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Our family dog is reaching the end of his life.

8184 Views 75 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  Bash-full
This will probably be pretty long, I'm sorry. I'll put a summary at the bottom.

Just in case there's any confusion, I do not live with my parents or our family dog anymore, so I was given some of this information over the phone after a vet appointment today but I think we talked about mostly everything they did.

I'm really quite crushed and could use some advice/support/anything to help us decide what to do going forward. Our family dog, Bailey, is a rescued mix. We believe he is part short-coat collie and part hound and possibly there are some other genes in there. He turned 13 last February. Forgetting for a moment what we learned today, he has really been in OK shape for his age and size, but he is pretty overweight. He's been on a diet (and exercise plan/s) for something like 8 years, we've changed our own behaviors like human food, with very little change... we're convinced he has a thyroid problem but multiple tests came back borderline every time, either just over or just under the line. Anyway, my point is he is not a teacup dog to begin with and is positively carrying more weight than would be ideal.

He has been having eye problems on his left side for a while now and we were told about a year or 18 months ago that he lost vision in that eye. It was much more recently that a growth practically erupted overnight from behind his eye, pushing out at the top and center. It didn't seem to be bothering him but we made an appointment with the veterinary specialist he had been seeing for the problem as soon as we could get him in, and today we found out that the growth is unquestionably a cancerous tumor.

We all understand he is an old dog and we can all rest easy feeling like we did everything we could to give him a happy life once he came into our family, but I know my parents weren't expecting this. I had braced myself somewhat more, but only because I always assume the worst. Bailey also developed an extremely unsightly skin infection a few months ago that looked so rough that I was very concerned it was skin cancer. We were assured multiple times by different vets that it was benign, but once it wasn't healing with antibiotics and other treatments, I got nervous again about something more serious and here we are.

These are the options we were given: 1. have very expensive surgery to remove the eye that won't do much if the cancer has metastasized or didn't even start in his eye 2. have a number of x-rays and blood work done "for peace of mind," to confirm that he doesn't have cancer elsewhere in his body but what good is that if he does? 3. To essentially do nothing about the cancer itself and figure out what is required to keep him comfortable until his time comes. What we would do to accomplish that is a piece of information I'm missing.

We truly don't know what to do. Given his size, at least one vet had expressed surprise at his general health and even the fact he's still alive before this, and we know that even without the cancer, it's not as though he would live for even another few years unless we were exceedingly lucky. We are pragmatists when it comes to our pets' healthcare. Just in a general sense, I can't say we would do anything and pay anything for a treatment or surgery that might have little benefit but we would go pretty far for a plan that had a better chance of success. I also know this would be a very different discussion if he were even a few years younger. Certainly we absolutely, positively, do not want him to suffer for one moment longer than he has to. Ideally not at all, as little as possible. But we also are extremely unsure of the ultimate benefit of surgery we'd have a hard time affording and that might (probably?) not give us an appreciable amount of extra time with him. At his age, we could have his eye removed and he could die the next day, cancer or no.

I once read an article about euthanasia with pets that said, "if the decision is easy, you've waited too long." It really stuck with me and I absolutely agree, but I'm also not going to pretend that I don't realize it's completely different thinking about it in the abstract versus your own family member. Either way, Bailey still has an astonishingly good quality of life for his age and condition. Even just watching him day-to-day, we are about as sure as can be that he's not absolutely miserable yet and the vet tended to agree that he doesn't seem to be in much pain at all. While I don't live there, I've visited multiple times pretty recently and he seems as happy as ever, just a little slower. He can still do all his basic taking-care-of-himself things and pretty much all of the things he has always loved. I looked at multiple online quality-of-life questionnaires (for pets) and he scored well. All of us know how quickly that can change, given the news. But we truly don't think the right decision is to euthanize him too immediately and rob him of whatever mostly good time he has left. At the same time, we don't want to be selfish or end up waiting too long to save him the pain we so desperately want to keep him from experiencing.

We've been telling ourselves for a long time that we knew this was coming sooner or later and we did, but you're never as ready as you think you are. I think we all hoped we'd have one more holiday with him, maybe one more birthday, and now we're not even sure he'll make it to Thanksgiving. We all feel completely lost and I just thought that someone here would understand and be able to give whatever advice they can.

I know we are his family and ultimately we have to make a decision that is right for him and right for us, but we all feel like we need some kind of guidance and didn't get a lot from the vet. The problem is really that none of our options feel like the right decision, certainly not obviously so.

