don't have stuff that you want to keep in good condition) the vetinary treatment seems very expensive for a procedure that may not work well. Good luck.
posted by singingfish at 2:34 PM on November 17, 2008

Since your dog has been involved in 3 attacks, I would consider you negligent to allow other dogs into your home ever again (forget "closely monitored"). I would also expect you to properly muzzle your dog while it's anywhere off your property.

No 3rd party (person, animal or child) should have to shoulder the risk of your dog attacking again.

I own a docile lab who's been attacked twice (without warning) by a Husky that occasionally runs loose on our street, so sorry if I'm venting at you.
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:00 PM on November 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

So, you have a dog who is heartworm positive (I take it she was not on preventative, why not? If she WAS on preventative and tested positive, the company who made the preventative you used will normally cover treatment), who has a known dog aggression issue and yet has been allowed to come into contact with other dogs and attack them, and who has a separation anxiety issue which means you cannot leave her alone for more than 8 hours? Frankly, you have failed this dog badly.

Heartworm is a preventable disease for less than $10 a month and annual testing, it is part of basic medical care for a dog in the US, especially in places like California, you are negligent for not preventing it. Part of your most basic responsibility when you own a dog is proper medical care, you did not do this.

You are also negligent for putting this dog in a situation where she can attack other dogs when you KNOW she has an aggression issue. This is called setting her up for failure. Part of your most basic responsibility when you own a dog is managing it properly, you did not do this either.

You are unrealistic for expecting that ANY dog can happily stay alone for 8 hours a day, let alone a dog with a known separation anxiety issue. It's the dog's fault that she vomits because she can't eat because she is stressed because you leave her alone all day?

Should you put this young dog to sleep? I don't know, but judging by what you have said here, I'm sure not going to ease your conscience over it, she may well be better off, but not because she's beyond help. Whatever you decide, just please don't get another dog for god's sake.
posted by biscotti at 4:28 PM on November 17, 2008 [4 favorites]

If the dog can be resocialized, perhaps with the help of a trainer, then do that.

The medical stuff is just money, and I'm sure you knew that there would be bills when you got the dog, that comes along with the deal.

Sounds like a pretty miserable life for a dog to be locked up alone for 8 hours at a stretch, so if you can fix the dog you need to try to find something to make that more tolerable. This might just be chew toys, or bones, or who knows what options you have.

(I gave my last dog a cat - well, I let my girlfriend get one, but the dog co-opted it - when he was home alone he was in the yard with her. They kept each other company pretty well. They were really very sweet, grooming each other, sleeping in the same basket, and so on.)
posted by The Monkey at 5:09 PM on November 17, 2008

Heartworm is entirely preventable for around $8-10/month. Treatment is much more expensive, unfortunately. But the heartworm alone does not mean that she's a lost cause.

I would recommend that you have a consultation with an animal behavioralist and it sounds like you're already going that direction. Around her, a 1-hour session runs about $40. It's not that huge of an investment, so I think it would be worth a try.

There is a version of doggie prozac and doggie anti-anxiety meds which your vet could prescribe.

Are there activities that trigger her separation anxiety, for example, picking up your keys or the sound of the garage door opener? If so, you need to work on desensitizing her to these triggers. Randomly pick up your keys during the day. Open/shut the garage door a few times each day without leaving.

As far as her behavior with other dogs, Cesar Milan does amazing things on The Dog Whisperer. You might pick up some tips from his show if you don't watch it already. It seems that a lot of times it's more about you being the "pack leader" than the dog - but I'm sure he makes it look easier on TV than it is in real life.

Good luck with your dog.
posted by Ostara at 5:15 PM on November 17, 2008

btw, my dog's separation anxiety was completely cured by giving her an outside run with a dog door and a kennel. She's perfectly happy to stay home alone as long as she's in the yard and not in the house. If you forget to open the dog door to her run she will eat the house though.

