Old dog won't eat
June 8, 2010 12:07 PM   Subscribe

Old dog isn't eating well and is wasting away. Need help making some tough decisions...

We have a sweet old Beagle. Old=14 years old.

Over the years, she's eaten exactly as Beagle eats...i.e sucking down everything and anything she could find. Feeding her was never a problem. Keeping her weight down in a healthy range was. She has always been a healthy, energetic dog. Well, energetic for a hound.

Over the past year, though, her eating habits have changed radically, as has her pickiness. Her weight has dropped alarmingly to where she is now skin and bones. She rejects any of her usual dog food, and pretty much any commercial food. I've never seen a Beagle turn-away from a bowl of food, but she simply walks away from a bowl of dog food.

We've scrambled to find something she might eat. We tried cooking food for her, using recipes for meatloaf for dogs, for instance. Those worked for awhile, but she ended up rejecting those, too. On top of that, the meatloaf induced some truly horrifying black, pasty, often uncontrollable crap. After the meatloaf, we tried roast chicken. She loved on that for several weeks, until turning away from that. She absolutely hates eggs of any sort. This has been going on for the better part of a year and we are at our wits end trying to find something she will eat regularly.

Last month, she suddenly started eating her canned food again, and started adding a little weight and we thought we had turned a positive corner. But, just as suddenly as she started, she stopped eating the canned food.

The past couple of weeks had us feeding her lunchmeat...ham and turkey. Please don't hate. We know that's not the best stuff for her, but it's something she would eat. At least she did. Yesterday, she started refusing both the ham and turkey. We have no idea where to go now. Of course, if we were to throw her a piece of pizza, bowl of ice cream, Fritos, Big Mac, etc. she'd break the sound barrier getting to it. It just seems anything meant for her specifically gets rejected. It's very frustrating.

We've never been ones to feed her our own food, or toss her stuff from our plates, but she will eat whatever we're eating (unless it's something she's already rejected, of course) Right now, she'll eat Cheerios. I kid you not. Of course, a dog can't survive on Cheerios, and we keep trying anything we can find in the pantry. She says 'no' to cheese, for pete's sake. We've tried samples of all manner of the trendy, expensive, all-natural foods, to, to no avail. Frankly, she didn't care much for any of that before she started down this path.

Our vet says she checks out fine for such an old dog. A manual exam doesn't reveal any odd masses or anything. Of course, she says there are other more involved tests we could run, but our finances just don't allow heading down that expensive rabbit hole. I know that sounds cold, but we really can't go there financially.

Of course, through all this, the possibility of, eventually, having to put her down has always been in the back of our minds, as we've watched her wither down. Other issues...because of the drastic weight loss, she's lost a lot of muscle mass, which has rendered her rear legs pretty weak. She often loses footing on tile or other smooth surfaces and can't get up. We have to lift her up and let her get her footing again.

Even with her eating so little, we still have to wall her off in our kitchen overnight, because she doesn't seem to be able to get through the night without leaving us a little poop present. She doesn't have any problem holding her urine, though, thankfully. But, because of her weak legs, she often has problems in the kitchen. I found her spread-out on the kitchen floor the other morning and I had no idea how long she had been there overnight. She's blind in one eye and hasn't the best of hearing. She still gets around the house fairly well. Goes outside and does her duty. Sleeps a lot. But, again, she's wasting away because we can't get her to eat anything regularly. We can't tell if she's in any pain. I can't imagine she isn't, considering her wobbly old legs.

Has anyone been through anything similar with their old dog? At what point do you seriously consider euthanizing a pet? She's been with us for so long and our inability to get her to eat is driving us mad. On the other hand, 14 years is very, very old for a Beagle. Maybe euthanizing her would be the right thing to do?

