Time to put dog down?

Kristen HallockAugust 11, 2014

I have a 12 year old black lab. He was diagnosed with oral melanoma back in April 2014. We didn't treat it because the results are usually very good and he is already old. I didn't want to put him thru a lot just to get another 6 months out of him, you know? I did have them remove as much of the tumor as they could so he wasn't chewing on it while he ate. But it grew back in just a few weeks. Now it is bigger than before. This type of cancer is supposedly aggressive and does metastasize.

So now the tumor is peeking out of his mouth a little. It bleeds because he chews on it. He can't help that. He's also started pooping in the house. Not gross poops, but still...that could just be old age and he just needs to be let outside more often. He also clears his throat every so often and I felt a mass in his throat. So maybe more cancer is there?

This all sounds bad, but he still eats like a champ! He follows you around the house looking for food and for rub-downs. He does still seem happy. Not as happy as he was when he was 5, but not miserable either! He just ran across the front lawn to see our neighbor. I guess the decision would be easy if he didn't want to eat or never wanted affection but he still does want those things (a LOT).

To complicate matters we are getting a puppy in early October. I think he'd be fine around a puppy but I'm more thinking about how a puppy might miss him if the puppy is only here a few weeks and then this dog needs to be euthanized. But I don't want to decide to put him to sleep just because of a new dog.

So WWYD? Euthanize because the tumor looks painful? Or give it more time and wAit till he doesn't seem happy anymore? This is my first dog and I just love him to death. But I really hate looking at his oozing sore. It makes me sad. I just wish someone else would decide!

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I'm sorry.

In your shoes, I'd take him back to the vet for a heart-to-heart, figuring that that'll be the last visit.

& I'd let the appointment-setter know this when I called.

Two things bother me:

1. He's chewing this thing, & eventually it'll bleed & get infected & it'll hurt. There's no justification for allowing him to hurt.

2. He has a mass in his throat.

It's almost certain that he has cancer in his throat, & if he's "clearing his throat", it's already obstructing his throat & causing discomfort if not actual pain.

Since you know that his type of cancer will grow quickly & make him even more uncomfortable, then, again, if I were in your shoes, I'd give him an easy exit.

My thought is that animals live in the present.

If the present is uncomfortable or painful, & we humans know that there's no getting over whatever it is, it's better to give them an easy exit a little to soon rather than a little too late.

Again, I'm very sorry, & I wish both of you peace.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 5:48PM
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Maybe the lump in his throat is an enlarged lymph node due to infection of the mouth tumor? What I would do in your case is take him to the vet, have them check the throat lump, and also advise you if there is anything palliative they can do re. the mouth tumor. And in the meantime, just spoil the heck out of him as much and as often as you can. If yours is a food hog like our lab, he would really love being given any and all food he likes, even stuff that is not healthy for him. Plus spending lots of quality time with him, but it sounds like you already do that.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 6:07PM
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this brings very sad memories. My 13 YO lab had serious hip problems, inoperable, and vet said it was time to consider euthanasia. I couldn't accept this grim reality and figured that if pain pills extended his time with us, we were doing a good thing. Finally, one Friday, it was clear that his pain was too much for him so I scheduled the last vet visit for the following Monday. That was on a Friday. On Saturday morning, I prepared his favorite meal and started calling for him. I called, called, called--no answer. All of a sudden I notice something in the bushes and it was my beloved lab, dead and with flies already setting camp. Needless to say, I went hysterical. That was five years ago and not a single day goes by that I don't think about my beloved, loyal, smart Kramer. In those last weeks, I used to watch him running after squirrels and praised him greatly when he caught one. I thought, he can't be in that bad of shape if he can still chase after the tree rats. In retrospect, I believe he did the chasing, at great sacrifice to himself, b/c he wanted to please his people. He was sparing me, not the other way around.

Please take your boy to the vet ASAP.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 6:19PM
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duplicate post

This post was edited by bossyvossy on Mon, Aug 11, 14 at 18:23

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 6:20PM
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Kristen Hallock

Thanks everyone. I wanted to clarify that he is on pain meds daily and just ended a round of antibiotics. We are taking good care of him, I feel like. People who come and visit are surprised to hear he is sick. He looks well and doesn't act like he's hurting. He's about 91 pounds and yes we spoil him rotten. I know a lot of people feel like euthanasia is being kind to your pet. But to me it feels like the equivalent of euthanizing a toddler. My dog is a big lovable doofus. I'm pretty sure he has no idea about death and dying and I just wish I had a bigger sign to tell me it's time. To be clear the throat clearing thing happens maybe 1x a day. I know I asked for advice and I do appreciate it.. It's just hard. I ask my husband everyday too and he still thinks the dog is happy and pain free. I need someone in real life to come out and say they think its time. Just trying to mull this all over...I don't want to be haunted by guilt if I do it and don't think he would have wanted that. I wish dogs could talk.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 11:12PM
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Someone in real life is your vet.


    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 12:05AM
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Kristen Hallock

The vet doesnt know my dog's personality any better than a dog she ran into on the street. He goes to the vet on average once a year (more recent lately) and there are 5 vets at the practice so he doesnt always see the same one.

