Some of us fortunate dog owners will, at some point in time, have the great honour of living with a senior dog. Senior dogs make me laugh. Our relationship develops in a completely different way then it did when these dogs were my “competition partners.” What defines “senior,” I think is for each of us to decide. For me personally, I think age is just a number. My birth certificate may read that I am 51 years old but I will not buy into that! I believe the same holds true for my dogs.
My oldest dog today “Buzz” (who will be 16 years old in less than a month) has always lived with such joy. He truly exemplifies living each day as if it was your birthday and he has been that way since the day I brought him home as a 7-week old puppy.
A few months ago I had Buzz’s “wellness” blood work done at my vet clinic. When my vet herself made the phone call about the results I was a bit panicked (isn’t that the job of a vet tech??). Panic was replaced with relief as Dr. Kelly announced in a rather surprised voice that Buzz’s wellness profile looked very similar to a 5-year-old dog. No values where elevated anywhere. Hurray for Buzz!
As Buzzy has aged he has developed a collection of “lumps” or Lipomas all over his body. These are relatively harmless fat deposits under the skin that many dogs acquire as they grow older. A few years ago when crazy man Buzz knocked out one of his front teeth (and needed a surgery to remove a root) I decided to remove his biggest two lumps which hung down under his chest.
Great decision, life went on, Buzzy was unfazed.
Buzz’s body started betraying him as a 5-year-old so over the past 11 years he has had to do a lot of “compensating” to get around. Still, he will not be denied. When I set out to take the dogs for their “big walk” around our field Buzz always wants in. Don’t anyone suggest he is “too old” for the hills (there are a lot of them). Even though it only takes 15 minutes to make the trip around, the hills and uneven surface of the field make it challenging for a “senior” dog.
“None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm”. ~ Henry David Thoreau
Buzzy has certainly not outlived enthusiasm. However, in the last month, I noticed he has gotten much slower on our daily walks and decided it must have something to do with his latest large lipomas. Buzz didn’t have the best hips in the world as a 2-year-old and now he had a huge fatty tumour hanging directly under his hips. It had gotten so big it affected the way he walked and the weight of it dragged him down. I decided to see if it was possible to “drain” the large unwanted protuberance without putting Buzz under a general anaesthetic. The answer sadly was no.
However, I woke up the next morning with a strong need to do more for Buzz. Yes, he was almost 16 years old but his blood values where that of a 5-year-old PLUS he was still crazy with joy for life. I thought today his body would withstand surgery but next year at this time I may not have that option and the size and weight of this tumour would be what finally ends his life.
Was I crazy? Should I be considering surgery for Buzz? I consulted my longtime friend Dr. Leslie (who happens to also be a veterinarian) and she said even though I may, in fact, be slightly crazy my idea to help Buzz wasn’t. She said I could go to a clinic that performs “laser surgery” it will be a much faster surgery as they just “zap” the blood vessels and the recovery will be better because the laser is less invasive than traditional surgery.
I was intrigued because this nagging feeling that I could do more for Buzz just wouldn’t go away. My next concern was recovery. I didn’t want to put Buzz through days or weeks of pain. So I still hesitated, but I was interested enough to do some research. Dr. Leslie directed me to her friend Dr. Renee Fleming at Guelph Animal Hospital. As luck would have it on Dr. Fleming’s bio was this line that made all the difference in the world for me.
Her most avid area of interest is pain control – both surrounding surgery and for chronic conditions such as arthritis or cancer. She is currently working on her certification for the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management
Bingo, it was just what I needed to read, I was game. I further read up on this laser surgery and after a long conversation with Dr. Fleming made the decision to book Buzzy for surgery the day after I arrived home from the Canadian Nationals.
Buzz had his surgery on Tuesday and had not one, but three lipomas removed. The surgery itself was under 90 minutes. I brought him home 5 hours later. He is already much happier. Yes, we have 2 weeks until the stitches come out but he hasn’t skipped a beat. He is moving so much better and I can tell he is happy with my decision.