Any helpful thoughts would be appreciated.
posted by Thorzdad to Pets & Animals (36 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried cooking up a batch of chicken and rice for her? Get some lean, boneless chicken and boil away. You can cook up the rice in the resulting chicken stock. Shred the chicken and mix with the rice and serve. It is easy to digest and pretty healthy for her.
posted by onhazier at 12:22 PM on June 8, 2010

It sounds like a lot of the stuff you've been feeding her over the past few months has been high in fat and salt (human food), especially the lunch meat. So . . . you may have a dog who DID have some digestive discomfort, and who NOW is a bit spoiled into thinking if she turns her nose up at processed corn-meal she'll get honey-baked ham.

Of course, she is ancient, and I'm sure she's making her own decisions about when it seems too painful to eat.

I don't have any advice on when or whether to put her to sleep. Congratulations for raising such a long-lived dog!
posted by General Tonic at 12:22 PM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

You do know there is carecredit available to people in your situation. It should be available through any vet's office and usually has a good/great interest rate (0% if you qualify) I would take the dog in to a specialist to see if anything else could be causing the issue.

I would NEVER consider euthanizing one of our 3 dogs until everything has been checked.

Yes, it will be expensive, but is this dog worth it to you?
posted by TheBones at 12:23 PM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Your vet said ".....there are other more involved tests we could run". If your vet can't determine if there are treatable problems without further testing, it is unlikely we will be able to help much.

I understand your financial constraints. I trust that you've talked to your vet about financing possibilities and you've called around to see if there are any discount services available anywhere based on your resources. If not, please do that.

In answer to your question "at what point do you seriously consider euthanizing a pet", my answer is "when I've exhausted all resources and the expert I'm dealing with agrees that the quality of life for my friend is very negative"

You'll have to make your own decision on this. I'm sorry for both your friends and your suffering... I hope there is peace found with either some reasonable treatment or a compassionate decision.
posted by HuronBob at 12:26 PM on June 8, 2010 [4 favorites]

My late shepherd/border collie mix had the same rear end weakness and poop incontinence issues for the last few years of her old age, and they were neurological -- probably related to some arthritis in her spine. Same deal -- her rear legs were increasingly weak and wobbly, and she'd lose her footing and not be able to get back up without help. I don't know that this is what's going on in your case, but if she tends to drag her toes, then it may well be neurological deterioration, where she can't really feel her feet on the ground anymore.

I had my girl put down when it became clear that this was distressing for her. As long as she was herself and seemed to be comfy in her life, fine, but when she got to the point where she'd have to poop and then couldn't get away from it and would be stuck there on the floor for an hour or so until I got home, then she was clearly miserable, especially in the summer heat. So after we had a nice cool drizzly morning, I fed her a hunk of steak and took her in for the pink shot.

About your main question, the food issue -- that's a tough one. I had another old shepherd-dobie mix girl who lived to be almost 18, and the last year or so with her, it was "here, have some gravy on that" or "want some tasty baby food?" since she just seemed to gradually lose her appetite or sense of taste. I think she was just indicating her increasing lack of interest in life and readiness to, um, "go to college."

Only you know your dog, and only you know when the time is right, but in terms of quality of life, when a dog's basic mobility and enjoyment of food are seriously compromised -- especially for a lifelong food-inhaler -- and you and your vet are pretty certain that her days will over time get worse rather than better, then it's absolutely not wrong to consider euthanasia.
posted by FelliniBlank at 12:28 PM on June 8, 2010

Your dog sounds like my parents Terrier mix, Bubbles. I grew up with her, but didn't have much exposure to her after I left the house. A couple years ago, they went out of town and asked me to walk her, and when I did, I accidentally took her down the wrong steps in front of their house, and that's when I realized that she was completely blind. She was terrified. Anyway, I'll spare you that story.

It's about quality of life for any animal. It's always about quality of life. My golden has horrible hips, but she still gets around ok and she's the happiest goofiest ball of golden-going-to-gray/white you ever saw.

