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10 Oct 2015 could have been the death anniversary of my dog.
I brought BB to the clinic on Saturday and told them I would like to put him to sleep. I couldn’t control my tears, and had already started grieving. They gave me a box of tissues….
Senior Dog Gravely-ill since August
If you have read the first post, my pekingese senior doggie has been feeling unwell since late August 2015. He was not eating and drinking, and was partially incontinent. After sending him in to the clinic about eight times within these 1.5 months, his condition didn’t improve.
Did my dog injure himself at the Veterinary?
(2nd week of September 2015)
Actually, he did improve for four or five days after two weeks of treatment. However, after sending my dog for his scheduled medical review, BB came back looking worse. The veterinarian told me to be prepared for some temporary soreness as BB struggled too much when his blood was taken.
I certainly didn’t prepare myself enough when BB not only suffered some soreness, his condition took a deep dive. Not only was he back to square one, he was slowly losing coordination of his hind legs. The struggles he’d made could have worsened his spinal problem (IVDD).
That episode caused me guilt and regret in bringing him back for a review. The improvements made after two weeks of 2-hourly syringe feeding and manual carrying of BB to the pee area and a lot of heart pains were gone. My dog once again refused food and drinks and was losing control of his bladder and hind legs.
I was physically and mentally exhausted, and not forgetting about $1,000 poorer.
Veterinarian fees in Singapore are exorbitant. This $1,000 was just blood tests, injections and medicine. Other diagnostic treatments such as MRI scan or surgery could result in 4 or 5-figure fees. Imagine, I’d paid $600 for BB’s dental scaling. How much do human pay for dental scaling? Is it so much harder to treat a pet?
Seriously, someone needs to regulate this industry. The fee quoted was out of line with the efforts required. I can’t deny that there were times when I (and my family and friends) would wonder if the most expensive options were given to raise the clinic’s bottom line.
For instance, BB was initially given multiple intravenous injection of Tramadol (a painkiller) and anti-biotics that cost me $500. When I later went back for oral tablets of those medicine, it didn’t even exceed $15.
I was also unhappy with the vet as they could have called me into the lab when BB was struggling. I could have helped hold on to BB and prevented him from excessive movements which would be detrimental to his spinal condition. With the owner around, I believe all dogs would achieve a higher degree of calm and security, no?
New Treatment. New Medicine.
(Late September to early October 2015)
Over the next few weeks, I resumed syringe feeding and intense nursing. I read up on medical reviews and was wondering why they didn’t treat BB for spinal issues since he’d a history of intervertebral disk disease (IVDD). It is well captured in medical articles that IVDD tends to recur, with pets suffering subsequent episodes of ruptured disc following the first. BB was displaying those symptoms.
So I called the clinic and asked if I could get those anti-inflammatory medicine (steroid). The vet agreed without hesitation as she now probably guessed that BB was having a disk inflammation.
BB responded well in the first 3 days. After that, his condition worsened when the medicine was slowly withdrawn as per the medical advice. Once again, he was back to square one. But now, he was also whining and yelping which was a clear sign of pain and suffering. I started googling on euthanasia.
I was Convinced that it was Time to Euthanise my Dog
The online articles provided checklist on when you should consider putting the dog to sleep. BB met the criteria. He was not having any quality of life. He didn’t want food or water. He didn’t want to “gai gai” (walk) anymore. He couldn’t pee or poop on his own. He couldn’t stand or squat. He would fall every two or three steps. He would lie on the same spot for almost the entire day. He didn’t seem to be aware or interested in his surroundings. He has stopped responding. He couldn’t lift up his head.
And worse of all, he was in pain.
I was heart-broken when I heard him crying the whole night, from 2am till 6am. All I could do was to pet him and let him know that I was with him.
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The day after he started whining and crying, I found myself reading up intensively on euthanasia and dying symptoms of dogs. Based on the symptoms described, it then appeared that BB was actively dying.