The vet said to look for signs like "not eating, losing weight, not wanting to be petted, not wanting to hang out with his people" So far he has exhibited NONE of those! He just has the tumor in the mouth.

I do appreciate the advice. I think I will end up euthanizing him before we get a new puppy. So within 6 weeks or so. I will wait a little longer and see if my husband changes his opinion. I just want to have someone else that lives with him and KNOWS him to say that yeah, they think its time too. My kids will not want to let him go, I know that. They are only 8 and 6 and they love the dog to pieces.

Thanks everyone.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 9:10AM
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hkallock, I know exactly how you feel. Taking a life is very, very difficult, unless you see obvious signs that it's the right thing to do. If you trust your vet, listen to him/her and wait until you are sure his quality of life is declining. And meeting a new puppy just might perk him up and help him enjoy however long he has left. Best wishes to you and your goofy guy.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 9:40AM
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When my rottie had cancer she looked at me one day and the light had gone out of her eyes, I felt she was telling me it was time. I think the best thing we can do for them is not be selfish and keep them alive for our selfs. When the time is right you'll know in your heart.Best wishes to you. Christine

    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 11:43AM
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There is a lot of wisdom here, food for thought for you. You'll know when it's time. When our kitty was failing, the vet said when she stops enjoying being petted, sitting in the sun or her usual pleasures, it's time.

Would it be possible to feed your dog a softer food so the chewing isn't so necessary and maybe the tumor won't be chewed so much.

PS There is a dehydrated food called Honest Kitchen which is human grade food, made in San Diego, CA. You just add water and stir; it's a gruely texture. He could just lick it. Maybe not the time to change foods, and it's a little expensive...but just a thought for you. You can order samples at their website. Give your boy a pat from me.

This post was edited by socks12345 on Wed, Aug 13, 14 at 14:07

    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 12:20PM
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It doesn't sound as though it's time to let him go and I can't recommend doing it for convenience sake just because you're getting a puppy in the near future. As long as the tumor in his mouth isn't causing pain or keeping him from eating then I'd say just get the puppy and let them enjoy each other.
A friend once had a dog that the vet gave 6 months to live. They got another puppy and the dog lived another happy 3 years.
I would have the vet check the tumor in the mouth again to see if more of it can, or should, be removed.

Oh, and yes, it's not uncommon for senior dogs to need to go outside more often.....so him having accidents in the house isn't a surprise. You may also need to make changes in his diet if he's pooping too often.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 8:03PM
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I'm so sorry to read this. We've had similar experiences with some of our pets.

I totally agree with what socks12345 wrote. When they stop enjoying living anymore due to illness, our furry babies will let us know.

Take care,

Don B.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 3:50AM
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I have nursed my dogs through cancer and old age. Changed dressings and cleaned up incontinence. If they seemed reasonably happy then I was happy. My one dog had cancer so bad that her tumors would leak blood and I had to dress them and soak her feet. She lived like this for two years. And she was ornery, still begging for goodies and such. One day she just could not breathe or even drink water. It happened overnight. Then I knew it was time.

Two dogs I euthanized on the advice of the vet and I know it was too soon. Over ten years later I still feel that guilt and wish I had waited.

My old girl of the pack is 16 years old. I have everything covered with plastic and such because she dribbles when she sleeps and the medicine for this caused her a GI bleed. Four coats of poly on the wood floors because of this. I will not put her down. I have learned my lesson and she will die at at home. I know I would want to die at home and I don't think she would feel any differently even though I think it will be very hard for all of us.

My heart goes out to you and your dog. You seem like such a loving owner and your dogs sounds so sweet.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 2:17PM
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Kristen Hallock

Thank you everyone. I think I will wait and when things get worse and I know he's not enjoying himself anymore, then it will be time. I would love for the vet to remove more of this tumor! I just dont know if its worth it since it will be about $500 and it involves anesthesia and last time it started growing back within 2-3 weeks.

Maybe a softer food would be a good thing. Or perhaps upping his pain medication. He is on 150ml of Rimadyl per day right now. Maybe there is something else that is stronger? I dont want him to be sedated from it though. I really wish you all could meet him. He is the sweetest dog. I've never heard him growl or do anything mean in his life. He is a "stop and smell the flowers" kind of dog...

    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 2:43PM
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Awwwww...I just know he's a complete "love" and that he's getting great TLC from you and your family. He's a lucky boy. Hang in there.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 3:12PM
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I am horrified but what I see posted here. A vet is a profit driven person. He has to pay bills, and has a loan on his boat. Only you have real interest in your dog. Go by your best judgement, you may go wrong but at least it was done with good intentions. I never put any of my dogs to sleep until they could no longer move.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 3:16PM
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Two stories:

We had a cat with an inoperable tumor on her face. It wasn't a huge tumor, but it caused blood to pool under the skin, and it would ooze from her face all the time. It got to a point where I was draining her face 2-3x a day to keep it from swelling with blood. I was miserable doing it, but my husband insisted he wasn't ready to put her down because she was still eating, drinking and had a lot of personality. For three more months I drained her face, until I finally talked him into putting her down. It was the best decision I made.