If your pooch can't stand on her own, well, that's something. The hearing and the seeing, those are significant too. It's possible the appetite is wrecked because she's hurting, or it could be that she's simply just not hungry. It has been my experience in the past that some animals will simply decide to stop living, and generally stopping eating is a part of that.

If I were you I'd start with some inexpensive pain treatment. 1 aspirin, maybe some MSM in something she can't say no to---like a hotdog or something. If that doesn't work, then maybe trying to get a sampler of a prescription pain med like Rimadyl. It'll probably just knock her out.

When you're sure it's not all becaue she's hurting, then you make hard decisions. There are (mercifully) vets who will come to your home for euthenasia. It doesn't have to be traumatic. Surrounded by comfortable smells and favorite toys and people, a tasty peanut butter cracker or a hotdog or even just loving, ever loving hands on her old bones. Then it's sleep, and the sleep doesn't hurt.

But before that---before that happens, or as that's happening, you tell her everything she means to you. You tell her about your favorite memories, and about what it's meant to have her in your life. You whisper your thanks in her ear and you tell her you love her. She'll already know, of course. She'll probably give you kisses.

It's a little meloncholy---but dont' skip that last step. I think it's integral to letting go.

I have to stop writing now, because I seem to have something in my eye.
posted by TomMelee at 12:28 PM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Is she suffering? To this day I regret not making the tough choice of putting my dog to sleep. Pip was hurting, had trouble walking, and we headed down the expensive rabbit hole. Countless vet visits and tests did nothing for her, except prolong her agony.

You obviously love your dog, and you are the best judge of when enough is enough: trust your instinct.
posted by francesca too at 12:33 PM on June 8, 2010

This is what was happening with my beloved lab/shepherd mix at the end. She was a dog who lived for pets and food. At the end she would eat nothing, not even her most favorite things. She couldn't handle a walk to the end of our street and back. She loved us still, but it was clear that she couldn't relish pets any more. There was nothing left of the things in life that had given her joy.

I miss her every day. I can at this moment feel her the phantom of her warm, heavy butt sitting on my foot, as she stares up adoringly at me and I stroke her velvet ears. She was the sweetest dog I've ever owned. But we had to let her go.

I think you know how it is with your dog. You have all my sympathy. But do what is right for her, so your dog doesn't end her life suffering.
posted by bearwife at 12:39 PM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

If the vet says she checks out fine - and she doesn't seem to be hurting or suffering - then I think it's premature to think about the drastic options. Those would be my measuring sticks, but I am somewhat of the opinion that you know when it's time, and really it's the last gift you can give her, to put her first. It's a terrible decision to have to make, and I'm sorry that you have to be at that place. (I am tearing up a little...)

If it were me and it was all she'd eat, I honestly would probably let her eat whatever I'm eating. If that's some pizza, then it's some pizza. If you can get her to take a vitamin, then I would do that - I want to say there might even be some liquid supplements available.

I would probably put down a carpet in the kitchen - yes, it is a huge pain and she will poop and/or pee on it, but at least she would have a better chance at solid footing and you wouldn't need to worry too much about that? I think you can probably get something that could be hosed off pretty easily and you could rotate between a couple of them.
posted by mrs. taters at 12:50 PM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Is she on any medication? My dog is on Proin (phenylpropanolamine) for urinary trouble. The medication causes loss of appetite. My dog isn't really interested in her dog food anymore. She'll still eat it, but she's become a grazer in her old age. She has lost about 15 pounds - probably a mixture of muscle loss and fat loss. I also share some of my human food with her since she's 13 and it makes her happy.

Does your dog seem like she's in any pain? I know this might sound irresponsible, but if she likes pizza, why not give it to her? At her age, why not indulge her (as long as it's not something dangerous for a dog to eat, like chocolate)?
posted by parakeetdog at 12:57 PM on June 8, 2010

One good way to deal with end-of-life issues with pets is to start by making a list, now, of the 5 things your pet likes to do the most. Whether it's going on walks, riding in the car, catching a ball...or eating people food. Keep an eye on that list, and start to notice when those things become more and more difficult. That can help you know when it is time.