I decided to share this experience with all of you to give you the confidence to make these tough decisions for your older dogs. It certainly wasn’t an easy decision for me. John said to me before, “only do this if you could be okay with the consequences of something unpredicted happening and Buzz not making it through the surgery.” I knew in my heart I could because success would make Buzz’s life so much better and doing nothing meant watching Buzz struggle the rest of his days carrying around at least 10 extra pounds of “lumps.”
Having a senior dog in the house can bring joy, but I think it is critical that we bring joy to them. A few years ago I wrote about the importance of “Big Adventures” for our senior dogs
I really believe the small effort of these big adventures makes a mammoth difference to our dog’s longevity but it also can bring you joy as you take a few moments from your day to reflect on a lifetime. This blog is written in celebration of the senior dog, may every day of their “retired” lives be enriched and filled with many “big adventures.”
Today I am grateful to have Buzzy safe and sound recovering at home.
My dog has had two nodules in her back passage has had them 6 months but haven’t grown she’s 14 don’t know what to do whether to put her through a biopsy any advice.
My dog “Twinkie” of 15 yrs soon to be 16 yrs this July 2020 has a tumor in her lower belly area she is thin the vet said its a 50 to 50 chance on her survival if we put her under to remove the tumor, we had her vitals checked an all are good, currently she’s been on meds for a week an the meds are just buying the time for her, if I do the surgery atleast she has a fighting chance on survival, atleast I tried instead of staying on the meds till the end, if we do the meds choice there’s always a thought I couldve saved her if she had the surgery and give her more years to enjoy her companionship? Its a hard decesion!! Decision made, we are going to take her in tomorrow morning an hope for the best, anyone of you reading this please say a prayer for her!! Twinkie is her name!!
Hoping Twinkie made it.
did twinkie make it? I really hope she did!! my 13 yr old dog is in the same decision and im also thinking of going ahead with the surgery because I dont want him to be uncomfortable for the rest if his life.
My Paws is only 12, but about 27 months ago, she was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension. The average lifespan after diagnosis is 12 months, so she has far exceeded that. In these past two years, she has had surgery on her stifle (ruptured cruciate ligament) 3 times because her body just doesn’t want to heal properly, endured severe injuries from a fight with one of our other dogs because she refuses to give up control of my pack, and suffered a recurrence of her immune mediated disease as a result of the stress from the dog fight injuries. Suffice it to say, she has had a tough couple of years. But through everything, the spark is still in her eyes. She even still wants to run agility courses when I have my younger dogs at training. Our instructor is awesome and allows me to put the jumps down to 4” and let her have a turn at the end of class. She still weaves like it is her job!! Am I crazy for staying with her through all of this? For not putting her down 2 years ago? I don’t think so. She still brings me her ball and she can still keep it from the young ones, but maybe only once or twice. At this point, she gets to do whatever she wants, and when she tells me (and I truly believe that she will tell me) that she is done, I will hold her as we gently help her slip from this world…
My 14 1/2 year old sheltie has a very large lipoma in the muscle of his back thigh. My vet feels it will be a quality of life issue in 6 – 12 months. I’m trying to decide what to do. He’s sort of losing his marbles and his vision but he’s generally happy.
I just wanted to comment on a situation with own beloved chihauhua. I had her for 13 years. I believe she was around 16 or 17. She developed pyometra and was in renal failure. She wouldn’t respond at all to antibiotics or fluids. The doctor said that she wasn’t a good candidate for surgery. She looked worse after the antibiotics were administered. She had a very high white blood cell count. I chose to put her out of her pain, however, I really wonder if all that could have been done for her was and if surgery would have been ok for her. It’s very hard. I feel an enormous amount of guilt/pain not knowing if I did everything I could for her. I was afraid that she would pass in surgery in pain and that would be her last memory.
