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.
I am just so glad about Buzz. Yesterday, I was hysterically crying for my 9y/o norwegian elkhound, GTB, but reading your story made me more confident and hopeful.
Thank you very much.
I’m struggling with what to do with my 15-year-old Pekingese. She has a third back injury and this one has left her back legs paralyzed . She was so vibrant an active I’m afraid that just an hour or two a day in a wheelchair with the rest of the time being in mobile devastate her. And she is my best friend and my child. I’m not sure what to do.
Hi Regina. Its prob abit late for this, but I happened across your comment and my family had a pekingese too . It had alot of back difficulty and vets all said put him down. We went to a doggy chiro and in less than a minute he was all fixed. The back would go out every now and then but was always fixed by the chiro. Hope that helps 🙂
Hi everyone, my dog is 19 years old mix breed. In the last 3 months she’s been having problems with her right eye. We took her to a specialist and they have told us she is blind in that eye and has ulcers. She has been put on a course of antibiotics and 2 different eye drops 5 times daily to try and heal the ulcers as they a very painful. The meds are not working and now the decision needs to be made to take her eye out. The vet told me she has a very strong heart and we should try the operation otherwise the kindest thing is to put her to sleep. I’m heartbroken and just want to do the best for her but I’m petrified she won’t make it through the operation and put her through all that for her to die on the operating table. I’m desperate for anyone that has been in a Similar situation with a older dog to tell me about there experience to help me decide what’s best. Thankyou
So sorry Natalie that you have to make this difficult decision. You need to make the decision that you can have peace with. I have seen many older dogs have surgery and go on to live many happy years after. However, I admit none were 19yrs old. Would you be more at peace with yourself if you made an appointment to put her to sleep and be there with her knowing you are helping her from her pain or if you decided to do everything you could to fix her and she died in surgery or shortly afterward? She may pull through surgery and recover well but unfortunately there is no guarantee so we have to be prepared. You don’t want to regret your decision either way.
hi both our yorkies have dry eye and one lost her eyes to it, and had ulcers. I had a fifteen year old yorkie and the dr recommended removing the eye saying she would do fine and in less pain. someone told me not to and they had been breeders so i followed their advice, I was always sorry I didnot get the surgery. when the second dog lost her eye sight and had ulcers I did not hesitate and wow her pain level so decreased as eye ulcers are painful and she was so much happier. I am comfortable now that if you can afford surgery and it is possible go with it as if it the worst happens and we lose them due to surgery they are asleep when it happens and that is their will. I have a yorkie facing a third leg surgery, not looking forward to it all but she is a hell for leather dog, loves to run, loves fun, loves color, he stuffed toy is a red devil she has sex with, no I don’t mean humping I mean she has sex, goes to town, falls over legs in the air having an orgasm, drives my husband nuts but for her life is full blast, now her sister, is shy and timid and is always apologetic, she might be ok not being able to run full blast but this one wants to live life to the fullest. go for it.
I am curious as to what you decided as far as having the eye enucleation for your pooch and the results? I am undergoing the same sort of situation and trying to make the best decision. My seventeen year old mix breed has glaucoma in both eyes and has been in a lot of pain- though we are keeping him doped up currently to try and make him comfortable.
He needs a double eye enucleation and I am trying to figure out what the best choice for him is. It is difficult as I don’t know how long he has been in pain and what kind of dog he will be once he is not in pain. He still has a healthy appetite (he should as his name is Mr.Fattie) sniffs, and gets around though he is blind. I wish this was an easier call- I want him around for as long as I can possibly have him but I want him to be able to enjoy a good life and don’t want to lose him on the table. His blood work is good though his kidney function is on the high side of normal. I want to do what’s best for my boy…
Hi! i just got home from the hospital about an hour or so ago where I had to leave my 13/14 year old Chow Chow mix. He has something in his stomach… a plastic bag? And if we can’t make him vomit it up or pass it, then he must have surgery. I am shaking. But i read your post about your NINETEEN year old and wanted to say, bravo! how is the dog now?
Thanks for reading!
Hi Guys! I am on the similar situation, my 12 year ld Shih Tzu has a bad heart, we are on our way to get the correct doses of heart medications for him. While checking for his lungs and heart thru xray, they found a foreign object. He was still eating and pooping with no problem, but surgery was needed. We decided for hime to have an endoscopy and have it removed with the endoscopy, at least no cuts will be done. During all these, they also found kidney stones which has now travelled to the bladder.