I wouldn't worry about leaving a dog home for 8 hours in general though. Dogs sleep all day anyway.
posted by fshgrl at 5:21 PM on November 17, 2008

I had a dog with a similar situation and my heart goes out to you. The users above had excellent advice overall. However, Biscotti's comment is WAY off base.

"You are unrealistic for expecting that ANY dog can happily stay alone for 8 hours a day"
This from the user who's profile says her "occupation" is "crazy dog lady" ... right.

Biscotti is, according to her profile, from NY where heartworm prevention is the norm because it is prevalent along the Atlantic coast and around the Mississippi river. I don't know where you're from (you said Bay Area, assuming that means around San Francisco), but if your vet didn't tell you to use heartworm preventative medication then you don't have anything to feel bad about.

The way I read the OP, the dog attacked another dog twice in his/her house (dogs can be protective, clearly don't let other dogs in your house now, 1st time may have been a fluke, 2nd time means no more) but the third time it was a friends house which you hadn't known might happen - that's not reckless or negligent, it's just unexpected and now you're thinking along the right lines of whether or not (and how) you can keep your dog.

As for "failing your dog by leaving it alone for 8 hours a day" - that's just crazy talk Biscotti. Most dogs are left alone for at least that long, maybe you can stay at home with your dogs all day every day, but most people have jobs that require leaving their house and that does not mean they shouldn't own dogs.

For dog time management check this article by the Humane Society - it says "As a rule of thumb, if you will be away for more than five or six hours at a time, your dog should be left in a confinement area (a dog-proofed room or portion of a room secured with barriers), rather than a crate." To me that sounds like a reasonable amount for crating a dog, but if it's left to roam around your house or yard, then a few additional hours is clearly reasonable.

Calling All Pets article on the subject says "The lesson? These industrial-strength nappers may not miss us as much as we think they do. Just remember, lest you feel guilty about leaving them--you're going to work, while they're going to nap on the couch."

Here's an article on how to entertain your dog while your "away from the home for 8-9 hours a day"

You're not a bad person, shame on biscotti for trying to make you feel bad when you're already going through so much.

Good luck in dealing with your troubled pooch, it's not easy, but you do the best you can. DO get another dog, you sound like a committed owner dealing with a troubled dog in a troubling situation.
posted by unclezeb at 5:46 PM on November 17, 2008

You know, another way of looking at this is "Holy shit, they broke biscotti." Go and read her (voluminous) comments. Many is the time I've seen her trying hard to write helpful and still-positive comments to people who seem ignorant but trying to do the right thing... and these folks made her snap.

zeb, sometimes people need to feel bad because they've made some really bad decisions. Heartworm treatments are so inexpensive and effective that there is very little reason not to use them. And we know that wherever anonymous lives, it's somewhere where dogs do in fact get heartworm. Case in point: Daisy.

the third time it was a friends house which you hadn't known might happen

This is the single stupidest thing I've seen this month, and I teach undergraduates.

Of course they knew it could happen, because they'd seen their dog attack dogs before. How much fucking judgment does it take to think "You know that thing that Daisy did a few times before? Do you think she might do it again? Do you think maybe just maybe it would be smart not to put her around other dogs, because she attacks them sometimes?" I mean, obviously it takes more judgment than anonymous actually applied, but it shouldn't take a whole goddam bunch.

As for "failing your dog by leaving it alone for 8 hours a day" - that's just crazy talk Biscotti.

If your dog has separation anxiety, your choices are clear:

(1) Leave the dog alone less. Does this mean that you might have to give up convenient lunch breaks to go walk your dog? Such a terrible, horrible thing to have to endure.
(2) Hardcore work with professional behavior people to see if you can fix the issue.
(3) Euthanasia. If the dog is spending most of its waking life suffering in obvious psychic pain, make it stop. This is entirely not a joke.

Nobody is holding a gun to anonymous's head and making them get another dog. If they do get another one, maybe they'll try to aim higher than giving it a life of vague neglect next time.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:12 PM on November 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

I need more information. What do you mean attacked? Is it possible your dog is just socially awkward and disorganized? What training has this dog had? I have a family member who, basically, loved us all, but broke several bones from being "too rough" as an awkward, much bigger than the rest of us, kid. He's still kind of a numbskull, but he finally figured out that other people feel pain. Like fshfrl says, broken skin doesn't automatically mean Cujo. Especially if she's a big girl.