That’s good to know that if your dog is older that you can get laser surgery done since it’s less invasive and faster. This is helpful since my Corgi is about 12 years old and it seems she may have a hip problem that she may need to have work done on it. I’ll have to find a vet in my area that works with laser surgery so I can see if she can have that done so she can heal quicker and walk easier.
Thank you SO much for sharing your story. My 16 year old Dachshund, Molly had a tumor appear two days ago and then double over night. We were so worried about surgery at her age. But, like your Buzz we felt like she still had life to live and pep in her step (when it suited her) The vet just called and she sailed through surgery today. Buzz’s story was the inspiration that we needed.
I recently rescued a 15 year old Cocker Spaniel. He’d been dumped at the local shelter and nobody was coming. I do outreach for this LA shelter on Fridays and for 3 weeks he sat in the kennel with no hope. I finally found a great rescue to pull Charlie Boy and I was hopeful that i could foster him for at least a year. Soon after the shelter pulled him we found out that Charlie Boy had many issues. He was deaf and one eye had ruptured and would need removal with in a week; an eye enucleation surgery. On top of that he was on thyroid meds, an anti-inflammatory for his arthritic hips and pain meds for his eye. But he was so sweet and we wanted very much to be his family.
CB wandered around and seemed so confused, and as evening came – he would become distressed. Very,very nervous. Panting, pacing and barking, yelping and crying. We tried talking and petting him, but he really did not respond. Eventually he’d fall asleep from exhaustion. Finally, after 4 nights of this torture – I talked to the vet and rescue and I brought him in for observation.
The vet though CB was probably older, and suffering from Sundowner’s Syndrome – and dementia. He thought the surgery could potentially go okay, but the pain patch and cone would cause more anxiety and potentially hallucinations.
CB was put to rest last week and I cant seem to make peace with it. I just cant move forward. I was suppose to save him from the shelter and a horrible fate. I fear I made a mistake. Perhaps taking him off the drugs would have calmed him or letting him settle in a bit longer? I’m tormented by the decision. He was only under my care for 5 days. I wish I really understood his history and why he’d been dumped. He was a beautiful dog and I miss him already.
If anyone has insights regarding dementia and dogs, meds and such – please reply.
I had a 15 yr old Cocket Soaniel that had dementia and I was so horrifically sad. I miss Koty he was a wonderful dog. Meds for dogs are ok and great if they work well with the pooch. I have a 14 yr coon lab with horrible arthritis and had larpar whi hwe had surgery a month ago. He take metacam which is an anti inflammatory that’s equal to GOLD. Makes him feel 2 again and he take tramadol for pain. I’m not sure what you’d like to know however, maybe this will help. I have found that If one has a close bond with their dog. You will see that they’re much like us. Watch their body language , it says ALOT
Bless you I hope you’re feeling better 🙏🏼❤️🌈
Hi! So sorry to hear about your pupper… I know you must be going through alot right now, and I hope you can find peace. What i say is to hopefully give you a new outlook on it and find peace and hope after this, so please read to the end, and I hope it does help.
I do have experience with many pets in hard situations.. even right now I have an 11 year old dog of my own named Sorrel that has a suspicious tumor in her spleen. While I have found a good vet that I trust now, in the past, many vets tried to pressure me to put my fur babies down… many times my rescues, or my own pets would look as if they would die before even getting treatment, but out of many that the vets said had no hope only two didn’t make it. The rest are now normal and happy, or at least alot better off than they were once given the chance. Of the ones who went naturally, they went suddenly and were in a state of low/no consciousness naturally as they went. They died in thier territory without any discomfort of being frightened at the vet so I have no regrets.
The thing is.. I see that putting any animal down in any circumstance is wrong. Why? Because an animal always wants to live, (fear means they want to preserve thier life from something they feel is threatening it) and does not think like a human. BUT I am not judging anyone who makes the descision to put an animal down because for some reason, society puts it on a pedestal and crams it into pet owners minds like it is the right and compassionate thing to do. My family has alot of people with rare conditions that are painful and greatly lower quality of life, like kiari,(brain never stops growing) dementia, alzheimers, PTSD, OCD, and the list goes on. They value thier lives anyway, and in my observation, dogs have a stronger zest for life than people, and the people telling me and everyone else that killing is compassionate would never kill thier family members for the same reasons they put down thier pets.
