It has been a depressing and tiring week for me. My 14-year old dog has totally stopped eating and drinking. Even a display of his favorite human food or treats doesn’t tempt him anymore. He simply refused to open his mouth. Two days ago, he’d displayed a loss in appetite, but was still willing to be fed by hand. Things took a dramatic change since yesterday, 26 Aug 2015.
Other than NOT consuming anything, he was losing control of his bowel and bladder. He urinated and defecated on the place he was lying. Yes, he could hardly move. His hind legs were so weak, he just toppled over after managing a few quick steps.
It’s surprising how things can change overnight. A week ago, he was still behaving normally. We had our usual weekly walk at the park. Yesterday, “Gai Gai loh”, a phrase he associated with “Hey, time for a walk” and which would normally get him ultra-excited, now has absolutely no effects on him. He didn’t want to move at all.
Despite dogs and cats’ innate instinct to hide their weaknesses and put on a strong front, yesterday was the day BB could no longer do so. It must have been way over his pain threshold. All hell broke loose.
Rushed him to the Vet and discovered…
I rushed him to the vet, and had some blood tests done. His glucose level was way too low. We decided to give him insulin injection immediately.
Another indicator that was out of the normal range was his white blood cell count. It was way too high, suggesting the presence of an internal infection. The doctor mentioned that cancer could be a possible cause. However, BB is too old to handle diagnostic tests and to go for what the doctor called “Tumour hunting”. Such procedures may use General Anesthetic, which can be life threatening to senior dogs.
30 Injection Syringes
Instead of diagnostic treatment, we decided to address each adverse symptom directly with a treatment. Insulin injection to boost his glucose as mentioned above, but would be useless if he continue to refuse eating. We also gave him intravenous injections of antibiotics and painkiller.
In 3 days, BB will receive 15 injections of medicine, and 15 injections of saline water to facilitate the inflow of the former. Luckily, this doesn’t mean BB will be poked 30 times. He has a catheter inserted into his vein. All we need to do is to inject the needle through the catheter (white sponge in center of yellow cylinder). Still, I believe he would feel some slight discomfort during injection.
When the doctor told me to prepare for the worst
I knew this day would come. I’ve prepared myself years ago after watching Marley and Me (hint: you will cry buckets if you are a pet owner). I’d also experienced a few scares when BB collapsed a few years ago (heart murmur) and spinal problem. But he recovered.
During those serious episodes, the doctor never once asked me to “Prepare for the worst.”
Yesterday was the first time a doctor explicitly told me to be mentally prepared. She and the nurses were worried that BB couldn’t make it to “tomorrow” (i.e. today). The doctor suggested that BB be “hospitalised”. But I didn’t want him to accidentally passed on in an unfamiliar, dark and empty place (the clinic would be vacant after 8pm, where there wouldn’t be a single person there). I’d also wanted to be around BB when he takes his last breathe.
The doctor offered an alternative – I could bring him home for the night, but I had to do the injections myself and revisit the clinic the next morning.
Before I left, they gave me an emergency number to call (a real vet hospital), should anything happen during the wee hours.
Too much tears for the night
Perhaps, only dog owners would understand the kind of deep bond between human and dog.
BB has been with me for 14 years, going through thick and thin together. He has been faithful, affectionate and obedient. A quiet and aloof dog by nature (characteristics of a pekingese), he mostly sat by himself, but ensured that I was within his sight. Wherever I go, he would follow – from room to room. Even when I take a shower, he would wait outside the bathroom.
At times, when I was sitting on the floor, cross-legged, BB would climb over with his head resting over my crossed legs. Other times, he would raise one of his tiny paws because he wanted to touch me. That’s his way of showing affection, to me.
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I didn’t sleep the entire night. I was watching over him while he made strange twitches of his head. It seemed like the spasm prevented him from having a proper sleep. At 4am, I noticed him circling around the same spot, dragging his weak hind legs along. I turned on the light and noticed him in his own pool of urine. He also had the 5th diarrhea of the day.
My room was in a mess and smelt bad. But that wasn’t my concern as I knew he didn’t want to dirty my room if he had a choice. The doctor told me today that dog is generally a clean animal and would not want to dirty himself or the environment if given the choice. His circling motion signals his desire to move away from the urine, so as to avoid soiling himself. But his weakness prevented him from doing so.
What the doctor told me today (second visit)
The doctor emphasized again that BB was very old (equivalent to 98 years old human age). She didn’t want to give up on BB yet, as the symptoms were recent (only started a few days ago). But she told me that her advice would change, if the current treatment proves to be of no help to BB.
The nurses also taught me a way to make BB eat. While I was able to squeeze in some liquid into the side of BB’s mouth, using the syringe, I wasn’t able to pick up meaningful solids, such as the rice grain of porridge). The nurses taught me a few ways to get food into BB’s mouth.
- Buy a can of wet food, use finger to smear some wet food on BB’s gum
- Use blender to turn porridge and its ingredients into a gluey liquid form, and push the liquid via a syringe.
This works really well, in terms of getting nutrition into BB. He still refused to eat, but when tiny bit of grind porridge was squeezed in (I’m talking about 0.5ml at a time), he has no way to reject. I have to repeat this every two hours, feeding him about 300ml of liquid meal a day (for a 4kg pet), if I succeed.
I am to visit the clinic again two and four days later, making it an impressive 4-trip-clinic-visit in a week.
For those who are interested to know the cost, I have so far spent $500 in my first two visits. It would have been significantly higher, if BB was hospitalized.
When the Time Comes for me to Let My Dog Go
I seldom blog about my personal life. However, I wanted a platform to remember about the ordeals and BB’s recovering journey. Yes, I’m harboring hope that he would recover. If he doesn’t and is suffering and unhappy, I will get the doctor’s cue to tell me when it is time to let him go. I don’t want him to suffer, but neither do I want to give up on him prematurely for the sake of convenience or monetary concern.
I will give him a fair chance. Just that I hope I can be strong when the time comes for me to let my dog go.
Yesterday, I’d checked out cremation options. It’s good to plan early when we are still rational and not overwhelmed with grief.
Now, I keep my fingers crossed that BB would spring an amazing recovery, and get a few more quality years ahead of him. His diapers have been bought, should he need it.
His next injection is 10.30pm, and last injection for the day at 2.30am. Guess both of us have to stay up late.
- Part 2: I almost killed my dog…Has Euthanasia been overly-recommended?
- Part 3: Give your dying dog a chance!