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Discussion Starter #1
Hi all,

I'm new here and looking for some advice. Our GSD was diagnosed with DM a few months ago (he showed signs of it much earlier), it has now progressed to a point where we need to decide whether we can provide the support he needs to maintain quality of life when his legs stop functioning.

I would like to hear some personal experience from people who have decided to care for their pets with DM until the very end instead of putting them to sleep. How much work is involved? What kind of supervision is required? What are problems you faced?

Thank you in advance.
 

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My dog was NOT diagnosed with DM, but we suspected some type of nerve degeneration. We assume that it wasn't specifically DM, b/c his stability degraded over a few years, possibly beginning at 12yo (we thought it was arthritis, which he also had), and I put him down at 16yo.

My dog Shep was a ~60Lb Lab/GSD mix. At ~13yo, he might trip occasionally. We gave him gabapentin, which seemed to help discomfort. At ~14yo, he no longer ran, seldom jumped on the bed, and had trouble going up and down steps, getting in and out of the car. He developed monthly incontinence, which was daily when he was ~15yo.

At 15yo, we were giving him gabapentin in the morning and night, helped him up and down the stairs a few times a day, cleaned up his incontinence if we didn't catch it early in the morning, took him for a 30 min. hobble off leash at his rate, twice a day, picked him up when he lay down or fell, played a little soft Fetch, and otherwise let him sleep 20 - 22 hours every day.

After he turned 16yo, around Memorial Day, when I was walking him, Shep fell. He fell a lot, about once a day, it was not painful, no longer a surprise, and it looked more like a balloon deflating when he collapsed, looking at me to come back and pick him back up. Less than a minute later, he fell again ... and I realized that he was starting to degrade faster, and that I was accepting a decreasing quality of life as the new standard for a "good day". I might have been able to keep this up for another 6mos to a year, but we agreed to call the Vet for a final appointment. In the end, his mind was sharp and clear, and he was happy to see the Vet. He was probably in pain, but I don't believe that he was suffering. Although no one is ever happy to put a dog to sleep, I am very happy that I did not wait until he was suffering.

I know this is not exactly what you asked, but I think you'll get the gist of what you're looking for. Personally, I recommend that you stop at the first signs of degradation of quality of life or obvious pain. If you have to partially carry the dog up or down stairs, it may be time. And, there seems to be a consensus that when a degrading dog starts having incontinence, it's a good time to set an appointment with the Vet. Clearly, I waited beyond that, and I don't know if that was a good idea. And, I have a different suggestion, painful, but I think is a good idea.

This is not my first rodeo, so I started looking for a new dog fairly early. After I put Shep down, I already had potential puppies ready for adoption. Two weeks later, I adopted Mikee. He was not the perfect dog, but he was exactly what we needed to help us speed through the grieving process. Because Mikee took attention, we had no time to wallow, no time to focus on the pain and loss, only enough time for the memories. And, after a year, Mikee is terrific, an amazing dog ... all b/c of what I learned from Shep.
 
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