Anywho, I guess that's it. If you've read this whole thing, thank you, truly, I appreciate it. I'm sorry I'm so verbose but I needed to vent badly.

Too long, didn't read: Our 13 year old, relatively large family dog has a cancerous tumor in his eye and may or may not have cancer elsewhere in his body. We can do expensive surgery that may help a lot or not at all, have tests done that may make us feel better or make us feel worse, or essentially do nothing but keep him comfortable until it's time to send him off. He truly has a good quality of life all things considered but we all know that might change quickly. We just don't know what to do.
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So sorry to hear of your quandary. It's an awful decision to have to make, and one that only you and your family must make.

This may sound hard hearted, but faced with your situation, I would simply keep Bailey comfortable and give him a lot of love until it's time to send him off. At 13, it's not a question of extending life by many years. If you save him from this cancer, his kidneys or heart or who-knows-what are very likely to go next year. For an animal (or for a person) who has lived a good innings, I don't think death is such an awful thing, especially if there are good options for pain management. In my years running a boarding kennel, I had a couple clients who went through heroic measures trying to save an old dog, only to loose the dog shortly thereafter, due to another, different condition. (Both were very angry with the vet).

Vets (and doctors) are generally biased in favor of spending money on veterinary care. Not saying they're evil, just that they are trained to 'save lives', not to evaluate quality and length of the life after the saving has been done.

I think about these decisions in terms of what I would want for myself. I guess if I had a sudden appearance of an apparently aggressive cancer, I'd ask a lot of questions about diagnosis and prognosis, especially about whether there is good way to tell if it has spread. If the answer is "no", we can't tell without a lot of invasive probing, and "yes" there is a good chance it has spread, I would probably be looking for hospice options.
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So sorry you're dealing with this. Before I give my own personal insight, here is where I'm coming from: I had a 6.5 year old dog diagnosed with osteosarcoma (which is terminal 98% of the time). I was given the same options you were (expensive surgery after testing or management) and I decided, because of his age and the fact that he was my soul mate dog, to go with the tests, surgery and treatments. After spending a ridiculous amount of money (well over $10K), Loki survived three months post-surgery due to metastases.

So, with that in mind, I think you should opt to keep him comfortable until you see signs that his condition is declining. He's an older dog, it's an invasive and expensive procedure, his likelihood of surviving the cancer if it has metastasized is low, and his likelihood of living many more years is low, too. Not trying to be harsh, just realistic. Personally, I think that's too many risky and iffy scenarios to consider going forward with surgery.

I also don't see much of a point in testing to see if the cancer has spread unless you want to have an idea of how much time he may have left.

I once read an article about euthanasia with pets that said, "if the decision is easy, you've waited too long." It really stuck with me and I absolutely agree, but I'm also not going to pretend that I don't realize it's completely different thinking about it in the abstract versus your own family member.
I kind of have a different way of looking at this. "Two weeks too early is better than two hours too late." Pretty much, it's better to take a dog to the vet on a good day when they can walk in under their own power and not be suffering as opposed to waiting until the dog collapses, is barely breathing and needs to be carried into the vet on a stretcher.

Either way, Bailey still has an astonishingly good quality of life for his age and condition. Even just watching him day-to-day, we are about as sure as can be that he's not absolutely miserable yet and the vet tended to agree that he doesn't seem to be in much pain at all. While I don't live there, I've visited multiple times pretty recently and he seems as happy as ever, just a little slower. He can still do all his basic taking-care-of-himself things and pretty much all of the things he has always loved. I looked at multiple online quality-of-life questionnaires (for pets) and he scored well. All of us know how quickly that can change, given the news. But we truly don't think the right decision is to euthanize him too immediately and rob him of whatever mostly good time he has left. At the same time, we don't want to be selfish or end up waiting too long to save him the pain we so desperately want to keep him from experiencing.
It's good that his quality of life is still high. I think the best way to move forward is to note his current quality of life and be sure to acknowledge any signs of decline (loss of appetite, trouble eliminating, lethargy). Many people wait for a big "sign" to know that it's time, but I personally don't like that point of view. What form does that sign come in? When the dog is in so much pain that it will no longer eat? When the dog can no longer go down stairs under its own power? Waiting for a big sign causes suffering. Being aware of the building up of small signs is the best way to determine when the time is right, in my opinion.