Now, my baby is back again 2-3 days after the endoscopy procedure to have a cystostomy, bladder incision to remove the stones”. I took some days off to be available for him while he is recovering.
But I agree, it is really hard. Other people might think Im cray, but I cannot leave him like that, straining, and struggling to pee. It is a struggle.. hard decisions for our senior dogs.
Kudos to Buzz!!! I have a gueston here for everyone….ever heard of NuVet Labs? a supplement to get rid of the lumps and helps with all other health issues? anybody seen this????
its been sevral years since the first entry on this blog; I am wondering about the state fo things with your dog today. I have and older dog with large lipomas and am considering options
Thanks for this blog. My 15yo Sam is undergoing surgery next week for a mast cell tumour on his leg. I constantly wonder if I’m making the right decision. Reading your blog has confirmed my decision as your comments reinforced my own thoughts on the matter.
Hello. How wonderful for Buzz and you. My beloved dog Lucie is 16 this june. She has a huge benign tumour on her right shoulder and is so large it is on the underside, pressing against her chest badly. She is still keen to walk fast,bowel/bladder fine, appetite fine, loves her water as ever. Her vet told me they wont operate as she could die on the table. She had one op already a few years ago, but it’s grown back. What kills me is the cost involved, it all comes down to money if my Lucie lives or dies.People say she’s just a dog, maybe so but i dont have a human friend like her. What do i do to help her when my disability benefits wont cover the cost of surgury…Continued good health to Buzz…from robyn.
If you are in Canada, ask your vet about the Farley Fund (http://www.farleyfoundation.org/), which can sometimes provide financial assistance to seniors, people on disability or women in shelters.
The Farley Fund is a registered charity, and donations are tax deductible.
Thank you for this post. My dog is 16 and has a huge fatty tumor under his from leg that has begun to make him limp and uncomfortable. You have given me hope
I live in SoCal and wondered if you can suggest vets qualified to do laser surgery? My 13 yr old Aussie has those fatty tumors and I want to review minimal invasive surgery methods befor having my vet perform a traditional type surgery. Anything you can offer is greatly appreciated.
What a crazy coincidence. We have the same name and my 16 yr old has a lipoma under his leg too. We are going to do the surgery. We have decided that even if the worst happens that we will be doing what we can to make his last years comfortable.
When your dog gets older you definitely need to make the best decisions as they aren’t young pups anymore.
Digging up old posts. Here I am crying. Thank you for sharing your stories!
Some dogs only outlive their enthusiasm through death. they enjoy life to the last moment and simply live it as rich as their bodies let them without worring too much about their age.
Living with my two oldies the past years has often risen this question and sometimes I hoped I had done some things earlier but I never regreted what we had done.
Much fun and enjoying the new quality of life.
I am grateful along with you. They are so special and they trust us so much.
So, prayers that Buzz will stay healthy and when the time comes for him to go to the big dog bone in the sky, he will go peacefully in his sleep. But until that time, I pray he will live with all his heart as he always has. sharon
I too am so glad Buzz is doing well. And he looks great in the picture! Doesn’t look anywhere close to almost 16!! So happy for you all!
I’m so glad Buzz is doing so well. I totally agree with your sentiments regarding our older friends. My (then) 10 year old lab had spinal surgery last year even my vet thought I was crazy. 18months later my 11.5 going on 2year old labrador thanks me for that chance every day as she clowns aboout eenjoying her life.
So glad for buzz !
I made a similar decision in Feburary with my 15 year old retired agility dog. He has always had a bad mouth and my vet felt he was in constant discomfort from the pain his remaining teeth were giving him. Pre-surgery bloodwork showed all levels were good and I made the decision to have the surgery and extractions. At the same time, we had a very large lipoma in his groin removed since I felt it was interfering with his mobility. I am so happy to say that everything went great and the difference it has made in Cabot’s quality of life is amazing! I wish I had done it a year or more earlier! His eyes are brighter and his expression is just more joyful. I am so glad I was able to do something to make his senior years better.
Glad to hear Buzz is doing well 🙂
At just somewhere round about two years old, Inka may have the body of a much older dog – we’re trying as best we can to get him as good as we can, but the first step was X-rays. Being a rescue dog, I was worried that he may have a genetic condition that may affect him; but as you said, I’d rather have taken the risk than done nothing. Four weeks later, and he’s doing OK, certainly better than he was, but hopefully only a little way to go and then he’ll be fully recovered.