In my school of thought, a 14 year old dog gets to eat whatever it likes. I'd let him feast on table food quite a bit, to tell you the truth.

And don't for one second feel guilty about passing up expensive tests. Vet care is wonderful, and having access to vet specialists is great for those who want to go down that path. Personally, I'd never spend thousands to prolong a pet's life by a few months or a year. And i say that as a lifelong dog and cat owner.
posted by BlahLaLa at 1:00 PM on June 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

Oh, I'm so sorry.

We euthanized our 10.5-yr old greyhound last fall. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my 34 years. We probably did it sooner than others might have. We had the benefit (though I hate to call it that) of a terminal diagnosis of cancer, so we knew eventually where things were going to end up. But with a 14-yr old beagle, you essentially know the same thing.

It's not always about pain. For our girl, the type of cancer she had wasn't painful at all, but it sapped every bit of energy from her and killed her joy for life. For me, what's the point of being a dog if you don't have a joy for life? That is the essence of Dog. So when it got to the point that we had to beg her to eat, when she didn't want to explore the neighborhood on walks, when she couldn't muster the interest/energy to jump on the bed or couch and cuddle with us, we decided to say goodbye.

The good thing is dogs don't know that they're dying, so they luckily don't have the dread about what's ahead that we do. These decisions are way worse for us than for them.

There are still times that I wonder if we should have given her more time, fought a little longer. But really, what would those extra weeks have brought her? Just more exhaustion and neverending thirst/peeing from the meds she was on. What would they have brought us? Just more heartbreak. And more financial burden. Don't let people guilt you into making decisions that will hurt you and your family financially. It's ok to decide that money is a factor in whether or not to prolong the life of a 14-yr old dog that has had a good and happy life with you. We're still paying off the credit card bills from our tragedy last fall, and that's *without* trying chemo!

Best wishes. MeMail me if you need to, and you can check my AskMe question history for my question from when we were faced with our decision. There were some good answers there too.
posted by misskaz at 1:03 PM on June 8, 2010

At what point do you seriously consider euthanizing a pet?

If she's happy, not in pain, and still interested in doing her things, I would support her as best I could in continuing on for a little while longer. Has the vet suggested feeding her canned a/d?

If she's in pain and uninterested in her things, then it's time. We took my elderly Great Dane/German Shepherd mix last September and it was one of the most traumatic days of my entire life, but he had fallen and he was in pain and it was time. I'm sorry that you're going through this.
posted by crankylex at 1:03 PM on June 8, 2010

You didn't mention it, but have her teeth been checked over thoroughly (as in, under anaesthesia so they can get a really good look)? Our 13-year-old dog stopped eating once when his teeth hurt; it turned out he had a seriously bad tooth that had to be pulled, after that he was OK.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 1:05 PM on June 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

We just went through this with our dog. Same symptoms: weak back legs, pooping in the house, refusal to eat (unless we changed her diet all the time -- she liked baby food for a while; canned green beans; then green beans; eventually we gave her whatever we were eating). Our doc said it was neurological like the posters above. We tried steroids for a while - they just made her nervous and pacing all the time. We did whatever we could to make her happy.

Fortunately (?) for us, we had an event that made it very clear it was time for her to be put down -- one night she just started running around in the middle of the night, running into things, and barking. She would not calm down. We had to take her to the emergency vet, who gave us the line about there being lots of invasive and expensive tests they could perform. But we had also called our own vet, who told us he believed it was a progression of her neurological problems, and that he completely understood our decision to put her down. I felt good about that, because he understood everything we'd been through, and everything we'd tried, up to that point. Where the emergency vet, for all she knew, this was the first issue we'd had and we were all "no, no more testing."

The whole thing was hard and horrible, but not as hard as just sort of setting a date to do it.