How did the separation anxiety get better? Just with time? Or where you on a program? Why don't you talk to the behaviorist - and trust your gut on this person, if it doesn't feel right, try someone else - get a realistic idea of what treatment will cost and the likely outcome, and start over from there?

If you have a trainable dog who needs $600 worth of treatment, you are looking at $600, months of basic training, and a lifetime of managing the dog. if you are not ready for that, the dog may have to be put down. Dog training is hard, and it doesn't stop. If you perhaps know someone who lost a lot of weight and has kept it off, you can ask them about lifestyle changes - the good and the bad. You can't rehome a dog because of behavior problems.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 6:19 PM on November 17, 2008

I'm trying hard not to be cross.

Are you crazy or horrible to think that it's time to euthanize Daisy? No. Her quality of life sounds pretty poor, and quality, not quantity, is what they care about.

As far as cost goes, you should be aware that euthanasia and cremation can cost $200--600 depending mostly on whether you want the ashes back, so the savings might not be as much as you expect.

You don't say so directly, but it sounds like you're also strongly considering sending her back to rescue; you might as well euthanize her and save them the trouble and expense of dealing with her, and in all probability not giving her a particularly nice life, until she either dies or they find a way around any no-kill policies they might have to have her put down.

If you get another dog, please please please do more homework next time. Look -- you said here that you did not know that illness could affect a dog's behavior. This is actually a very basic thing to know, up there with "Food goes in here" and "Leaking fluids is bad." But you didn't know this. This is really bad.

Take the time to go read a bunch of dog books, go to dog shows and talk to crazy dog people, meet lots of breeds, and so on. Next time, if there is one, the time to deal with behavioral problems like separation anxiety or aggression is immediately, not when it becomes to much to deal with or when the obvious behavior problem finally has some consequence to you. Next time, if there is one, get a vet and get checkups on a regular basis. Ask about the different prophylactic treatments that are out there for different things, and importantly what the side effects are. Next time, if there is one, expect that at least once you're going to have to drop two grand on your dog. Next time, if there is one, remember that a primary reason why dogs are in rescue is because of behavior problems, so ask hard questions and expect more problems than you expect. Next time, if there is one, remember that taking a shelter or rescue dog the day before its euthanasia is not necessarily doing it a favor; euthanasia really is not a terrible, horrible thing to inflict on a dog.

Nobody makes you have a dog. It's a deal between you and the dog -- the dog, well, the dog is a dog, which is an awfully wonderful thing. And in return, you have to make the decisions for the dog. This means learning enough to make sound, informed decisions where the dog's long-term welfare is a very high criterion.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:40 PM on November 17, 2008

I've contacted several Bay Area shelters and foundations regarding adoption possibilities and they are inclined to not accepting her because of the temperament and health issues.

I'm really sorry that you're in the position of having to make this decision. How awful it must be for you and your wife.

While you're looking into options, I strongly suggest that you contact Sue at the CETA Foundation in Vacaville: (707) 678-0580. She has done lots of work toward preventing the euthanasia of pets like yours, and she has a foster program that places animals with families who can spend the time to help re-educate them, making them more suitable for placement. She's also a vet, so she'll understand the dog's social AND medical needs.

She has several rescue dogs on her farm. I don't know that she'd take Daisy in, but I'm certain she'd have good advice for you, and she might be able to help you find another home and prolong Daisy's life.
posted by mudpuppie at 6:43 PM on November 17, 2008

Heartworm occurs in every state of the US. heartworms are considered at least regionally endemic in each of the contiguous 48 states. The current AVMA recommendations are that all dogs in all contiguous 48 states be on prevention year round.

