Is This the End?

I have an 11-year-old Labrador Retriever, and I have noticed in the last few months he is having a lot of trouble getting up when laying down. It usually takes him a few tries, and he slips and slides all over the place. He is a little on the heavy side, so I keep telling myself this is normal. Then I got to thinking about the last few months; he’s not been his crazy self. He used to jump up on people when they came to visit, he would wander to the neighbour’s house to visit his other doggy friends, he would tear into the garbage if it was left unattended and he used to love going for long walks no matter what the weather was, you know, the usual Labrador behaviour. Now, he seems to prefer sleeping on the couch and only gets up when his food dish is being filled, with some difficulty.

I noticed that he has several lumps and bumps on his body, but hey, that comes with age! I brought him in to see my friendly neighbourhood veterinarian and have a few of those lumps checked, and it turns out they are just fatty lumps, which is normal for a senior Labrador. The test they did was called a Fine Needle Aspiration, where they stick a needle into the lump and draw out some cells, this tells us what the lump might consist of. Sometimes it’s fat and other times, it can tell us if the lump is cancerous.

The doctor and I also discussed that he is having difficulty getting up and doing a lot of panting when resting. The panting could be a response to pain, as it was happening at times of rest. We put him on an NSAID (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory) for pain and inflammation. This helped for a few months, he seemed a little sprier and was not panting as much, but I knew we couldn’t keep him on it forever. Now, I have to sit my family down and have THE TALK.

Working reception, I talk to a lot of people who have senior pets, and they need help making the final decision. I cannot make that decision for anyone, but I try my best to help them make the best decision for their pet. I usually ask about their quality of life because if their pet is not enjoying his time here and he is always hiding from everyone or not willing to eat, what kind of life is that for him?

Assessing the quality of life can be hard, but the best people to gauge that, is the family that lives with them:

  • Is your pet eating and drinking? Have they become pickier with their food?
  • Is your pet still interacting with the family, or always hiding?
  • Has your pet become more irritable?
  • Do you think he is painful? Are they panting or whining a lot?
  • How is their breathing? Some senior pets can develop heart disease, and this can affect their breathing.
  • How is their hygiene? Sometimes they stop grooming themselves or start having accidents in the home, as they cannot make it out (or to the litterbox) in time.

This is never an easy decision to make, even working in this field does not make it any easier but we have to consider what is best for them.

Written by Cindy Plant, CCR