But what I want to say is: yes, it's hard and horrible. But I also think you have to balance the age of the dog/comfort of the dog with the cost. It is OKAY to do a cost benefit analysis. Saying "I can't spend that kind of money" does not make you a bad dog owner, if you do what needs to be done to keep the dog comfortable.

I'm so sorry.
posted by dpx.mfx at 1:07 PM on June 8, 2010

Best homemade dog food: Boil 6 cups water. Poach three large frozen chicken breasts for about 45 minutes. Remove the breasts and let them cool a little. Grind the chicken in a food processor and add back to the water. Use the water to cook 1.5 cups white rice as usual. Add 1 large can of green beans (I don't remember the size but it looks to be about 4 regular cans), rinsed well in a colander if it's not salt-free and stir it up. Feed one cup in morning and one cup at night. Or more if you want your doggie to add some weight. Add a cup of chopped spinach if you want to increase the nutrients, but I would leave it out because the spinach doesn't agree with every dog. If you double the recipe and use a big pot, this will make enough to freeze half and feed for two weeks. It takes less than 15 minutes of total work time. I've never known a dog to refuse this recipe. The chicken flavor is all through the rice. Processing the chicken makes it easier to chew, the green beans are soft. This is good stuff. I think she'll eat it and it will help her.
posted by raisingsand at 1:21 PM on June 8, 2010 [8 favorites]

Honey, the dog is fourteen. If what she wants to eat is pizza, feed the dog pizza. It's *not* like not eating is helping to improve her declining health.

If you can get her to eat (anything) then you're good as far as I can see based on what you've written. My criteria for considering putting my pets to sleep is impaired mobility, pain, dimentia or terminal diagnosis. I don't know if that helps at all.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:22 PM on June 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

I've been down the road of "invasive tests" and later, cancer treatment and it ended up making our dog no happier and her last days were spent in an ASPCA hospital, costing about $3500. We took her home and she was no better, so we brought her right back in to be euthanized. We've vowed not to do that again. But see if you can get an estimate for some blood tests or kidney/liver function tests... they may be affordable, they may not be.

And along the lines of what others have said, you're not a bad person if you don't have thousands to spend on the prolonging of your dog's life when it's old and not able to do the things it likes.

One of my tricks with her, before we put her down, was to make a plate of chicken, steak, and rice and sit down like it was my food, and then "put it down" to go grab something from the other room. She'd eat it and we'd both think we won. But that stopped after awhile, and then we knew it was getting worse.

I'm sorry. When an old dog gets sick, it's so heartbreaking.
posted by kpht at 1:29 PM on June 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

Has she had any blood work run? Radiographs taken? When you say 'manual exam', I am assuming a straight-up physical exam, and nothing else.

I mean, when you say 'more involved tests,' what are you saying? When I hear 'more involved tests' I hear 'MRI', 'advanced endocrine panel', '24-hout holter monitor,' etc. But what's missing from your post is information like: 'thoracic and abdominal radiographs were normal' or 'CBC/chem checked out fine.' These are...the absolute most basic medical tests she would probably receive. These are not 'more involved' tests from a veterinary stance.

Are these what you weren't able to pay for? I'm not being snarky or harsh: what does 'more involved' mean to you? Because...as HuronBob said, really, if your veterinarian can't tell you anything without running more tests, especially if you can't cover the basics...we can't tell you much except suggest financing options, or see if you have a local shelter veterinary hospital that sees clients who can't pay (the Humane Society near me does this).
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 1:31 PM on June 8, 2010