The online articles has a bias towards euthanasia for dogs. Some said that we shouldn’t be selfish to keep the dog alive and suffering so that we can delay our grieving. Others said that we should make use of this option which unfortunately was not offered to human beings.
I was convinced. Six weeks of nursing didn’t work. And now, my dog was explicitly “telling” me that he was in pain. It was not through appetite loss. He was verbalizing it now.
I thought I shouldn’t try anymore. I gave up…for him.
The Day My Dog was to be Put to Sleep
I brought him down for his last walk, although it was obvious he wasn’t able to walk anymore. He surprised me!
Who Saved My Dog?
Once I placed him on the grass patch, he started walking a little, toppled over and then picked himself up again. This went on for a couple of minutes where he would walk and fall or lie down. But the thing is, he was actually looking more alert and interested in the environment. His tail was up, which was a rare occurrence. It showed that he was enjoying his moment. That brought me confusion and hesitation.
By the time I reached the clinic, I was an emotional wreck. I started sobbing uncontrollably. I didn’t expect myself to cry in front of strangers, but I did. That must be the grieving process. To be honest, I didn’t expect myself to be so sad, because I’d mostly been in control of my emotions after knowing that BB was in his final stage of life. The assistants said, “To make things easy for you, you just need to present your ID and sign this form.”
BB Saved Himself
After seeing how BB was briefly enjoying his life, I hesitated. I requested for the doctor to do a thorough examination on BB one more time. I wanted to know that I was making the right decision.
It wasn’t easy having to decide on the life and death of another being. I felt almost like a murderer-to-be.
BB must be fighting for his existence in this world.
He was behaving differently. He didn’t yelp or whine when they stretched and massaged his body (he would whine at home without even being touched. He would yelp when I lightly pat his head).
When they placed BB on the ground, he was walking rather well. Although he almost lost his balance a couple of times, he was actually walking. His eyes were also opened wide throughout the whole session when he would be glassy-eyed and be in a daze at home.
They said that dogs tend to put up a strong front because that’s their innate way of protecting themselves. Dogs used to live in the wilderness and any signs of weakness can attract predators. Is that what BB was doing?
The doctor understood that BB was not his “usual” self. But because of how BB was reacting then, they wanted to give a final shot. BB received three more injection shots – one for pain, one for IV drip and another for arthritis.
My tears were gone and my grieving had stopped. 10 Oct 2015 was not going to be BB’s death anniversary.
Taking Each Additional Day as a Gift
Once the “strong” BB came home, he started yelping again in pain even though he was given a higher-dose injection of pain killer at the clinic. He stayed motionless for more than half a day. I guessed he could have overexerted himself by “appearing strong”. At the comfort of the home, he was letting his guards down and displaying his real emotions.
I asked him repeatedly, “How do you want me to help you, BB?” I really hate to see him go through another night of pain.
The good thing was, a day after I restarted his steroid treatment, he appeared better. I took this chance to celebrate BB’s 14th birthday even though it was still a week away.
It was one of his few “good” days. I’d rushed to the nearest mall to get him a birthday cake.
Everyone in the family loved the cake, except BB. I was unable to get him to eat even a mouthful. He didn’t taste the cake. For those who are curious, this is not his usual self. He was born a glutton, as are most dogs.
Still, I was happy to have been able to capture these nice photos when he was alert and aware. I love his little tongue sticking out. Otherwise, it would be hard to see his features given his black mask. Ha Ha.
How is he doing now?
Right now, BB is sleeping beside me. With the doctor’s advice to restart the steroid treatment, he’s improving slightly. He was alert for longer hours each day. He also resumed his habit of walking to my room (to be with me). He hasn’t yelped or whined ever since the treatment restarted. He was able to pee and poop on his own. He looked happier.
This steroid treatment would need to cease in 2 days’ time. I hope he will fight the odds and enjoy a few more years of quality life. We’ll see.