Sorry unclezeb, I usually try to be as positive as possible, but people setting their dogs up for failure piss me off, and you can be as snarky as you like, but the bottom line is that this is a dog just 3 years old with a bite history which was at least 2/3 preventable with a bit of proper management, and a health issue which was 100% preventable. We can only go by what anonymous told us, but what they told us is pretty dismal.
posted by biscotti at 6:49 PM on November 17, 2008

ROU_Xenophobe - I appreciate your comment on separation anxiety, that was my dog's main issue. But I think your three options over-simplify the problem. Many dogs respond differently to behavior modification and it's nearly impossible to determine how much they "suffer" during the time you're gone. I did my best by video taping my dog while I was away - that way I could tell that eventually he chilled out and napped but would still have problems intermittently though the day. He was not "spending most of its waking life suffering in obvious psychic pain", but he was on and off in terms of anxiety. Where it is not an option to leave a dog alone less (for example, I commuted then so I couldn't just take lunch off to rush home, not enough time) and behavioral modification only provides limited gains, euthanasia is not the only option - working to maintain as much positive time as possible for your pet, knowing that he does in fact mellow out for chunks of the day, is a worthwhile option and goal.

As for your note that, "Of course they knew it could happen, because they'd seen their dog attack dogs before" I have to take issue. Many dog owners know that their dog will react poorly in specific situations. I knew my dog would not allow others in the house but was fine at the Dog Park. My cousin's dog is friendly with all dogs UNLESS he's on leash (leash aggression is relatively common) ... just because he snaps at dogs while on leash doesn't mean he has no "fucking judgment" when he takes him to the dog park ... it's a situational aggression, it's relatively common, and his experience led him to believe, correctly, that his dog was safe around others while not on leash (until he passed away recently).

The OP said their pet had severe separation anxiety - assuming they know what severe SA is and are properly diagnosing it, that makes their situation yet harder to deal with and their decision more upsetting. I cannot understand why anyone would choose to berate OP for their situation when it's clear that they care about doing what's right and are looking for help rather than the angry words written above. How can you say OP is giving their dog "a life of vague neglect" when they clearly care enough to ask for help here and from the steps OP outlined in the question? Maybe my neighbors who heard my dog barking when I first got it thought I was terrible for leaving it alone for any amount of time, but after TONS of training and sacrafices to get my dog more exercise, we ended up with a pretty happy dog while we're away and a SUPER happy dog when we're home. I KNOW it's worth it and we wouldn't give that up. If Biscotti has "snapped"as a result of OP's comment and many others like it, that does not justify attacking someone in a vulnerable position who is looking for help, not hate.

Clearly you and biscotti care about dogs and pets, but some of the comments in this thread show little concern for someone who could use both of your experience and knowledge much more than sarcasm and misdirected frustration.
posted by unclezeb at 6:55 PM on November 17, 2008

Straight answer: No. It is not time to put her down. You have not exhausted all the options yet.

Heartworm money? When you get a dog, you know there are going to be some unfun, bad-timed bills attached. That is what you signed on for when you committed to giving this dog a life. Just a given.

Anxiety and aggression? This is a fearful dog who does not feel safe, both with you and without. You have many options here. You have not told us of all the things you have tried, and what you have not.

Good for you getting the behavioralist. Often it is us who create the problems, but we don't see it. Or we just don't understand 'dog communication' and unknowingly make a situation worse.

Curious as to the bites: If it is only 1-2 punctures, is that because she stopped on her own, you stopped her physically, or you stopped her by command/slight interference?
posted by Vaike at 7:00 PM on November 17, 2008

Hi. I wanted to add my two cents because I feel strongly that neither my pets nor my personal safety should be endangered by someone's out of control dog, but I also feel strongly that dealing with a difficult pets is something that non-experts do imperfectly and that's ok. It has to be ok. If only experts ever adopted shelter animals there would be a lot more shelter animals waiting for homes. Maybe the OP planned poorly, or maybe he was given bad advice by the shelter/vet (or maybe both). Regardless, hyperbolic accusations are not what is needed.