When our beloved greyhound was in his twilight years, he first had trouble getting up and down from a laying position on his bankie. Once he was on his feet, he was OK. Then it got to the point where he was unsteady enough on his feet that I had to walk beside him to semi-support him. We put puppy training pads down for him on the back deck to use for his toilette since he could no longer manage the steps down to the back yard. But he was still eating fairly well and not wasting away. Eventually he started showing no interest in his regular food, but would accept "treats"(slices of turkey hot dogs, the melted cheddar cheese that comes with curly fries, etc.) while lying on his bankie. Finally, when he no longer ate anything and would only take a few perfunctory laps of the water I offered him, I had to admit that his time had come. I was prolonging the inevitable just because I couldn't bear to say good-bye. So I would say if your aging pooch will eat pizza or other "bad" foods, then give them to him. Much like when my beloved mother-in-law was in the late stages of Alzheimer's Disease, and the only foods she would eat on her own were things like banana pudding and ice cream and the health care workers objected because so many sweets were "unhealthy," we said "so what?" If a certain kind of food makes a person (or a pet) happy at that stage of the game, then why not let them enjoy it?
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:46 PM on June 8, 2010

I've always gone by the 2 out of 3 rule: If 2 out of 3 of your dog's major quality of life issues (they can be ones you share) are compromised, it's probably time to kindly say goodbye. So if your dog's big 3 are eating enough to maintain healthy weight, being continent in the house, and being able to do the stairs to get outside, and 2 out of the 3 of those are compromised, it would be time.

Choosing the time to say goodbye is at once the hardest and the most loving thing we can do for our pets. Furthermore, if it's within our power to do so, it's our responsibility to do it at a time *before* they are so far gone that it's miserable for them and for us.

When my dog was dying of bone cancer, I picked a day on the calendar, arranged for the vet to visit our house, and then on that day gave him drive-thru Chick-Fil-A, a morning at the dog beach, an afternoon napping in the sun on the deck, and a steak cooked on the grill. Then, when he was so tired from his Best Dog Day Ever, he took a nap on the kitchen floor like always. But because the vet was there, he never woke up. I will never regret doing it that way.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 1:59 PM on June 8, 2010 [6 favorites]

A bit of an aside, but, in the mean time, if she is hurting on the kitchen floor because it is too slippery, please think of rubber mats you can put down to help her traction. It is really hard for dogs who already have trouble standing to stand on a slick floor. They really struggle with it sometimes, and there is no need to add that to her other issues.

You can get cheap home depot ones. They will also help in cleaning up the messes, as you can just take out one piece and hose it off outside.
posted by Vaike at 2:04 PM on June 8, 2010

Have her checked. My dog did this; it turned out to be Cushing's disease. It still took stumbling into a brand new food (from Duck and Potato to Sweet Potato and Venison) to suddenly rekindle his appetite.

Having said that, he lived for many many months with the disease. But then, last week, he stopped eating again -- and suddenly couldn't stand very well, stopped barking (instead of barking all the time) and suffered a lot of other changes that made it painfully clear he was suffering and about to die (we put him 48 hours later.) He was fourteen.

So have him looked at to see if there's a potential and specific cause that can be fixed, and if not -- if the vet's response is that the issues are senility or something chronic and incurable without extreme measures (which are never good for an old dog) then you have to make a judgement about quality of life.

Feel free to mail me if you want to, since I've just been through this (saturday is when we put him down.)
posted by davejay at 2:17 PM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

oh, and note that the quality of life issues should be relatively easy to diagnose given your long history together -- mine was deaf as a post, had a chronic cough building up scar tissue, random incontinence, Cushing's disease, and even survived a bout of Pancreatitis without any obvious reduction in quality of life -- then in that 48 hour period everything changed so obviously that it went from "when will we know it's time" to "oh crap, it's time, how quickly can we do this to stop his obvious suffering?"
posted by davejay at 2:19 PM on June 8, 2010

Addressing the food issues only: It sounds like you are finding one food she likes, then feeding that to her until she tires of it. Have you tried giving her something different at every meal? Maybe she just needs variety to stimulate her appetite.
posted by HotToddy at 3:24 PM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

My dog has Cushing's Disease too and even though a few months back I thought it was the end, it isn't. Really. It wasn't cheap to get him treated, but it has been worth it.