What's good to keep in mind is that while you're contemplating the end of Bailey's life, he's not. Dogs are mostly very day-to-day creatures. All that matters to Bailey is how he feels today, and what is happening today. "Tomorrow" isn't something dogs think about, or worry about, like people do. While we endure things as humans with the hope that tomorrow will be better, that's not the way of dogs. It sounds like Bailey is happy and doing well now, so what I would do is come up with a management plan with my vet, talking about painkillers, talk about the discomfort the progression of the cancer will cause, talk about possible symptoms or hints that he's not feeling as well, and keep him happy on a day-to-day basis.

On a personal note, I carry a lot of guilt about my decisions with Loki. He endured a massive surgery and a long recovery and never really got back to 100%. I made him endure that for me, because I was too sad and afraid to say goodbye even in the face of a terminal disease. A year and three days after I lost Loki, I put my other dog, Atlas, to sleep due to splenic hemangiosarcoma. I kept him comfortable, I did no testing outside of the original ultrasound that located the tumor, I watched for signs of discomfort. And when I saw a decreased appetite and an uncomfortable gait, I took him in and put him down peacefully. I have no guilt about Atlas whatsoever. He met a much happier end than Loki did. He didn't suffer. And that will be my goal with all of my future dogs.

Again, I'm really sorry you're going to go through this. It's absolutely the worst part of pet ownership.
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Thank you both very much for the replies and kind words, that's really exactly what I was hoping for. Rather than go line-by-line, I'll try to address some of the bigger questions/comments raised.

First off, I absolutely don't think it's callous to suggest thinking about simply keeping him comfortable rather than taking aggressive action. If anything, I'm the one who is feeling cold right now because he's our dog and that is pretty much what my gut is telling me... but I'm trying to remember that, used correctly, euthanasia is a gift. We can't know without checking, but I have a strong suspicion that this is not the only tumor he's got. Even the vet said that while there's no guarantee without a closer look, the protrusion seemed much harder than a primary eye tumor should. Of course, he's not a young dog, which has a big impact on the decision tree. If I were the only one making the decision, I think I'd be leaning on keeping him comfortable and not doing much else. Even though the vet said that the surgery to remove his eye isn't as gruesome as it might seem or sound, I know Bailey and it still sounds like he would be so miserable during the recovery and there's no way it's buying him another ten years.

Not to bring politics into what is a decisively nonpolitical conversation, but frankly I am a big proponent of Physician Aid in Dying in people who are sick, so certainly I don't feel squeamish about the idea or even necessarily making that call when the time comes. Well, just the completely understandable pain at the thought of losing a family member, but not the act or process or correctness of the decision itself. I'm stating the obvious, but it's just a question of when the right time is. I know I'm repeating myself, but with his quality of life where it is now, it seems equally cruel to make the call too soon but I also know it is no better for anyone waiting too long. I completely agree that death isn't so awful, especially when the alternative is living with a terrible, terminal illness. It's hard when he seems so happy and basically OK that we certainly don't feel like we'd be putting him out of his misery, yet, but of course our goal is to save him the misery to begin with.

Before I go on, I do want to mention that my dad spoke with another vet. The eye vet is pretty far away and the trip is hard on Bailey, so they're reluctant to even have to take him down there for tests, let alone potentially a surgery. The vet we spoke to yesterday is much closer. I could be misunderstanding, but it sounds like they're going to take him in on Friday just to get another opinion about what to do (we're not doubting he has cancer or anything). Either on Friday itself or another appointment, it sounds like the nearby vet was suggesting doing an ultrasound first to check his abdomen. This should cost less than the full workup and could still give us information. He has a very suspicious lump on his abdomen and if it turns out that's a tumor, the way forward will be much clearer. He just has a lot of lumps and bumps because of his weight. They could all be fat pockets, or he could be riddled with tumors. We don't know, but I think we are all comfortable that an ultrasound is not too invasive and has the potential to give us information that may make our course more clear.

We actually had the exact same discussion about how the vet from yesterday is nice enough but of course he'd like to be paid 2.5k for removing Bailey's eye. The vet nearby is a little more realistic about what makes sense IMO and is better about trying to find creative solutions to save money (like the ultrasound instead of full x-rays).

I 100% hear you on the advice that it's better a bit too early than too late. I am REALLY hoping we can find a vet to do a house call for it, but I know it's no guarantee. Thank goodness Bailey doesn't mind the vet so if we have to go while he's still mobile, he shouldn't be inherently terrified, but of course you are right that we don't want to have to carry him in when he's already half gone.

