Over the last month I have been dealing with dog issues. My dog, Bryce, is 12 1/2 years old. As a senior dog, he has all the typical ailments that come with elderly dogs as well as a few extra for good measure. He has:
- dry eyes
- chronic bronchitis which makes him cough incessantly
- and he’s a little hard of hearing
For those of you who have pets, you know they are like your children. You do everything you possibly can to ensure they are happy and have a good quality of life. And when you fall short of those 2 goals, your heart rips in half.
Providing a good quality of life
To keep Bryce’s various ailments in check, I am using standard veterinary practices, medication, and holistic veterinary practices.
The dry eyes and the hearing are the easiest to deal with. Drops in his eyes and a few modifications on how I communicate with him are enough to keep those 2 issues in check.
The arthritis has been more involved. He’s taking Rimadyl which is basically doggy ibuprofen. Also, I take him to see a chiropractor for dogs. Dr. Sell uses cold laser therapy to ease the pain Bryce has in his shoulders and hips. In addition, he goes to an acupuncturist for dogs. Dr. McCain treats him for his cough as well as the arthritis. She uses acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicines to treat his problems. The combination of all 3 of these things has really helped to keep his arthritis in check.
For the colitis, the vet recommended a dog food that was high in fiber and is good for dogs who have sensitive stomachs. The dog food really worked well! The only problem was that Bryce HATED it. I tried everything to get him to eat it but the smell of the food was so strong, it was hard to mask. I finally gave up and started adding Metamucil to ground beef and to yogurt. Thankfully, the extra fiber has worked well enough that his colitis is mostly in check.
Lastly, we come to his cough which is the issue that has been plaguing me this month. When Bryce is lying down and not moving, for the most part, he is not coughing. As soon as he starts moving around, he’s coughing.
For a long time, he was taking a pain medication that helped to suppress his cough. This worked quite well for a while until his cough got worse. As it got worse, the vet had me up the dosage. We got to such a high dose that side effects kicked in. He would pace for hours and he would act a little crazy and paranoid. Once that occurred, it was back to the vet to find other alternatives. Bryce is now on a new pain medication which not only suppresses the cough but also helps ease his arthritis pain. The only problem is the medication only lasts around 3 hours and I’m only allowed to give him 1 pill every 6 hours. Bryce hasn’t slept through the night for an entire month now which means I haven’t either. Last night, he was up at 11:30, 1:30, and 4:30. The night before, he was up at 1am and coughed constantly for 45 minutes before finally settling down.
If only dogs could talk …
I spoke to the vet again this morning. My only other alternative is to give Bryce steroids to help decrease the inflammation in his lungs. In order to do that, he has to be off the Rimadyl which means his arthritis might flare up again.
Hmmm, do I watch Bryce cough incessantly or watch him hobble along in pain? Really?! Are those my only 2 choices?
It is really important to me that Bryce has the best quality of life possible. But what does that look like? I don’t know how much pain he is in when his hips bother him nor do I know how much his cough drives him crazy. Bryce is one of those dogs that is always smiling even when I perceive him to be suffering. When caring for my mom who died from pancreatic cancer, at least I knew how she was feeling; and I knew what her wishes were. I don’t know how much Bryce is suffering, nor do I know what he wants. If only he could tell me how he is feeling and where I should concentrate my efforts.
I don’t want to be, nor do I plan to be someone who will keep a pet alive just because I want and need him to be with me. To me that is being selfish. I’m told by friends that when it’s time, you’ll just know. I’m sure that’s true; but until then, I don’t know how to stop the ache in my heart.