Poor old dog, poor old grandmother
November 26, 2007 9:10 AM   Subscribe

What to do about a old, incontinent, dog who falls alot and can't get up, whose owner is in the hospital and really can't deal with having the dog put to sleep?

My grandmother recently fell and is in the hospital for an indefinite amount of time, and probably will have to be moved to a care facility for rehab for at least some amount of time. Problem is she has a 14 year old golden retriever sized dog (not sure the actually breed, probably a mutt) who has a host of health problems that involve a lot of cleaning up and watching, mostly because of lack of bowel/bladder control and falling and not being able to get up problems that means that she tends to fall into her own poop and get stuck there. My grandmother just lost her husband in Sept. and she just isn't in the right state emotionally to deal with her dog being put to sleep either. The only family that is near enough to care for the dog has him now, but they aren't likely to put up with it for long. She is in Bloomington, IN. Is there anything around there that would be willing to take and care for this dog until my grandmother can get home or can accept that the dog needs to move on? Obviously the normal boarding places aren't going to work.
posted by JonahBlack to Pets & Animals (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
How recently has the dog seen a vet and what suggestions were made?

There have been enormous advances in animal pain management and rehabilitation in recent years, and there are many great medications available to deal with some of these issues. At very least, the family who has the dog should get some dog diapers to help with the incontinence clean-up (better pet stores have them, or you can order online).

You may be able to find someone who does specialized boarding (start by contacting local vet clinics), but it will likely be expensive.
posted by biscotti at 9:26 AM on November 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Maybe take a look and see if the folks at Golden Retriever Rescue Education and Training have a group in IN, or if there's another rescue group around. They might be able to help you find a fostering situation for him, either permanently or for a few months until your grandmother is out of the hospital.

I don't know anything about any branches they may have near you, but can't speak highly enough about the lengths their New Jersey branch will go to in order to care for elderly goldens with medical problems. They're very dedicated folks and will want to help you, or at least to point you toward some resources.
posted by Stacey at 9:43 AM on November 26, 2007

Argh - just re-read and noticed it's not necessarily a golden. Nonetheless, I would bet they might have suggestions for other groups to help.
posted by Stacey at 9:44 AM on November 26, 2007

If a vet suggests putting the dog to sleep is the most humane thing to do, that's what you should do. You can tell your grandmother her dog died in its sleep peacefully, if that's better for her than the truth. Lying isn't always the wrong thing to do.
posted by poppo at 10:06 AM on November 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Unfortunately, this happens. I inherited a dog in this manner after an entire family couldn't deal. The dog was so weak and puny that it couldn't stand, eat, hold it's bladder, etc. It was also blind and deaf. I took the dog to the vet for a checkup and the vet advised euthanasia. He found small tumors all over the body. I opted to put the dog out of it's misery. When the family asked about it, I said it was happy, nothing more. This dog was absolutely miserable when I got it, so yes, I believe that's true. As time wore on, they got busy with their dying relative and life in general and didn't ask anymore. I would never have told the dying owner we decided to put the dog to sleep. If you do it, there's nothing mandating you have to tell her. Sometimes we do things for our loved ones own good, whether they like (or know) it or not.

Was your grandmother really able to care for the dog in the first place? If she does return home, will she be able to then?

Also, all the rescue places I researched (in Georgia) dealt with younger dogs with medical problems. Your dog sounds like it's in slightly better shape than mine was.
posted by ick at 10:07 AM on November 26, 2007

don't keep the poor dog alive for your grandmother's sake if there's nothing else to be done for it. i wouldn't lie to your grandmother either, though. i would just tell her that the dog died peacefully in its sleep, as suggested above. she'll probably take it better than you think she will.

alternatively, you could just avoid the question for a while if she's really a wreck (and if she's in that precarious a state, then she needs to be seen by a psychiatrist, who can help her). have the dog cremated and save the ashes for her.
posted by thinkingwoman at 10:13 AM on November 26, 2007

14 is pretty old for a large dog; it's terribly possible that the dog won't make it all the way through your grandmothers' recovery process anyway, so you need to take that into account as well.