I was going to hit a couple of more points individually but I think I can kind of sum it all up here. As much as possible, it sounds like at least the three of us are on the same page (knowing that you two don't know Bailey and can only go from what you've experienced and what I've told you). As of right now, I am really pushing against doing the surgery for a lot of reasons that I've talked about, are obvious, or one of you has brought up. I don't think there's any harm in the ultrasound and it is significantly less expensive. If it turns out he does have a tumor or tumors in his abdomen, then it will absolutely be a matter of keeping him comfortable until the time comes. I mean, even if he doesn't, we may go that route regardless, but this is the first time my mom and I have had to deal with this so it's just hard and she will be the hardest to convince. She doesn't want him to suffer either, though, he is just closest with her and she will take it the hardest. My dad had a dog when he was younger but she died when he was at college, so I guess this is new for us all.

I read last night that for families who have put down multiple pets, they tend to do it sooner and sooner as they've had to do it more. Not cruelly soon, just that it tends to be those having to make the decision for the first time who hold on longer than is good for the pet. I'm trying to keep that in mind. It's so easy to tell yourself that you're making the right decision prolonging things when often, you're not. But we will continue to watch his quality of life regardless and try our hardest to not allow him to get to such a bad spot before we send him off. Truly, he still has a long way down to go, even if it could happen quickly... but at least it's comforting right this second to know he's OK. And it is very comforting to be reminded that he is not thinking about this like us, so thank you.

I will definitely provide updates when we have them.

Edit: Just forgot to address that I completely agree about a "sign" that it's time, or rather the lack thereof, that it is unwise to wait for a single big cue. We are doing our best to continue looking at Bailey's quality of life comprehensively and not waiting until any one or multiple of his faculties begin to truly fail. He still eats 99% of his food, still enjoys treats and occasional human food, still goes on and enjoys [short] walks, no incontinence yet, etc. Really there's nothing major (at this point) I can think of that I would say is significantly impacting his quality of life besides the fact that it's very difficult for him to get up the stairs now and he loves to sleep in my parents' room, but he still manages with help. Anyway, my point in editing was just to say that I will definitely keep in mind that we should not wait for one sign but rather keep track of how well his life is on the whole, one day at a time. Of course, I don't get to see him daily now, but Dad is very realistic about this kind of stuff and I believe will be able to honestly appraise how Bailey is doing, and even Mom is so far handling this better than I expected... but I think that was my fault for not giving her more credit. She's a pretty amazing woman and while I can't stress enough what a wonderful fit Bailey was for our family at that time and how much we all love him, she is the one who will truly be losing her soul mate dog. I'm just worried about her, too.
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My two cents:
1. I had a dog that I euth'd at 17yo. He woke up one morning and his arthritis was so bad that he didn't even try to stand - I felt that I had waited too long.
2. I recently euth'd a dog at 16yo. He had a cancer on the pad of one foot at 12yo, which we removed for ~$1000. He was able to walk for the next 4 years, eventually slowing to a hobble, but enjoying his walks, and seeing the neighbors. He could not get up from a down position, but did not seem to be in pain. And, he would sometimes simply fall down, stumbling and collapsing, with no apparent discomfort, and he'd wait for me help him back up. Around Memorial Day, he collapsed twice during a walk, and I accepted that he was probably going downhill. I might have kept him going for another 6 - 12 mos ... but that would have been for me. So, on my schedule, I was able to provide a calm, comfortable, well-fed euth experience. No easier than the 17yo dog, but maybe a better experience for the dog.

If the eye tumor doesn't bother the dog, and won't cause chronic pain, I don't see a benefit in removing it. If your dog enjoys life, is mostly free of pain [drugs can help], can exercise daily, eats OK, and goes potty with no problems and no accidents, then you might wait on the euth ... or consider that you don't want to euth during the holidays ... [or maybe you do?]. Pain, Incontinence, lack of joy, and Lack of mobility are triggers for considering that it is time.
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If the eye tumor doesn't bother the dog, and won't cause chronic pain, I don't see a benefit in removing it. If your dog enjoys life, is mostly free of pain [drugs can help], can exercise daily, eats OK, and goes potty with no problems and no accidents, then you might wait on the euth ... or consider that you don't want to euth during the holidays ... [or maybe you do?]. Pain, Incontinence, lack of joy, and Lack of mobility are triggers for considering that it is time.
Thank you, that is all helpful. The biggest problem is that the vet has indicated that it seems like the tumor is growing really fast. So what isn't bothering him now, may very well bother him very shortly. Of course, that would then theoretically tip the scales towards euthanizing him sooner to prevent that. But the speed it is growing is the main reason we would consider more aggressive action if it is truly localized to his eye, especially seeing as the vision is already gone there... but it's entirely possible that a) there's more cancer or b) he's at the end of his life regardless. I will say that, at least based on his vet visits up until now as well as our own observations, we had no real reason to believe he couldn't possibly make it to his next birthday. Literally every time he's gone to the vet before this has been "well, he's overweight but shockingly healthy, and watch his eye." His demeanor hasn't changed since, though of course the cancer changes his prognosis. I just think we'd feel guilty not trying to get some more information as long as it's not too hard on him, because he still seems so put together for his age besides the tumor.