Phew! When I first read the title I was worried that it would be sad news, but I am relieved to hear that he’s doing well. I’ve admired how well he looks for a senior, and after losing my Belgian at 8 years old a few years ago (complications from anaesthetics) I am determined that my current young dog will be fit well into her elder years. Thanks for sharing the tough decisions and glad Buzzy is happily back home.
What a terrfic post for everyone as we all will confront these issues as our dogs age. I am so grateful to my older Aussie, my first competition dog. Our relationship is so smooth, so deep. As we await the arrival of a new puppy to our household, I know that I can count on my old friend to help us and help the younger Aussie – not 2 years old – and the puppy. And I know that he is thrilled to have this special role of Elder Dog. We have to cherish every day with these special friends.
So glad to hear he made it through OK Susan. My 11-year-old Belgian also has a lipoma on her side, growing slowly. I’m terrified of the idea of having to have it removed, because Belgians and anaesthetics are always a bad combination (her mother died after one at the age of 9). So far the lump isn’t worrying her, but as it grows, so does her age and vulnerablity. Buzzy shows it can be done. Very courageous decision on your part. All the very best with his recovery and with celebrating his 16th.
So glad to hear Buzzy is doing well.
These decisions can be so hard.
About 2 week ago my 9 1/2 yr. old had a cluster of seizures from out the blue.
We don’t know what caused them – her blood work checked out fine and as did all thyroid levels. She had her spleen removed over a year ago and tests at the time indicated it was not malignant. She has also had 2 separate surgeries to remove 2 large cysts in her mouth (also not cancerous). This time unfortunately the lack of other evidence points to something neurological, maybe a tumour in the brain. So also facing the where do we go from here decisions. She is eating and sleeping well and has not had any more seizures. She loves her walks everyday and any time you spend with her. She is always close by. I know that I can not put her through surgery or do chemo. So I will follow the advice of my vet as best I can and give her the best days of “quiet” fun and hey! even treats for nothing! And I will keep finding joy in my turtle progress with the younger ones. I just want them to have the best times they can with me! I don’t care where we end up! All the best to Buzz and anyone dealing with these huge decisions.
I hadn’t heard that laser surgery could reduce the operation time. I’m going to check into that option next time we need to go. Rusty has a couple of bumps, but they’re all in the same places where they were over a year ago, so we’re good for now.
I keep my fingers crossed for Buzzy 🙂 We went through very very similar surgery with my 12 years old beagle Sara, we are in advance a bit – stitches are extracted for 3 days and everything goes fine.
SO glad to hear Buzzy is ok….I am sure it was a LONG 90 min surgery waiting tho!!! Hugs to all of you!
Here’s wishing Buzzy a speedy recovery with many more comfortable days ahead. My ‘senior’ dog (15+ ) reminds me everyday that she remains the matriarch in this family. If any or all of the younger dogs get a bit too rowdy in her presence, she’s quick to ‘shut it down’ by running interference but offer her an opportunity to get that tennis ball out, she’s first in line for her ‘adventure’ of the day. As my first agility teammate, she still likes to make sure she’s within reach of me at all times!
That is so great and with an almost 15 yr old GSD who is in wheels but 100 percent in her mind and enjoyment of life I thank God for every day she is still here with us.Go Buzzy Seniors ROCK!
What a difficult decision to make. I am so glad Buzzy is doing well.
What a fantastic post to be reading as I sit down from having taken my 17 year old “retired” dog on her big adventure for the day – she hung out while I practised agility with my 2 younger dogs followed by a walk by the river on the way home. I applaud you for helping Buzz and I’m glad he is recovering well. I wish for the two of you to continue on your walks and to experience many more big adventures. You are in our thoughts. Thanks for sharing.
So glad to hear all went well, what a tough decision. Give Buzz a scratch and when full recovered a “r-e-a-d-y” for me….he is a very special boy, and his life story is one that will live on forever in so many dogs lives. Shaping Success is an awesome resources for every dog owner and helps so many dogs. What a legacy Buzz, live your retirement in full joy buddy!!!!
I’m so glad Buzz has made it through and gets to live without those awful lumps. Maybe he will enjoy being brushed a bit more now 😉
so glad you were ale to put Buzz’s interests first …
so easy to be selfish with our old guys and try to to hang onto them forever!
(typed with my little old man stretched out along my leg after going for a beach walk today! He’s tired and i had to walk slower than the rest of us might have chosen – but his pleasure is still palpable!)
As Norman Vincent Peale said:
“Live your life and forget your age.”
I believe Buzzy has done just that! Very happy all is good and well, Susan!
This left me in tears of joy….for you and Buzz and my senior Malinois!!!