If Daisy is living in fear, anxiety, and poor health--and if placing her in another home better equipped to help her is not an option--then you need to maximize her quality of life as well as the safety of other dogs and people. To me, while I recognize that it is a very difficult choice, euthanizing a miserable, sick, and dangerous animal seems like a reasonable option to consider. Maybe you have the means to treat the heartworm condition and maybe the behaviorist can help to rehabilitate her, but if you can't afford the treatment (or it doesn't work) and if her behavior issues are too ingrained, then I think you should ignore the accusations and hyperbole, and consider the merciful side of putting her down.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:13 PM on November 17, 2008

I'm not even sure why I read this post to begin with, because I'm not a dog person, never owned a dog, etc, but I am an animal lover. I'm mainly just here to second unclezeb and Meg_Murry becaue my god, biscotti and ROU_Xenophobe act like you need to be reported to the ASPCA for animal cruelty. If only perfect pet owners owned pets, there would be very very few pet owners out there, and many many many more unadopted pets languishing in cages. You adopted this dog, trying to do the right thing, and got more than you bargained for. But to say you never should have ever adopted her (or any dog for that matter!) I think is unhelpful at best. This dog clearly has gone through some horrible past trauma, and I think very few adopters would be able to take her home and undo that damage, and give her a perfect new happy life without going through some of the same things you have. So you're not a saint dog adopter, but I think anyone who adopts a troubled pet, rather than an easy one, and works hard to get through the baggage is better than no adopter at all.

And god, I think you get it about the preventative heartworm treatment. You learned your lesson, albeit the hard way. So let's all say it at once now: OMG you gave ur dog teh heatworm ur th worst person evar!!!!111 Jeeze.
posted by gueneverey at 8:18 PM on November 17, 2008

Is there a reason you can't find her a new owner yourselves? One without dogs, who may be home more? They might have an environment better suited to a dog with those kind of issues.

If you are reluctant to give her to a shelter in case she gets euthanased, then perhaps it's something you could consider... talk to friends, colleagues, family. Good luck.
posted by indienial at 1:50 AM on November 18, 2008

some of the comments in this thread show little concern for someone who could use both of your experience and knowledge much more than sarcasm and misdirected frustration.

Yes, you're right. I apologize for my earlier post.

There are ways to address separation anxiety. There are books available, but I strongly suggest finding a behaviorist or at least an APDT trainer to help.

The same goes for dog aggression, although to be honest, this is going to be much more a case of managing the dog's environment properly (and NOT taking the dog to visit friends with dogs, NOT taking the dog to dog parks, and being vigilant of the dog's surroundings). You DEFINITELY need help from an experienced professional in learning how to manage this. Anxiety and reactivity and aggression often go hand in hand with dogs, and dog aggression is very often a fear-based behaviors as a general rule, so you do not want any "dog whisperer" style stuff, you want positive reinforcement, classical conditioning, and confidence-building.

Heartworm is treatable, especially if treated before the dog has symptoms, and it does not have to be extremely expensive. If your vet did not advise you as to the current AVMA recommendations regarding year-round preventative, make a written complaint to your vet AND your state VMA, not all states have continuing education requirements, but vets should take some responsibility for their professional education. Do some reading here.

The bottom line is that I cannot tell you whether or not it is time to put your dog to sleep, and I am sorry you have reached this point with this dog, certainly not all dogs can live well with people, but many behavior issues are very manageable with the right skills. At least some of the issues this dog has are, unfortunately, ones that could have been prevented, but that is not really helpful. You can probably learn to manage this dog appropriately with a dedicated effort, but only you know if this is feasible for your situation or not. If you do decide to put this dog to sleep, please be very careful and thoughtful about making a decision to get another.
posted by biscotti at 6:28 AM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

I suggest that you let her go, after she has few good days of fun with you. Your family seems wise, and they know the situation well. Listen to them.

Every animal owner or caretaker be prepared to spend the money and time to give their companion a good quality of life, but if for some reason you can't do that, there's no need to prolong suffering.

You can only act on the situation as it is, not as it could have been.
posted by sondrialiac at 10:32 AM on November 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

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