I'm not trying to be unrealistically optimistic or anything. I'm also not there, so it's entirely possible it's gotten worse since I was there... not that I am the only person capable of assessing his quality of life. Still, there's a very good chance that he will have cancer elsewhere and we could be potentially looking at making the final appointment within a couple of weeks or less. I definitely want to get home but I won't make him wait for me either if he's going downhill quick. But still, I think we would always feel bad for not trying to find out what else is going on in Bailey because before now, we haven't seen a ton of decline. Of course, the cancer is a pretty big sign of that, even if it is localized.

I'm not positive, but I think we'd be okay with the potential of having to euthanize relatively close to the holidays but no one wants to do it on December 23rd or even Christmas week, so we have to keep that in mind for sure.

Realistically, Bailey wouldn't have lived another 2+ years even without the cancer, but our primary concern is that he is more like your 16yo than the 17o, and that if it's just cancer in his eye, maybe he will bounce back for a little while. It's a pretty big if though, and the more I think about it, the more I feel like I wouldn't really want to subject him to much of any of this at this point. But again, the primary concern is the speed at which the tumor is growing and the worry that we'd be putting him down for something that could possibly be removed.

This is exactly why we feel like it's worth trying to get a couple of more pieces of information if we can, as long as it's not too hard on Bailey. I feel like it is partially a symptom of having never done it and partially a symptom of who we are. Certainly, to put him down tomorrow or next week seems cruel for where he's at. In the meantime, ultrasounds are fairly gentle and Bailey is very good at the vet. If Bailey were to suddenly slip into a much worse quality of life very soon, we'd have to obviously think of euthanizing sooner and would probably forever feel guilty about it getting to that point, but we have no reason to believe he's so close. He seems happy and calm and hungry and thirsty and continent the vast majority of the time, just old (and never incontinent, not up until now).

If it were just me, I'd probably just make sure he was okay for as long as possible and assume we'd be looking at about a month or maybe less, but it's not just me and I certainly understand why my parents want a little more information. And of course I won't be unhappy to have it, again as long as it's not too much for Bailey. Right now, it's just another vet appointment, so it's fine. She may well have a different take on the situation altogether. Of course, even the news is still pretty fresh so we're all trying to come around to it; it's a lot to take in all at once and honestly there are just a lot of other things beyond Bailey being sick happening all at once that is making each of them difficult to digest. We'll get through it all, though.

He does have pain medication for if and when he seems uncomfortable.

Thank you, you've given us plenty more to consider.

Edit: I don't have time for a full update right this second, but Bailey ended up having to go to the nearer vet tonight instead of Friday. She made us all feel a bit better about everything but we do have more talking to do. I think we're all on the same page, a little wary about subjecting him to surgery but I also forgot that he had surgery on his anal glands quite recently and recovered beautifully. They're not exactly the same surgery and he's that much older, so I'm definitely not saying that's necessarily where we are headed. The cost versus how long we could really have him is still absolutely a concern, as well as plenty of other factors. We still have to do some thinking and discussing and we are all open to the possibility that it may end up being better for Bailey to send him off sooner-- not quite yet, but before the tumor begins to bother him too much-- and without subjecting him to any kind of procedures due to his age. But it's good to remember that he has handled surgery well before if it turns out to be just his eye, and we're all getting over the shock a bit more so we can look at it logically. The key is to remember it may very well not be just his eye, as I keep saying, but of course we can't help but have our fingers crossed so at least we feel like we have some option to possibly give him more good time... but trying to keep expectations in check, too.
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Maybe you've already tried this, but when I've had to make critical decisions, I've found it helpful to ask the vet for an honest opinion of what they would do if it were their dog.
Thanks sand, I definitely thought about that but since I haven't been at the appointments, I'm not sure if that was covered. I'll have to ask.

