Incontinent Older Dog
December 29, 2003 7:23 AM   Subscribe

Yet another dog question. My wife's dog is a shepherd-dobermann cross and so old that she's technically dead - about 16 years old. She's mostly incontinent, and scooping up turds and mopping up pee is a daily and sometimes hourly chore now - I've taken up all the rugs, and she sleeps at night on a foam cushion protected by a vinyl shower curtain. I think her kidneys are failing, but very very slowly. So she drinks a fantastic amount of water and voids it randomly about the house. My wife and I take turns letting her out out night, but she's excessively nocturnal (she's a dog) and this, combined with the incontinence and her tendency to get jammed into odd spots and whine until rescued is degrading our sleep. My wife's very attached to the dog - who otherwise isn't really suffering and is even happy - but our lives are slowly coming to be dominated by the dog. Yet....neither I nor my wife believe in killing pets or other creatures for mere reasons of convenience. Any technical advice on managing this situation until the creature dies a natural death?
posted by troutfishing to Pets & Animals (13 answers total)
Redundant and obvious, but what did the veterinary doc say ?
posted by elpapacito at 7:42 AM on December 29, 2003

Well, the first response would of course be keep it outside, pending weather conditions and yard size. Other than that, the only other real recommendation is what my friend, also with an incontinent dog he kept inside gave me: Oxy-Clean is the best there is right now for dog urine.

But for what I think is the real issue, I'd just like to point out something, speaking from experience with lots of old-and-fading cats: kidney failure isn't exactly "otherwise isn't suffering." Neither is massive fluid evacuation. Not to imply this is what always happens, but we had one cat with organ failures that we "just couldn't put to sleep" until we found it wheezing under a table after losing the strength to support its own weight anymore. We still regret the pain he must have gone through during the week we spent denying the inevitable.

Obviously I'm not insisting that it's necessary to euthanize your dog, but (assuming you just left out already having done this in the FPP) the first response from Captain Obvious is that you should bring the dog to a vet.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:43 AM on December 29, 2003

I have no advice to offer than salutations for sticking by your critter. Keep her comfortable as best as you can, and when the time does come to euthanize her I'm sure you'll make the right decision.
posted by vito90 at 8:44 AM on December 29, 2003

There are some means of approaching and dealing with kidney failure in pets, both medical and more practical. The handicapped pets site has a lot of adaptive products for animals as well as a pretty good support board. We have an older dog with a similar problem and part of the strategy is dealing with the dog [removing water from the kitchen after 4 pm, closing lids on toilets, choosing good food] and part is about dealing with the other humans in your life, your wife and other people you may share your home with.

I think my technical advice on this has more to do with making sure you and your wife stay on good terms... work out a schedule for whose turn it is to deal with your pooch so that at least one of you can get some sleep at night. Make sure you don't let the stress of the situation get you peevish at each other -- it really helps that you both seem to have the same philosophical outlook about dealing with this. And, not to be morbid, but survey the local vets to see if there are any that do housecalls should you have to put your dog down, at least you could do it comfortably and at home.
posted by jessamyn at 8:56 AM on December 29, 2003

Response by poster: elpapacito, XQUZYPHYR - Yeah, you're right, and that's the rub. The vet doesn't think she's in pain, and I don't either - for the fact that she's actually pretty vocal when she's in distress. She'll whine pretty loudly then, or sometimes just sigh a lot. But I should ask the vet if he thought it possible that she would whine when emotionally distressed but not from physical pain. That's worth asking. I don't think she's in much pain, but I could be wrong.

Anyway, she spends a huge amount of time shuffling around the kitchen sniffing for food scraps and has a very healthy appetite. She smiles, and grooms. Her mind is going, and she's partially blind and deaf but still amazingly active. After meals, she retires to her waterproofed floor cushion in front of the couch my wife and I are lying on, and proceedes to roll about happily whilst rubbing her face on the fabric or sometimes playfully snapping randomly at the air, at imaginary objects it seems. But she's never bitten anyone (yet). We keep her away from children.

When my wife and I first started with our current vet, he didn't think the dog had long to live. Well, that was almost two years ago, and now he's saying - "She's not going anywhere." In fact, I began telling my wife to prepare for the dog's immanent demise over five years ago, just to prepare her for the inevitable. Now, that seems like a bad joke.