I'd seek a second opinion from a vet to see if something is up that is treatable.
posted by k8t at 3:25 PM on June 8, 2010

My bf's family dog lived to be quite old.. but toward the end, she was in poor health, partly because she swallowed one of her own teeth, unbeknownst to the family. She hardly ate because she was in so much pain internally due to the errant tooth, and it wasn't until it was too late when the reason why was discovered.

Probably not the case with your dog, but if it's inexpensive to have it checked, you can suggest it to the vet, especially if your dog's dental care has been lacking.
posted by Seboshin at 4:48 PM on June 8, 2010

I'd want to know more about your dog "checking out fine." At the very least, I would scrape together the cash for some blood work (to check for diabetes and other such ailments) and x-rays (to look for arthritis that could be causing chronic pain, etc). A lot of old dogs end up suffering needlessly because people write their condition off to age, when it's really a medical condition.

Okay, answering the question. Also, working myself up into tears, even though this was 15 years ago, he was the only dog for me. Please excuse any typos.

I put my dog to sleep when he was 17. He had been incontinent with pee for about 6 months, and gradually became incontinent with poo, as well. This clearly mortified him. Additionally he was at least 80% blind and deaf.

One day I looked at him, staring into space on the other end of the couch, and I realized that the spark was gone. He wasn't enjoying life. Parts of it (soiling himself, and the increasing frequency of the seizures that medication was unable to correct) made him actively miserable. As for the rest, he was just going through the motions of life.

I realized that if I asked him, "Are you happy to be alive?" that for the first time in his 17 years, he would have answered "No." And furthermore that NOT ONLY was there nothing I could do to improve his situation, BUT it would only get worse.

In fact, there was only one thing I could do. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do, but I did it for him. The vet's office was very understanding. Later, they sent a kind card. I opted to have his remains cremated. They are with me still - in fact, I can see them from my desk, if I turn around.
posted by ErikaB at 6:17 PM on June 8, 2010

Owner of a 14 year old dog here. Seconding getting her teeth checked out. Also seconding letting her eat pizza if that's what she wants at her age.
posted by Ashley801 at 8:07 PM on June 8, 2010

One of my dogs is going through similar at this very moment. Her appetite has been on and off for a few months. I could get her to eat by introducing something new and exciting, but as soon as it wasn't exciting any more, she'd stop eating again. She completely stopped eating a few weeks ago, to our great distress; she was still reasonably perky and drinking water, but wouldn't eat no matter what I did (even with the extra appealing prescription canned food).

The vets think this is just senility. Not GI problems, not teeth, not likely to be pain (though we have experimented with her pain meds, and she currently gets Tramadol, glucosamine, and Adequan), not anything else that's obviously a problem despite X-rays and bloodwork. She's just getting older, and gets confused in some situations, one of which is mealtime.

We got her started on a low dose of Prednisone because it had stimulated her appetite in the past when she was on a course of it. Boy, oh, boy, does she remember what mealtime is for now! The vet ok'd just keeping her on a low dose of Pred (every other day, though we'll probably try every 3 days soon) to help stimulate her appetite and keep her senior brain where it needs to be when there's food in front of her. Pred does have long-term side effects, but realistically, this dog is not going to have to worry about long-term side effects. I just want her to be as happy and healthy as possible, for as long as possible.
posted by galadriel at 4:54 AM on June 9, 2010

I've been fostering senior dogs and had similar trouble getting them to eat.

Merrick brand food is known in the local senior dog rescue organization (muttville.org) as the most appetizing commercial brand food. Their varieties mimic people food ("Grammy's Pot Pie" is a favorite).
posted by k7lim at 6:08 PM on June 9, 2010

I'm a critical care / emergency vet tech, but not your CCEVT. A few things:

- Loss of weight and loss of appetite is very serious. If an animal is eating on its own, it is a great indicator that it wants to live and fight through its present condition. Is your dog still drinking water readily?

