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Changing an old dog’s routine following physical and cognitive decline...

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by JLUp2005, Jan 14, 2018.


  1. JLUp2005

    JLUp2005 PetForums Newbie

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    Our 11.5 year old Pitbull/boxer mix has been declining over the last year. He began having seizures last Feb, indicating some sort of neurological issue (we have been told most likely brain tumor, but do not want to pay for an MRI). He is currently on phenylbarbitol, which is controlling his seizures beautifully.

    Since the seizures first started, we have been dealing with constant physical, cognitive, and behavioral changes and have been taking each day/week/month in stride. If you look up the symptoms for doggy dementia (cainine cognitive dysfunction?): that is very similar to what we are experiencing; however, our vet assures is that this is not his diagnosis based on multiple other factors. We have added gabapentin 2x/day for pain management and melatonin at night to help with his sleep/wake cycle.

    We live in an old farmhouse with curved steps. Our dog has mostly self-selected to remain on the first floor during the day and about 50% of nights. The other 50% of nights he will either find his way up alone or bark/cry until we got downstairs to help him up.

    As of this week we have decided it is no longer safe for him to go up and down the steps. If they were standard steps we might make due with a sling to support his back legs, but being that the steps are all triangular and very steep we cannot walk beside him and it makes them just that much more dangerous.

    Last night was our first trial of not allowing him upstairs (the stairwells have doors) and our little man was VERY upset. He cried/barked for 3+ hours. Within that time we checked on him periodically and tried to tuck him in on the couch. He would be panting uncontrollably and would only calm down if we sat/laid with him.

    My question is: while we know our time with him is somewhat limited, as he is actively declining, we want to make sure that we are keeping him comfortable, both physically and cognitively. I feel like separating him from us at night is causing a lot of stress and anxiety, but I don’t really have a better solution for his physical safety. If I weren’t 8 months pregnant, I would set up a bed and sleep with him downstairs, but he could have several more months with us (or days or weeks; it’s hard to tell) and that is not a feasible long term solution for our family right now.

    What would you do? I feel so guilty stressing him out by creating environmental restrictions for him, but I see no other option. Will he learn this new routine or is he too old and senile?

    For now, I’m here on the couch with him curled up next to me. He is whining inscessantly despite all of his needs being met. This is our evening ritual and it breaks my heart. Our discussions of when it is “time” have increased in frequency, but until then, he still has many pleasures in his days despite these ever-lengthening moments and periods of anxiety and confusion.
     
  2. Mirandashell

    Mirandashell Banned

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    That's a tough one and I don't really know what advice to give. Most people on here are Brits and will be in bed by now but hopefully there will be someone with experience of this on here in about 8 hours time.
     
  3. kimthecat

    kimthecat PetForums VIP

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    I'm sorry to hear this . :( Could your partner sleep down stairs with him on the sofa?
    This is only my opinion and I really don't want to upset you . You have done a tremendous amount to help your dog , and it obvious how much you love him but perhaps it might be time to think about letting him go soon if he doesn't adjust with in a night or two .
    Its a very difficult decision to make , because every day you say to yourself is it time? and nothing much has changed since yesterday so you think no, not yet . But this new difficult situation is drastic and it is stressing him and I think its not just about if he is able to learn a new routine but whether he can he cope emotionally being separated from you . It is upsetting for all of you and you have to think Is this how I want to remember his last days ?
     
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  4. Blaise in Surrey

    Blaise in Surrey PetForums VIP

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    I have been where you are, with my standard poodle who had identical symptoms. Sounds like it’s time..... I’m so sorry.
     
  5. Jamesgoeswalkies

    Jamesgoeswalkies PetForums VIP

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    I am so sorry that you are going through this. We lost our oldie last year ....though her decline was mainly through senility/canine dementia it also affected her ability physically so i know how it can impact on everything we do with them.

    In answer to your question will he learn the new routine of sleeping downstairs the answer is most probably, no. Mostly because as there is a loss of cognitive function and if 'lost' they will panic.

