When Elder Dogs Stumble

The Happy Family
The Happy Family

My guys are 13 years, 2 months old this week. That’s a good long life for their breed mixes.

Over the past two years, they have slowed down considerably. They stopped playing as much in the yard and began meandering or simply sitting to sniff the wind. They both had trouble navigating the steps to the second floor and opted to sleep in the living room. We treated their arthritis with a combination of medication and canine massage (30 minutes every two weeks) which seemed to work well – they ate, drank, slept, played with their kongs, and ambled in and out the back door.

Deus (l) was feeling poorly so his sibling stayed with him.
Deus (l) was feeling poorly so his sibling stayed with him.

Over this past weekend, Amadeus suddenly went downhill – he was clearly in pain, refusing to walk and very unhappy. The trouble was that we could not get a non-ambulatory 85 lg dog out of the house to his vet. We got really lucky to find an in-home veteranarian with an open slot. So we hung tight for a few days, using treatment with ice and anti-inflammatory.

I’ll skip to the end – turns out he has a herniated disc and has already responded to treatment with steroids. In less than 24 hours, he’s started walking on his own, eating and sleeping more at ease. Whew. No major decisions, no extreme measures. And lots of things we can do to prevent a relapse. Oh and he has a bladder infection, too.


I had prepared myself for the worst. I spent the day feeding him the tidbits he really liked and I curled up with him on his dog bed (carefully) to stroke his head and whisper to him. I reminded him about our shared adventures. His littermate brother lay down with him for awhile and their adopted little sister Ana snuggled with him the rest of the day.

We had already decided that we are not taking any extreme measures for our elder statesmen. However, I learned from Xander’s cancer surgery that this is not so clear cut – back then, we had to either put him through surgery or watch the tumor grow until he couldn’t walk. We made the right decision as the tumor turned out to be early stage and he should live out his years before it would return. But it also gave us the chance to discuss the what-if scenarios – what if he had aggressive cancer? What if the tumor returned a few weeks later? Difficult conversations, but important when confronted with potential tragedy.

I can’t say enough about the benefits of alternative treatments for pets – I’m convinced the pet massage has been essential to their solid quality of life and their resiliency. We found an in-home groomer who helps reduce the need for the drama of driving to the groomers. And the in-home vet is indispensable moving forward. You might be surprised how affordable these services can be when you factor in your time and the ordeal of a vet visit.

Two dogs relieved that the vet came. And left.
Two dogs relieved that the vet came. And left.

I’m so grateful my guys are with me today. 13 years is a very long relationship. One of the blessings of being at home is having more time with them and being able to meet their needs.

This is has been a long, exhausting week filled with much sadness and a little bit of overwhelm. I’m so glad to have my crew in my corner for another day or so.


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