I'm going to second what ick and poppo just said and add that I was party to a conspiracy to put down my mother's ancient, ailing, meanspirited, inconsolable, incontinent Bichon Frise when she went into the hospital two years ago for what might well have been the last time. My mother recovered, but it was a long road during which she would not have been able to care for the dog - six months or more. We told her the dog had died peacefully in his sleep and then everyone very quickly and quietly dropped the matter. It sounds harsh but quite honestly I have no regrets and neither do my brothers.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:18 AM on November 26, 2007

I had a very old, sick dog while I was in a bad health situation. The dog either "died peacefully in her sleep," as my parents told me, or they put her down (which I hadn't suspected until reading these responses.) At any rate, my family waited until I was a bit better to let me know, and as upsetting as it was, I was glad that she was no longer suffering. I almost think it would have been worse to come home and see my dog suffering. Perhaps your grandmother would feel similarly?
posted by gembackwards at 10:33 AM on November 26, 2007

nth-ing putting the dog down if the vet recommends it.

Think of it this way: if the dog did die in its sleep, what would you tell your grandmother, and how/when would you break the news?

After the dog's gone, do that.
posted by Rykey at 11:33 AM on November 26, 2007

I took on a foster dog in a similar situation, via an ad on Craigslist. I suggest you place an ad for a foster situation and explain the dog has special needs. State that you are willing to cover all expenses. It goes without saying that you would cover his vet care. Don't offer to pay an additional stipend upfront (to avoid getting replies from people who care about money more than animals), but you may want to consider offering that to someone after you've met them.

You can also look on Petfinder.com for local rescue groups, shelters and humane societies, and call and ask if they know anyone who could foster a elderly sick dog. You may be surprised at how many good leads you get. Don't be afraid to expand your search a little farther afield - i.e. Chicago.

In the meantime, get a veterinarian's opinion on this dog's prognosis. If something can be done for him medically to ease his pain and discomfort for the short rest of his life (biscotti is right on about what can be done lately), pay up and consider it a gift to your grandma.

It's quite possible that thinking about her dog and how well he's being taken care of and is waiting for her will help her own recovery process, especially since she's recently lost her husband. Who would want to come home from an extended rehab to a completely empty house?

I find lying about the final end of someone's pet to be extraordinarily unethical. If your grandma still has all her faculties mentally, she should be the one to make any decisions about her property (which, by law, pets are), unless she specially turns the job over to someone else. Making such a drastic decision because *you* think she can't deal with it is arrogant.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 11:43 AM on November 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

don't keep the poor dog alive for your grandmother's sake if there's nothing else to be done for it.

No, you should keep the dog alive for your grandmother's sake. I think that having the dog die --- especially being put to sleep --- while she is in the hospital could kill her. Seriously.

This is a situation where the family needs to pull together, make some sacrifices to care for a difficult and time-consuming pet, make sure the dog is comfortable and as happy as possible, and have the dog waiting for her when she is released. The elderly get very attached to their dogs, and without knowing much about your grandmother's relationship with her dog, I think that loss could be devastating.

My grandmother, who had had her beloved dog for fourteen or so years, died just a few months after her dog died, and I still think the loss of her dog had a lot to do with her death.
posted by jayder at 2:43 PM on November 26, 2007

I would say that, before you consider putting the dog to sleep, you go to a good vet and have the dog thoroughly checked out. It's very possible that something can be done to get the dog in better shape. If something can be done for the dog, then the entire family should chip in with the cost and, as a poster above said, consider it a gift to grandma.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 5:01 PM on November 26, 2007

Karen Hull at College Mall Veterinarians (812-334-1400) adores Goldens and is a terrific vet in my experience. She would be good for an assessment of your grandmother's dog and might have ideas about its care. Good luck.
posted by firstdrop at 5:35 PM on November 26, 2007

Let me preface this by saying that I don't know exactly what the correct answer does involve.

The correct answer does not involve lying to your grandmother.

The correct answer does not involve taking and destroying her property without her permission.
posted by oaf at 7:37 PM on November 26, 2007

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