Logistics of dealing with a terminally ill dog
January 24, 2019 2:33 PM   Subscribe

Last week it was a diagnosis of kidney disease, this week it was a 12am grand mal seizure + diagnosis of a probable brain tumor for my sweet old pup. The seizure was an absolutely awful experience that was extra rough because I was alone. I'd like help thinking through the logistics of making the last months of her life as manageable as possible for the both of us.

She's still a bit tired from the seizure but is in good spirits, eating and drinking, and seeming like her normal happy self. She's not on seizure meds and will not be until she has more. I was told to expect a gradual decline, and my vet says she'll likely have a good quality of life until she is either affected more significantly by the tumor or has a seizure that she doesn't recover from, at which point I plan to put her down. Either way, the vet said she's unlikely to be in pain.

I realize that this will be hard no matter how it goes, and I don't have a ton of control over the contingencies. But I want to think through what I would do in some of the most likely scenarios, and if there's something I could do within reason to reduce the likelihood of the shittier ones, I'd like to do that. The shitty scenarios I'd like to prevent if possible are:
*Having to deal with another seizure alone, because if it lasts longer than 5 minutes that's an emergency vet/euthanasia situation and it will be very difficult for me to carry a 40-lb seizing dog. I would also deeply prefer to have someone there with me when I have to put her down.
*Coming home to a dead dog, or a dog that has been suffering from a seizure that caused brain damage. I want to be able to quickly end things for her once she's at imminent risk of prolonged suffering, and would be devastated if she had to suffer for an extended time alone. I also really hate the idea of having to carry her body to the vet myself, but I think I can get over that.

My resources:
*My partner is super supportive, and works from home, but is out of town about 1/3 of the time. So she'll usually be monitored and I'll usually have moral support.
*My regular vet and an emergency vet are both 5 minutes away from my house.
*My friends are also super supportive. Some of them live right by another emergency vet. I've stayed with them the last couple nights while the seizure risk is still high so I don't have to be alone and can get help quickly if needed. Some of my friends are able to work from home and have offered to watch her if I need them to. However, they all live about a 20-30min drive away, so they couldn't be there immediately if I needed them to be, and it wouldn't make sense to drop her off with them daily.
*My job is generally pretty flexible and I'm often able to work from home for at least part of the day or leave quickly if I need to.

Any advice on dealing with or minimizing the likelihood of those shitty scenarios, given these resources? I'm realistic and know that they might ultimately be unpreventable.

Please assume when answering that it is not yet time for euthanasia. I'm good in a crisis once I have a plan. I'm just overwhelmed and exhausted at the moment and need help thinking through that part.
posted by quiet coyote to Pets & Animals (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I am on a phone but we have lots of experience with end of life care for dogs with seizures so I will add more later. I wanted to let you know though that my vet gave us a single dose of a very powerful anti-seizure sedating enema to give to our Boxer in case of emergency, ie a seizure lasting more than 60 seconds. The plan was that in that instance, we would then transport the dog to the vet to be euthanized.

This was very comforting to me; is it an option you can raise with your vet?
posted by DarlingBri at 2:57 PM on January 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

Sounds like you need to work out a flowchart. Seizure -> what time is it? -> call backup to meet you at currently-open vet -> transport dog(how?) -> run through "is it time yet" script with vet. That sort of thing. If you lay out everything in a flowchart, you can see what you need to fill in now (for example, would it help to get a carry-sling for the dog? Do you need to have a muzzle handy? Do you have all the relevant contact info for your primary and backup people?)

If the worst happens and the dog is incapacitated or unconscious, it sounds like you might want to have your backup come to your house and help with transport/be there for you. You are in a position now where minutes are not really going to change the outcome after a super-bad seizure, so you may as well wait and have someone safe to drive on hand. (I recently had to drive my cat to her last appointment, and drive myself home after, and that was not the safest pair of 5-minute trips I'd ever taken.)

You could also ask your vet if they have advice - they may be able to spare a vet tech for ten minutes to drive to you to help with transport, for example. My small-town vet probably would, if it came to it. Or, as DarlingBri said, they may be able to give you some emergency meds, even if they're just sedatives to make transport easier.
posted by restless_nomad at 3:03 PM on January 24, 2019

I would ask your vets about arranging for in-home euthanasia. My family recently did that for our ailing dog and it was so much more peaceful and loving to do it at home in a familiar environment than having to truck ailing dog to a different and less homey, relaxed environment.
posted by brookeb at 3:06 PM on January 24, 2019 [5 favorites]

You could put up a camera to keep an eye on your pupper when you’re away.
posted by ilovewinter at 3:22 PM on January 24, 2019

brookeb beat me to the punch. Our wonderful vet came out early on a Sunday morning, and I'll always grateful to him for that. Yours may do the same, especially since they're so close. Many hugs coming your way during this difficult time.
posted by kate4914 at 3:25 PM on January 24, 2019

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