    The short term solution is for someone to sleep downstairs with him as you know...as kimthecat says, can your partner do this perhaps? However the longer term solution as you know is to prepare yourselves that his time has come. Especially if there is pain or anxiety involved.

    Sometimes it is helpful to set yourself aside a couple of days to denote to him (day and night) before you book the Vet to come round so everyones memories are happy ones.

    J
     
  6. JLUp2005

    JLUp2005 PetForums Newbie

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    Thank you, all, for your replies.

    We know for sure that once our dog is too confused to use the bathroom outside (he is still doing this, thank goodness) that that is our “limit,” as it will be a true indication that his ability to enjoy his life and participate in a meaningful way has ended.

    I think we are still hesitant to make the call before then, but we recognize that it may be something we have to do.

    Last night the little man slept through the night downstairs with no issues; hopefully this is more frequent than not.

    Yes, in the short term, my husband can and does occasionally sleep downstairs with our dog, as do I. I still think it is not a good long term solution and as we do not know how much time we have with him, I think we were hoping it would be an easier transition.

    I think we just need to keep going with the flow and being flexible on a daily basis. As I am sure those of you who have gone through a similar situation know, this is an exhausting journey. With his constant change, we haven’t been able to find a consistent routine for a while (the last 6 months) that lasts longer than 2-3 weeks. It makes us feel guilty that we cannot dedicate all of our energy and resources to him as we prep for baby simultaneously.

    And for Jamesgoeswalkies, thank you for the recommendation to take a few days so that we avoid saying goodbye with a recent history of “bad” memories. While we are going through a bit of a struggle with our dog, we are still happy and finding joy with him daily. I find myself wishing it was more bad than good because that would make it easier, but right now, we are all happy most of the time with periods of anxiety, lost sleep, and heightened emotions. We have had several discussions (and will continue to do so) about when is the right time and we both agree that now is still not right. It is just really hard to judge cognitive and emotional suffering compared to physical and it is always helpful to have feedback from others who have lived through this. Our vet is supportive of whatever we decide but has basically left it up to us to decide at this point (I probably call her weekly to discuss changes and with questions).
     
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  7. PixieSpoodle

    PixieSpoodle PetForums Member

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    Sorry if this is a silly suggestion but what about allowing him his normal routine of staying upstairs with you but put a stair gate up. This would mean having to get up if he needs you to but maybe less stress all round in the big picture if it may not be for long. Just a thought.
     
  8. SusieRainbow

    SusieRainbow Moderator
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    If you read the first post you will see that he can't negotiate the stairs safely even with help.
     
  9. PixieSpoodle

    PixieSpoodle PetForums Member

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    Sorry I was reading on my phone but I need new glasses. Shouldn't really reply when on my phone, just trying to help. :Banghead
     
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  10. SusieRainbow

    SusieRainbow Moderator
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    Sorry if it came over as brusque, it wasn't intended. It was late, I was tired, I probably shouldn't answer posts late at night, not at my best !
     
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  11. PixieSpoodle

    PixieSpoodle PetForums Member

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    Not to worry SusieRainbow. We are both as bad a s each other. Both are trying to help and that's what matters most. I replied on my phone (which I can't see properly) at midnight, when I was on an early shift and got up at 5am. My bad. No offence taken. I've read it through now. It's a difficult position to be in. Thank you for explaining. x
     
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  12. JLUp2005

    JLUp2005 PetForums Newbie

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    Circling back around after another venture into this forum for more advice on our pup, as things have continued to evolve.

    An update: We started giving him trazadone at night to help his sleep; this is working well but we do feel guilty (this was a difficult step to take because we had to really consider if it was for him or for us). We sleep downstairs on the air mattress every so often as well. Now we have started with the incontinence; 4 episodes in 2 weeks and every time we have been home; once we had even just let him out. Discussions are still happening and with increasing frequency; we know our time with our old man is limited so we are trying to make him as comfortable as possible. Thank you, again, for all of your advice. This has been so difficult and sad; we feel helpless a lot of the time, but it is helpful to hear words of encouragement and support.
     
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