I think mom and dad may be leaning on the surgery for a couple of reasons, and while I'm not really that thrilled about it necessarily, I think it's really more their decision at this point. This is the same surgeon who did Bailey's anal gland surgery and we loved her and she knows Bailey. She seems to truly think he'll do OK, surgery wise, if the cancer is localized... but of course she would. They do x-rays as part of the pre-surgery process and agreed that the entire thing will be stopped if they find more cancer. I suppose that's something.

Idk, that's basically where we're at. The longer it's been, the more I'm sure that I would just make him happy for the few weeks he'd likely have left with no treatment. But I'm not there, and neither mom nor dad have the ability to give him the 24/7 attention we all want to give him right now. I guess no one really does, but still. I am definitely concerned we're falling into the trap of thinking we're doing right by him by prolonging things when we're not, but I'm not really sure what else to do. It's awful but I find myself thinking that if they find more cancer, at least we won't have to argue about the best plan of action.

But they are there with him and I am not. It's not as though I don't want any extra time with him we can get, but I don't want it if it's bad time and obviously I don't want that for him. We still have more talking to do and the reality is that they had the benefit of talking to the vet/surgeon and I did not. So if they really think that's the best move, I have to trust them, but it does make me nervous and I am acutely aware that so far nothing has convinced me that surgery is the right decision.

Edit: Okay, I thought we had ruled out the ultrasound for cost but now it sounds like they do want to do that to at least see if he has any large tumors in his torso, which if he does, makes the way forward pretty simple in terms of the decision, though certainly not emotionally. At least that's a lot less invasive although it really only tells us if he has tumors in his abdomen. I'm just glad they feel like we're able to do something less than going to that step just yet. I probably just misunderstood anyway... all of this is difficult.
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It IS difficult. We all go through this, sometimes with many dogs. You don't always know when you're extending his quality of life or just prolonging everything. But, the surgery probably won't do much harm and may make the dog more comfortable - after the first 3 days, most dogs seem to be unaware of surgery ... and some dogs seem to bounce back immediately. I imagine post-surgical care for the eye will be similar as the previous surgery.

On the other hand, sometimes it makes the owner (your parents) feel better to be able to do something, rather than just wait for the inevitable.
Thanks hanks... you're right, of course, that often it's hard to know what the right decision is. I've said it a dozen times in this thread if I've said it once and I'm sure I'll say it again, but it's all the more complicated when we see such a happy and relatively healthy dog. He still hasn't needed a single dose of pain medication from the vet, is sleeping through the night, nothing unusual or new basically. It's does look like we're actually going to do the ultrasound first which may tell us something. It could still not give us much information and we might still be looking at the surgery, but at least we'll know we checked. If it does turn out he's got a large tumor in his abdomen, there's not much we can do besides make sure he's happy until the time comes.

But yes, there is definitely still a possibility that the surgery will happen in which case everything you said stands. We would feel so guilty if he had the surgery and really didn't recover well, but at this point multiple vets have assured us that it's a relatively uncomplicated surgery and based on his history, he should do well. Taking that with a grain of salt, we've done our own research, and truly have found nothing to suggest there's an inherent reason it can't be successful in terms of his comfort. We know there's a chance the cancer could be elsewhere or even if it appears to be localized, could be missed or could come back. That's out of our control. Whether or not he has the surgery IS in our control, so naturally we all want to be as comfortable as possible that it seems like the right decision, if we do it.

Of course, we're all wary of trying to justify any of these things to ourselves when it might not be the right decision for Bailey. We are acutely aware that it is our first time handling this and don't want to fall into the traps we know people sometimes fall in, but we're trying to take each thing as it comes.

I know I mentioned before, but the biggest issue (physically) is how fast the eye tumor is growing now. If we do nothing, we could be looking at a couple of weeks. If it turns out that it appears the cancer is localized and we can theoretically do something about it (the surgery) and we think that Bailey can handle it, there is certainly incentive to see if we can give him a little more good time, even if it's ultimately not a lot of time. The quality of the time is more important than the length, but even an additional six months seems like a lot compared to the prospect of having to put him down before Thanksgiving. We also understand that nothing we do can guarantee we'll get even those six months, but hopefully you know what I'm saying.