That being said, I’ve considered it on a few hard cases, only to come out with stronger resolve for my belief after they survived and recovered perfectly. It is never easy, but it is right.
Why am I telling you this? It is certainly not to make you feel guilty in any way at all! Like I said, I understand! But here is the silver lining in all of this. YOU HAVE GONE DOWN THIS ROAD AND SAW THE RESULT! Now the next time you make this descision, you’ll be able to be strong for your fur baby, and never have to feel regret again! Trust me.. even in the two times an animal did die at home, I never felt the guilt I know I would if I put them down and they died in a vet office, stressed and frightened, without me ever knowing if they might have made it or could have gotten better. I felt at peace when they went, and I could tell they were more at peace as well. This should encourage you next time you are put on a hard place with your fur baby. Now you already have experience, and know ahead of time what you are going to do. It is never easy… but it is easier that way. Also, it is a good thing to know which descision to avoid.(the one that would make you feel this way again) So please, know that your pupper, weather things ended right or not, is still at peace now, and would want you to be too. I hope this helped… I can tell you have a lot of love to give to your fur babies, so please don’t let yourself get swallowed with pain… you didn’t want your dog in pain, and your pets don’t want you in pain either.
Hello I just saw your story and had to tell you my sad story that I’m having a hard time with. I had a 19-year-old Chihuahua and I noticed a little bump on the side of his cheek I knew he had terrible teeth but he still ate walked loved slept well everything was fine till one day I brought him to the vet just to get checked out the vet did all the tests on him and he said Joe Joe passed with flying colors everything was fine everything came back positive, except for his very bad teeth and he had an abscess the vet told me we have to get these teeth out and take care of that abscessed I was very reluctant because of his age but where he did all the tests prior to I felt JoJo was OK for the surgery well everything went downhill after that. He put him on three different meds and the poor thing had three weeks of hell until I finally had to put him down which I still till this day feel it was not necessary but I trusted the vet to tell me the right thing to do and ice still am not sure I did the right thing. My poor baby did not deserve to go like this.
My almost 13 yr old dog has a 13 cm mass on his liver and small mass on his spleen.
Do I put him thru surgery. They’ve done an ultrasound and CT scan to determine if surgery was even possible.
If he was younger it would be so much easier.
I have a 14 1/2 year old golden retriever
He has a tumor in his chest and has started to get bigger over the past week.
He’s in great form and I brought him to the vet to get it examined.
He advises that he should get it removed as it’s growing very fast.
If I leave it I run the risk of it getting bigger and getting it removed further down the track or to just do it now.
Booked in for a week but I am soooo worried.
I have to think of him and not me
Fingers crossed it will all go to plan.
I am a vet nurse but when it’s your own it’s a different story..
My 13 1/2 year old pit has had chronic ear infections. I have spent thousands on treatment. It has gotten so bad that he now needs a TECA (total ear canal removal). He is strong as an ox aside from the pain and swelling the polyps in his ear is causing. The surgery is $3000. I am a working class gal. I’m going to get it done Thursday. Keep us in your prayers.
Unfortunately his ear had progressed to an inoperable tumor. He is being euthanized tomorrow. Ear so painful and bloody with no solution. It has ateacher to his skull. My good Mister. So sad.
I am so sorry…
I’m so sorry. It hurts so deeply when we loose our pets since they are family! I hope the memories of your beloved dog will help ease the pain. ❤️🐾
My condolences on your loss. I currently have a 15 year old pug who is going through the same issues – polyp in the ear that we never took care of; and now its too late – inoperable, constantly infected, dog is smelly and in pain. I’m going to have to euthanize the poor little guy soon..but haven’t been too quick to pull the trigger, as he’s my buddy….