- Try feeding your dog a very bland diet. Boiled chicken breast, baby food (w/o any garlic additives), rice, cottage cheese. The lunch meat contains a lot of salt and preservatives - bad for geriatric dogs with diarrhea. The meatloaf may have been beef? Which is not a recommended protein for a dog with gastric issues. I disagree with giving your dog any people food he wants; it could stress his system even more and cause him even more digestive stress. Bland diet. Hand-feeding. Warm it up a little in the microwave. Many small meals vs. large ones. If he is drinking, try giving a no-sodium chicken broth.

- Anesthesia is risky for older dogs, particularly those with compromised homeostasis due to lack of nutrition and gastric issues. Your vet may not want to put your dog under to do a dental cleaning because the risk to his heart may outweigh the benefit of having his teeth cleaned. There are fast-acting anesthetics administered intravenously that present less risk than inhaled anesthetics.

- With regards to the mobility issues your dog is experiencing, he is probably feeling arthritic due to his age as well as weak because he is not eating. In addition to giving him padding or matting on the floor, you can also make sure that his nails are at the proper length. Older dogs' nails need to be trimmed more frequently than in younger dogs, because they walk around less and so wear their nails down more slowly. The longer nails can make it hard for your dog to walk and can affect his gait.

I see a lot of owners go through much emotional and financial stress because of dramatic efforts to prolong their animals' lives. It can be very hard to predict how much an illness will cost to treat, or whether or not expensive tests will aid your vet in providing a diagnosis, which may or may not be treatable. But your dog cannot tell you why he is not eating. Does he not like the food? Is he sick of it? Does it give him stomach upset to eat the food, leading him to reject food for some time? What is upsetting the systematic maintenance of his body? Sometimes, the only way to tell is by blood tests, ultrasounds, X-rays, etc., because your animal simply cannot communicate to you what his symptoms are.

There is much good advice in this thread about judging your dog's quality of life. You know him best. But if you decide that you want to find out more about his condition through additional testing at your veterinarian's office, be sure to mention to them that cost is a big concern to you. Sometimes they will reduce the cost of care to accommodate the client.

This is the most difficult aspect of befriending and loving and being responsible for your animals. I always try to remember all of the joy they have given me throughout our all-too-brief time together, all of the comforts they have provided me, the laughter they have provoked, and the feeling of companionship their presence has given me and my family. And I try to remember that it will hurt to see them go, but that is the contract we made when I brought them into my life. That at whatever point we find ourselves, I will do whatever is in my power to help that animal be happy and comfortable, and if I cannot do that, I will give them the gift of mercy and honor them in my heart forever, knowing that I did not prolong their suffering.

The grace of dogs be with you.
posted by Seppaku at 11:55 AM on June 11, 2010

Thank you all for your suggestions and well-wishes. And I apologize for taking so long to post back. Obviously, this is a difficult time for us.

We have run the course of foods for Sally (our beagle)...high-end commercial, cheap-as-hell store brands, everything in-between. She won't so much as sniff at it. She ate a half can of cat food a couple of weeks ago. She seemed to like it, but never touched it again. We've cooked all sorts of things for her, but now she isn't interested in any of it. She still likes bacon, but only freshly fried. Frying-up bacon ahead doesn't work for her. She won't touch it. It's been...exasperating. And emotionally wringing.

After consulting with our vet, we've come to the difficult decision that she's simply too far gone physically to do anything realistically (or affordably) sustainable for her. We will be euthanizing her later in the week. She will have as much ice cream as she wants before then (if she wants it. She may not. We don't know anymore)

Thank you all, again, for your help and well-wishes.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:05 PM on July 13, 2010

Sally passed into dog heaven today around 6:00pm.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:52 PM on July 16, 2010

So sorry.
posted by raisingsand at 5:14 PM on July 16, 2010

Love to Sally.
posted by Ashley801 at 6:52 PM on July 16, 2010

« Older Under pressure   |   This is harder than I thought... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.