So yeah, that's where we are: he's going to get an ultrasound and we'll see what it finds. If it finds nothing, there's a pretty high likelihood-- not definite-- that we will opt for the surgery, knowing that they will do x-rays beforehand and will not proceed if those come up with cancer where the ultrasound did not. We are absolutely still open to the possibility that the best thing we can do for him at his age is give him a good death before things get too bad, without subjecting him to any needless procedures/tests/surgeries. The ultrasound is pretty mild though, and it might give us useful information one way or the other. He's good with the vet and at this point, that's about the only thing we can do and and all feel totally sure that nothing bad will come of it besides a dent in our bank account and possibly the results. Beyond that, we'll just have to take it one step at a time.

Thank you again.
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>>> We also understand that nothing we do can guarantee we'll get even those six months, but hopefully you know what I'm saying.

I understand and know what you're going through. My own 'doubts' and second-guessing started when my dog was 12 and ended in June, after he was 16yo.
It's a sad dilemma.
If you're inclined, by temperament, to feel guilty, any way you turn may land you guilty feelings. There is no clean cut answer and logically, you should not feel guilt if the decision you make turns out wrong. I'm no shrink and have no real recommendations, but it would be good, somehow, to move your attitude around to 'we did the best we could' and 'we gave Bailey a good life' . . . rather than wondering if you ended his life prematurely or caused unnecessary pain.
Well, he had the ultrasound. It doesn't really look like we'll have much of a choice; he's got a big mass in his liver. They did aspirate it and will test, but no mass in a major organ is a good thing... let alone at near 14. So, he's probably really at the end here. We all knew this was a very high possibility but of course I think we were all hoping that there would be SOMETHING we could do to give him a little more life. But when your time is up your time is up, and we do know we did the best we could to give him a good life. I think he had a good life. I wish I was there but I'll make it back for when it's time.
Sorry to hear it.

In a strange bizarro way, it's nice to know, b/c you don't have the frustration of trying everything to extend life, but can focus on improving/maintaining quality of life, and can make the final decision in a calm, relaxed, and comparatively predictable way. For example, we saw the signs of ultimate decline over the weekend and had time to make preparations, final steak meal, etc. and schedule with the Vet for a quiet time a few days later.

To go further down that train of thought, we had more time than expected, and started researching new dogs. When we were able to adopt a new dog about a week later, I believe that it greatly helped move the grieving process along a little more smoothly.

Finally, be aware that it is normal to feel guilt after you euth a dog, regardless of the effort to save its life or maintain the quality of life. Just accept it as part of the grieving process.

BTW - my avatar is the new dog :)
Sad diagnosis. Good that you have some clarity, at least; I'd say the ultrasound was a good call. I don't know anything about such cancers. You may want to suggest to your folks that they ask the vet about whether it's likely to be painful, and if there are good palliative meds.
Thanks for the advice everyone. He does have some painkillers for if he's uncomfortable and I'm sure the vet would be willing to do more if necessary; so far he really hasn't seemed to have needed them. I mean, it's hard to say for sure of course but he doesn't seem uncomfortable. We are all feeling the same way, that the ultrasound was clearly the right choice for some clarity. We might not have felt exactly like that if it showed up with nothing but that's not what happened. Now we know and we don't have to waffle so much with what to do. I suppose there's still a minuscule chance that if the mass in the liver isn't cancerous we'd HALF consider the eye surgery, but at this point a) the likelihood of the liver mass being non-cancerous is very small and b) even if it isn't cancerous, I think we've crossed over to not wanting to subject him to a surgery that really can't buy him much time now. So yeah, we are all just hoping that maybe he'll make it through to Thanksgiving and even that might be a bit much. We'll do whatever he needs us to do for him.

I've been trying to convince my parents to adopt another dog for a while but there were some legitimate reasons it didn't work for them at the time. I think they'll get one more once Bailey has moved on. I hope they do and I hope it doesn't take too long, for their sake.

Thanks again.

Hanks-- beautiful dog!
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I just wanted to chime in because I went through nearly exactly the same thing with the dog in my signature, Tucker. He has a tumor behind his eye that was pushing his eye outwards and up. He was healthy otherwise, still lively, hiking, playing, eating, etc. We had xrays and blood work done and everything looked fine, but the tumor biopsy did come back as malignant so there was no real guarantee that it hadn't already spread. He was an older dog and he weighed 125lbs (and he was lean, not overweight). We saw how miserable he was just after they used a syringe to relieve some of the pressure from behind his eye and do the biopsy - for 3 days he whined and was obviously uncomfortable. In the end, we opted to manage his pain with pain killers and the tumor with steroids. When he got to the point that he couldn't properly close his eye, we knew it was time to let him go. I have no guilt because we didn't feel it was right to put him through a surgery that would have taken weeks/months to recover from (taking the eye out and the mass behind it and all of the contents of the eye on that side of the skull) knowing that he may not have that much time left even if we were able to beat the tumor.