I am sorry for your lost. I thank God for you. My 13yr. old Jack Russell has a large fatty tumor under his upper-leg leading down into his chest. It covers the entire right side of his chest. He needs surgery but it will be at least 3 months before I can raise $1030.00. I pray it doesn’t grow anymore. You have given me a different perspective. If you would not had provideed the surgery you would not had known just how much Mister was hurting and he couldn’t go on that way. You are brave. I hope I can be just 1/2 as brave as you have been. God bless you.
Thank you so much for this!
My 15 year old maltese is going for teeth examination and possible tooth removal tomorrow. Her bloods were similar to your beautiful dogs, what you would expect in a much younger dog. We won’t know till she gets there if this is the problem and i admit it is somewhat of a gamble. She is however, losing vitality and like you i feel that we can help her regain it.
A further thank you for the beautiful description of owning a senior dog, so accurate. It brought happy tears to my eyes.
I am always surprised to hear of people abandoning senior dogs. A tragedy for the dog but also the human who will miss the best years of thier dogs life.
Lissa – can I ask how the dental treatment went? My 12 year old Yorkshire Terrier needs cleaning/extraction. They are not causing him pain and some vets say leave them, but others recommend the treatment. He has pancreatitis and has quite regular flare ups and I am worried about the anaesthetic.
My dogs dental treatment went fine it was the after math that I didn’t expect we checked jojo out before hand but didn’t talk about afterwards what he might experience and if I knew I never would have done it.
Right now my 12 year old yellow lab is recovering from a thoracotomy. They removed a 4 cm tumor from her right lung lobe and it was solitary and she is recovering well (still waiting for biopsy results). She’s eating, wagging her tail, testing all the beds in the house and sleeping lots. My question is this.. she also has a 5 cm mass in her spleen. We didn’t remove it all at once although she is a healthy girl, because it’s too invasive to cut open her entire body. The surgeon told me to give her two weeks to recover and then to remove the mass in her spleen. I’m having a hard time with the first one, apologizing to her for having made her go through such an ordeal and she’s such a tough cookie that she’s recovering.. But to recover twice? I just find it so hard, but I’ve heard the spleen can rupture.. so I’m at a loss. If it prolongs her life, and it’s a happy one, not one of recovery, I’m all for it… but I don’t know what to do.. 🙁
If a dog is 16 1/2 with good lungs, good heart but had a lump removed in July from her stomach – we didnt send it off as we thought we wouldnt put her through chemo. Thought we were good to go but now she has a lump on her front top leg where it attaches to her body. Come up really big in a week – not much to work with if removed and she may have the concept of an open wound or have her leg amputated – wouldnt work as her back legs are going. She has licked it so much its gone pink. How much do we put her through.
My best friend is 15 1/2 husky. Full of love, energy and joy. Yesterday we found out he has a lump on the left side of his liver and they are having a hard time locating his stomach via ultrasound. Doctor recommendation is to do a CT scan and then surgery. My concern is he has had issue with antitheses in the past when he went to cardiac arrest.
I do not want him to suffer as the lump spreads but not sure if he will survive the surgery. Should I let him live the rest of his month as is with pain medication monitoring or risk him dying during surgery. What would you recommend?
Give it a shot. Try. God knows.
I read Terri’s answer date 02/14/2018 I have a chihuahua who has cancer now in the stomach area an we are deciding surgery she’s 15 but thinnly built shes like a Deer Chihuahua. Like to know if you ever got him the surgery an everything went fine????
Please help. My dog had his liposarcoma removed surgically and even w chlorambucil it’s has regrown twice the size in the 3 months since his surgery. The location is making it very hard and painful for him to walk, get up and down. What do I do? The surgery cost was $1700 and the monthly cost of chlorambucil and subsequent blood testing is $300 a month. I’m at a loss and don’t know what else to do for him. He’s a 12 yr old setter, takes 100mg rimadyl (deramaxx didn’t do well), and tramadol.
If that is cancer, don’t let him suffer. You will know when it’s the right time to let him go.