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Hey everyone. This is my first post, so I apologize if I am posting in the wrong section and that this is so long. I have some questions about knowing when it is time to let your elderly dog go. I have read multiple websites, posts, articles, etc. about it, but just wanted some words of wisdom related to my situation.

One of our dogs is 18 and a half years old. Earlier this year, she got glaucoma pretty bad and the vet advised against us surgically removing the eye due to her age. Eventually the eye kind of "died" (not sure how else to put it) and is no longer an issue. However, since then, she seems to not be doing as well. She still eats and drinks, but we have to carry her everywhere. She kind of just walks in circles and stumbles a lot. Even as a puppy, she had issues with stairs, but now we carry her down them like I said before. She is able to use the bathroom without support, but often seems to lose her balance.

Many places have advised to make a list of 5 things your dog likes and if they are unable to do 3 of those things, then you know their quality of life is not great. However, I guess I am just struggling with understanding this and making the decision for another living being. I have had to put dogs down before, but those situations were due to illnesses. It has been much harder to decide what is right for her because there is nothing wrong with her... she is just old. Any and all advice/personal stories would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks everyone.
 

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What is giving her pleasure these days? Does she look forward to her meals? Does she enjoy cuddles or any sort of playing? When you go for 'walks' does she enjoy sniffing the peemail? Doing a favorite thing and enjoying are two different things. My elderly and very slowly declining dog would walk around the block but she was doing it for me, she wasn't sniffing much. Her last favorite was chewing on bones, she happily stripped a bone her last week.
 

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I think it's important to remember that (IMO), when done thoughtfully and at the right time, that euthanasia is a gift. It is the gift of a peaceful death and a release from suffering, not all of which is caused by pain or illness.

I feel that old age is not a "just" thing, as in "she's just old." I'm not saying her time is RIGHT NOW-- only you and your vet will truly know when is right-- but she is up there in years and age wreaks havoc on all living things. I have to say that without knowing anything about her history, having to basically carry her everywhere and her just walking around in circles and stumbling both stick out as red flags.

I'm mostly posting just to reassure you that your dog doesn't have to have some specific, identifiable illness in order to make this call if you feel the time is right. We are getting very close to making the same decision with our family dog and he is also simply ancient. He had cancer a while back but it seems like we removed it. He does have arthritis but it is mostly his age that is now getting in the way of his quality of life. What that means for him and what that means for your dog are two different things. My point is just that age can subtract from a dog's quality of life just like an illness can, and it is quality of life that you are judging.

If it helps, these are some of the questions we have been asking ourselves the past few months: Is the dog eating and drinking? Does he seem to enjoy his food? Is he enjoying treats? Can he go for walks? Can he walk at all? Is he able to go out to the bathroom or is he having accidents? Can he see and hear? Does he seem happy to see us? Does he seem happy to do anything? Is he in pain? Does he have more good days than bad, or more bad days than good? In your case, are you quite confident her eye is not bothering her? Has she adjusted to not having the use of that eye? It sounds like she is struggling.

Bearing in mind that I am basing this on one single post and do not know you or your dog, I would have to guess that at her age and based on what you've said, you are probably getting close. I could be completely off base, though. I certainly do not think you have to feel bad for possibly making that call because of old age. While many old dogs do end up getting illnesses and specific "things," there are lots of dogs who do not, and their owners still have to make that final decision when the time comes.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Hi Kathyy and Bash-full,

Thank you both very much for your responses, they mean a lot. I think what both of you said has made me really reflect on our elderly dogs quality of life. Being able to answer questions I read to myself are one thing, but having someone else ask them really puts it in another perspective. I think we are very close. Something my vet told me that keeps sticking with me is that she has never had anyone say they made the decision to end their life too early, but rather many say they wish they had done it sooner. I had thought that was cruel but now I am understanding what she meant. Again, I want to thank you both very much for your input!

Kathy, I am sorry about your dog! I am happy she was able to still have some pleasures in life :) I also can say I agree, I feel as if I am holding onto my dog for selfish reasons and she was doing things for me. Unfortunately, her condition is to the point that the thought of her taking her out on a walk/playing with a toy/etc is almost laughable. I think what you said really made it clear to me what I should be looking for when I am evaluating her quality of life.

Bash-full, I am very sorry that you are in a similar situation. It certainly is hard! What you said made me really re-think old age (especially in animals). It really is just as debilitating, if not more, than my other dogs I have seen suffer from disease. Your response really put it into a differnent light for me and I really appreciate the kind words.
 

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Thank you for your well wishes.

I am glad that was helpful in whatever respect it can be. The other thing that has helped me some through the last number of months is reminding myself that we as a family are our dog's advocates, and you are yours. They can't tell us with words when things are wrong and it's our job to do our best to know what to do throughout their lives, including at the end. And our best is all we can do.

I know what you mean about coming around with feeling like doing it too soon is cruel, but the opposite is also true. There's no good time, and it's hard to zero in on the ideal timing when you feel like it's not too soon or like you've waited too long. Once again, all you can do is your best to be her advocate, to not rush to the end if she still has life in her, but not ask her to hold on longer than she seems capable, even if it's just from age.

You clearly care very much about her and I am sure you will make the right decision with your vet. Unfortunately, to a stranger it sounds like she is quite close. Depending on what your vet thinks, it doesn't really sound like you could do it "too soon" based on what you've said (though I am certainly not suggesting you rush to a conclusion). She has had a full life and peaceful death at the end of a life well lived is really all any of us can hope for.

Whether you have a month, a week, or a day, I hope you enjoy every minute you still have with her and I wish you luck keeping her comfortable and happy as can be.
 

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Yes, I believe it is quite close. Our vet actually is suggesting this weekend. I want to say again how much your words mean to me and that I truly appreciate them! They brought me the peace that I was looking for so I can make the best decision for her. Thank you again, and best of luck with your precious pup!
 

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Thank you. We have currently scheduled Bailey's final appointment for this weekend, too, so I'll be keeping you in my thoughts. I'm glad I could help give you some clarity of mind. Even though it's hard, it sounds like you are making the right decision. Best of luck.
 
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