I'm very sorry you have to go through this.
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Thanks Sydney, very helpful to get some input from someone who has gone through such a similar situation, and sorry to hear about Tucker. From what I understand, Bailey has been exhibiting very few signs of pain in general, but again it's hard to tell and I'm getting all of my information from my parents rather than straight from the vet and my own day-to-day observations. When I'm around he sometimes gets a little whiney at night which is a more recent development (last year or so), but that seems to be more an attention thing as he does it much less when it's just him and my parents. Often my dog is also with me, so Bailey sometimes vies for attention with Sebastian a little bit, though in general they get along famously. It sounds like he is more relaxed when it is just my parents and him, since at this point that's what he's gotten used to. I'm just pointing out the whining since that's about the only thing I can think of that might indicate he is uncomfortable, and as far as I recall he is also arthritic. But again, he almost never complains and his movement is no more impaired than we would expect from almost any dog his age and size ("we" including the vet).

We haven't discussed steroids yet but that's something to think about if he will live long enough for it to make sense and if his tumor will be at all responsive. One of the most difficult parts of all of this is the speed at which that tumor is growing, so anything we can do to stall its growth while it still seems to be bothering him so little.... I guess I'm really just not sure if steroids are a viable option for Bailey's exact situation either way, but we'll find out.

No matter what the mass in his liver turns out to be, we are all leaning heavily on simply keeping him comfortable and happy and I assume that is what we're going to do. My parents are having dinner with friends who are Irish Wolfhound fanatics and have gone through this an unfortunately large number of times. I'm sure they will have valuable input. The good news is that he's not a young dog so we can't say any of this is really a surprise, not the same way it would have been if he were 4-6 years younger. Of course that doesn't really make it any less difficult, just less unexpected.

We will definitely keep a close watch on his affected eye and his ability to close it.

Despite what it might sound like in some of these posts, I think we're feeling as little guilt as possible under the circumstances. That's not to say we're guilt proof or won't do something that causes us guilt later, including finally making the call. At this point, though, we're doing our research and getting as much information about Bailey and his health as we can access/afford/makes sense which has, of course, lead to us learning additional facts that help to illuminate the way ahead. I'm an only child and all three of us are the type to need to at least know what the options are before making any decision. I can't say that confidently whether or not we would have done the surgery in some alternate universe where Bailey has no mass in his liver, but he does, and as sand pointed out, it is at least good to have some clarity in that regard. He's had a good life and we will keep him comfortable as best we can and give him a good death before he's really suffering. Considering how little the surgery would do now and just the whole ordeal, at the moment we are basically considering it a non-option, so there's truly nothing else we can do and I think we all feel as good about it as we can. 'Good' being a relative term.

It has been very helpful to have the support from here as we go through this, so thank you all again. I will continue to provide updates.

Can anyone provide any insight on the pros and cons of doing at-home euthanasia versus the vet? We are not quite there yet and we're all thinking about it. Bailey is good with the vet, really about as good as you could want, but that doesn't mean it's necessarily better for him or anyone to do it there. I can see the pluses and minuses and both (as can my parents) so any input anyone might have on the matter would be very helpful and appreciated.
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Can anyone provide any insight on the pros and cons of doing at-home euthanasia versus the vet? We are not quite there yet and we're all thinking about it. Bailey is good with the vet, really about as good as you could want, but that doesn't mean it's necessarily better for him or anyone to do it there. I can see the pluses and minuses and both (as can my parents) so any input anyone might have on the matter would be very helpful and appreciated.
I've had to do both. Neither is pleasant, but at-home is hands-down preferable. The only possible downside I can see is that it may be hard to find a vet who will do it, or you may have to pay extra to induce a vet to come to you. I had a wonderful mobile vet who did many in-home euthanasias. Her services may have prejudiced me in favor of the in-home approach. But it is really horrific to wait in the waiting room with a dog who is in pain, and who you know won't be coming out alive.

p.s. I'm presuming you mean mobile vs. normal office-based veterinary service, as opposed to DIY jobs. I could never shoot a dog.
Oh goodness no I'm not talking about a DIY at-home euth. There are many mobile vets in the area, fortunately. I figured doing it at home would be preferable but I'm not sure what will end up being best when cost and everything is considered... thanks for the insight.
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