A couple years later, our dog was diagnosed with an inoperable tumor on his backside, just below his a**s. We kept an eye on him, and the tumor. He was a very happy dog - just a lovely, lovely animal. When the tumor got large enough that it was starting to interfere with his ability to go to the bathroom, I told my husband I was putting him down. I said, "I'd rather he go now, when he's still happy and enjoying life, than to wait three months and have him be miserable like the cat was." He acknowledged I was right.

As much as I loved our animals, I did right by our dog, and did NOT do right by our cat. That poor cat didn't deserve to bleed from her face just because my husband couldn't let go, even if she was still frisky and eating/acting normally. I will NEVER let a pet live like that again.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 3:26PM
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what jaynees said.

exactly, precisely, to-a-tee what she said.

& the "vet as a profit-driven person" scenario doesn't make sense;
such a person would *not* recommend euthanasia;
(s)he would keep pumping your pet full of whatever it took to keep you coming back & handing over your money.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 10:53PM
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As sad as it is, it looks like putting him to sleep is the best option.
In my honest opinion, bringing a new puppy into a home with a sick old dog, will only bring stress on the old dog.
His last days will be watching you give attention to the puppy, and having to hear all the commotion that goes along with it. Not ideal.
I was lucky. My Golden, who was 15, died at home.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 7:14AM
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The loss of a dog or any animal is so difficult. We had to put down a dog 6 yrs ago and my husband still tears up. We currently have a 12 yr who has been the best, though in the past yr we have watched his health decline. It is difficult our pets become such an important part of our families. As someone who can relate, the best advice I can give is, your heart will tell you when it's time. Try to do what is best for the dog.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 8:45AM
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Not so in my case, my selfish heart told me too late. Scheduled sleep on Monday, my poor doggie died the prev Fri night. Your vet should b best source for this decision. I wanted him with us forever. I hope I've learned my lesson and will put my pets' welfare/comfort in their final days before my needs.

I also find it hard to believe that a vet would recommend euthanasia for self gain. Better for him/her to charge for unnecessary and pointless visits. I would like to believe there are many, many more good vets than bad ones

    Bookmark   August 17, 2014 at 9:24AM
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My little mini poodle started going down hill a year before I knew it was time to have him put to sleep. He had been very healthy all his 17 years, no cancer, no joint problems, only an occasional GI problem. Toward the end, he had no appetite and slept most of the time. One week before, I asked the vet how would I know when his time was up. She said she hoped we would let our dear pets finish their lives with dignity and no pain. His last day, when I came home for lunch, he could not stand up and had no control over his legs. I knew it was time and called the vet's office to tell them I was bringing him in at the end of my work day. He slept through the afternoon on his pillow and I stayed with him until the end while at the vet's.

My Andy had a good life, good care, lots of love, and a very healthy life. I even made home cooked food for him. He had lots of personality and enriched my life. I still miss him.


    Bookmark   August 17, 2014 at 9:48AM
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As vossy said, our hearts don't always tell us, or they tell us what we want to believe.

& putting the responsibility for the decision on the suffering pet is just crazy.

Animals are stoic;
in order to give predators no sign of vulnerability, they bear pain in silence.

By the time your pet is in such distress that (s)he somehow manages to communicate that desperation to you, you've let it go on for far too long.

When we bring home a pet, we assume the responsibility not only of caring for that pet during its lifetime but of recognizing when the decent thing to do is to put a painless end to it;
we are the human beings, we are the ones with the analytical brains, we are the ones whose *job* it is.

If we are so precious & special & sensitive that, rather than face the reality & take the action, we'll stick our heads in the sand, or tell ourselves that our pet will somehow suddenly become capable of making the decision so we don't have to, or lie to ourselves that our intuition is somehow going to become more capable of making the decision than our brains are, then the pet we should get is a pet rock.

edited to correct typo

This post was edited by sylviatexas on Sun, Aug 17, 14 at 17:16

    Bookmark   August 17, 2014 at 12:49PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

I'm sorry. I've taken the journey with five elderly dogs now. Only one with cancer. With him, HE told ME it was time to go, very clearly. It was when the pain just started to get bad--HE was the one who didn't want it to go on too long. What a gift he gave me, to let me know.

If you are able to just be with him a lot, really get in tune with him, and listen, I believe he'll let you know. But you have to spend a lot of time with him, every minute possible, and listen, listen, observe, observe, open your heart to his feelings. Which can be really hard, and take a lot of time.

FWIW, that has been my experience.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2014 at 5:28PM
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With my 2 previous dogs, I knew when I looked into their eyes that it was time to say goodbye. It was like they were in a coma with their eyes open. They weren't there any more. One was Gretchen 14.5 years old and the other was Samantha 18.5. They were in good health right up to the end. The vet said it might have been a stroke with Gretchen, and it was just old age with Samantha. It is always hard to say goodbye, even when it is obvious that it is the only thing to do.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 10:59AM
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