Deb & Deca
I totally agree, glad Buzz is doing well, I have made similar decision with my toy poodle, Foxy Bear, who is still going strong after 17 years.
Thanks for posting that Susan as sn owner of a very much loved senior dog Mariah who is 15 .5 Decisions are coming her soon. Although she is not without blood work issues. We all struggle with how much to do and how it will impact them. These dogs deserve the very best we can give them.
Thank you Susan for such a wonderful post. Those that don’t understand will never truly understand the love and committment we feel for our senior companions. Those that have enriched our lives through the years deserve nothing less than the opportunity to live thiers.
So happy for Buzz. I too have an older rescue dog and he has had a hard life before he found us. He is not agility dog but he loves tunnels, destroying tennis balls, rides in the car, and rally practice along with a number of other special “Bucky” things I do just for him. He brings us joy everyday.
My 9 year old will be having TPLO surgery next week for a severe ACL tear. My previous dog had surgery and radiation therapy at age 12 for a tumor. I feel part of caring for our seniors is giving them a good quality of life. Congratulations on giving Buzzy an improved quality of life!
Hello! How did your dog do with radiation?
Thank you, Susan, for posting this about senior dogs. My dog also has fatty limpomas and is aging. This has truly helped me to know how to keep his joy going later in life. You’re a blessing to the dog world.
Good decision, it is important that our dogs are comfortable when they are old to. Thank you for sharing.
Good for you and Buzz!!!!!!!!!! I made some big decisions on my almost 9.5yr old Rottie girl (Vikka) last Christmas. She bloated, and per the “average” was near the end of lifespan for this breed. Surgery was going to be big and expensive and she may not pull through, her lab values showed “less than 50/50 chances.”
But I knew Vikka. I knew she was strong, vibrant and NOT “almost done.” So many years of competing together taught me this girl was tough, and willing to work hard to pull things off. I knew we had but one choice: do it.
Surgery was a success and after I was able to get her home, her recovery was fantastic. She’ll be 10 next Saturday God willing, and she’s just as young and crazy as she was at 5 or 6. Don’t anyone tell her “you’re done now,” cause she ain’t. 🙂
Those who would judge you for something such as this don’t know you, Buzz, your relationship with him, and as such, have no nevahmind in your world!! 🙂 🙂
Please give Buzzy big hugs!!! I need to get “his book” up to you for a pawtograph! 🙂
Glad to hear Buzz is ok. I hate lipomas and my dogs all get them. Some are large but not the size Buzz’s were. There really needs to be more research into their prevention or easy ‘removal’.
So glad to hear everything went well and Buzz is home and more comfortable!!!!!
I am so glad he came through with flying colors and thank you for sharing. I can’t tell you how often I been told Fantom is old, get over it, even by veterinarians. Well you know what 11 is not old and if there is something I can do to help her why not try…..I am happy to see your and Buzzy’s story…may you guys share many more happy moments….life is so fleeting…
This blog so hits the spot for me. I have 2 “retired dogs at home” one will be 10 but has been plaqued with health problems most of her life so she was retired young from obedience and agility because she couldn’t jump anymore. She is a very high drive dog with a huge zest for life like your Buzz. It has been hard for her as much as I try and fill her mind with things she just loves the physical stuff. I always took her with me even though she wasn’t competing, as of late I have been leaving her home more with my other retired dog age 8(who doesn’t like to travel). Sometimes room is an issue as I carpool with a friend to trials often. Other times I feel badly that she will spend most of her time in a crate while I show my other dog so I think she is better off at home. This past weekend I was traveling to a family reunion and all the dogs were going to stay home with my husband. Well he was called to work and could not stay home with them. So I packed and loaded all 3 and off we went. When we got there I let her out into my aunt’s yard. She was literally leaping for JOY that she got to come. She was soo happy running around. It made me smile. Now I will try and bring her more as I know she really loves it. Good for Buzz and his successful surgury!!
Thank you for writing this! My 15 year old poodle mix is having limpoma surgery in about an hour.
Glad to hear that Buzz has pulled through strong. It’s always a tough decision, this post is quite fitting as I think through our decisions of putting our older boxer under for some laser treatment to help improve her quality of life and I’m left thinking of John’s quote and need to think that through to ensure we are mentally and emotionally prepared for that….
Nice to hear that Buzzy is home and already showing signs of improvement!
I think every home should be blessed with an old soul.
Way to go Buzz1 Keep on keeping on!
Glad to hear Buzzy is home and still kickin’ it up.