Last spring, we spent the money to have an eight pound tumor the size of a grapefruit taken off her flank, with laser surgery. The sheer weight of it was preventing her from getting up. She healed beautifully after the surgery, and was dramatically happier and more mobile. Now, a tumor on her knee is getting bigger - about the size of a golf ball. We're hoping she doesn't stick around long enough to force us to finance the removal of that tumor too, when it gets to baseball size. The tumors are all benign.

Oh - and about the sensible yard suggestion : what REALLY distresses the dog is to be either confined alone (as in to a single room) or otherwise kept away from her owners. Confined in a room she will relentlessly scratch at the door until she scratches right through or until her claws wear right off. Outside? - It's fairly cold where we live, so I don't think she'd last long outside, at her advanced age, and the whining and scratching at the door would drive my wife and I insane.

We need to get some Oxy-Clean - that's fer sure. Thanks for the suggestions. Right now, I'm considering the dog to be training - in patience, for future challenges.
posted by troutfishing at 8:58 AM on December 29, 2003

Actually - I do have one potential thing that may or may not help, your vet could confirm. But I think Vitamin C is important for dogs to maintain healthy urinary tract function - could be an asset in your dog's case.
posted by vito90 at 8:59 AM on December 29, 2003

Response by poster: jessamyn - thanks. That's very good advice.
posted by troutfishing at 9:00 AM on December 29, 2003

if your dog is in kidney failure (as the copious drinking indicates) she should be getting treatment... has the vet confirmed anything, were her bun and creatinine levels checked...? my 17 year old cat was able to live over a year longer than expected because we gave her a subq injection every day. sometimes cats and dogs with kidney failure can live up to 3 years more with treatment... my cat's bun and creatinine levels never got worse so she likely would have lasted more than the extra year if a swift and vicious cancer hadn't claimed her first.

I think Vitamin C is important for dogs to maintain healthy urinary tract function

if the dog is in kidney failure that may not be such a good idea if she gets enough in her regular diet. extra would overtax her kidneys because vit c tends to flush itself if it's not needed. vitamn a with d (cod liver oil caps) once a week helps the kidneys flush impurities, without taxing them.
posted by t r a c y at 9:31 AM on December 29, 2003

The hardest question to ask yourself is this:

Are you doing all of this work to ensure that your dog is happy and healthy?
Or are you doing all of this to fulfill your own human need?

Your dog does not understand why these tumors grow and why her bladder no longer cooperates. You've said she cannot bear to be alone, confined to a room or kept outside, but her lack of control is making the time she spends with you a trying experience. And while you (being human) can recognize the value of treatment and surgery, knowing that an application of uncomfortable medicine may eventually provide a positive result, your dog only knows the pain of her situation.

I guess what I'm saying is, consider what joy your dog has given you and your wife over the last 16 years, then weigh that against the discomfort she now faces every day. Her very full, very tired life is at its sunset. Do what's best for the dog, reward her unselfishly, and -- like vito90 said -- "Keep her comfortable as best as you can..."
posted by grabbingsand at 10:20 AM on December 29, 2003

Response by poster: grabbingsand - that was beautifully put. Thanks very much for your input. Actually, after the initial trauma - which will be a lot worse for my wife, who has had the dog over twelve years - both she and I will be very relieved. We don't feel comfortable bringing the dog anywhere, asking anyone to watch her (which involves cleaning up after her), or leaving her for too long. So : no travel.

I'm not doing it for my own human needs exactly - but in a sense I am, because I'm leaving the decision up to my wife : and so I'm dealing with the dog more for her sake. So, I need to do constant reality checks to make sure she's not merely maintaining the dog for her own emotional reasons. I don't think the dog is currently suffering that much, but I'm anticipating that very soon she will be - and so it will probably be up to me to talk my wife through the difficult decision

t r a c y - We'll have that checked. Thanks.
posted by troutfishing at 1:50 PM on December 29, 2003

This may be silly, but is there some kind of waste bag for dogs that are similar to the bags put on the back of horses?
posted by oflinkey at 9:21 PM on December 29, 2003

oflinkey - I have the same question -- isn't there "doggy depends"? I don't have a dog, but I've seen them put some kind of diapers on dogs in heat... would they have the holding capacity necessary?
trout - I know this is a rough time for you -- pets are good friends and it's hard to know what to do sometimes. I wish you the best of luck during this difficult time.
posted by j at 7:28 AM on December 30, 2003

I don't know if you want to go this far, but I *have* seen people diaper an old Lab. They put the dog into kid's one-peice pajamas to keep the diaper in place.
posted by timeistight at 11:25 AM on December 30, 2003

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