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Canine Cognitive Dementia and pack dynamics?


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Hi all,

I need to bounce this off some fellow dog people (and maybe find a shoulder to cry on...), and this might be a little long. Sometimes it helps to just put it all out there, so here goes.

 

So my big old guy Nikolai, who is a Shepard mix and has been with me over 11 years, and was 3-5 when I adopted him, has CCD. We tried some herbals, which helped for several months, and he's now been on Selegeline/Anipryl for about 6 weeks and using a DAP collar. The vet tried some B-12 and acupunture as well, now that I think of it. Anyway, he's been trending down for over a year. He has become pretty much deaf in that year, and his vision is going as well. The arthritis in his hips is also becoming more pronounced, but the vet recognizes that his body isn't the biggest problem.

 

His symptoms are mostly getting lost in rooms, randomly barking, and getting stuck behind glass doors. He gets frustrated easily, and when he thinks I'm behind a closed door - even if I remind him that I'm not - he barks and barks and claws at the door. He sleeps a lot, and doesn't interact as much... will sometimes "play" for a minute or two when Zoe gets her pre-dinner zoomies, but mostly sleeps. He's been grumpy for years, which is why I had to stop fostering, and my girls avoid him like the plague. He chases the cats. I work a lot of night shifts, and when he wants to be in the bedroom, he won't take "go lie down" for an answer. Then, when I let him in, he roots around the curtains and sometimes doesn't settle down, and I end up throwing him out again and the cycle repeats. So far, I've been managing the sleep fairly well, but it's gradually getting worse.

 

I guess I'm trying to decide at which point the good of the pack outweighs the good of the one. He does seem to enjoy life, and loves going for walks, albeit they are very short these days. He has a good appetite, although doesn't hear the food clinking in the bowl anymore. He is very possessive with space and food, and I've fed him separately for years now. He still loves neck scritches, and actually laid down for a belly rub yesterday for the first time in ages.

 

The cats avoid him, and I know they are stressed. The BCs (Sasha and Zoe) avoid him, and he has attacked Sasha a couple of times - usually when she finds an old bone or something in the yard that he decides he wants. We are having occasional accidents in the house. (although it's always tricky to know who is the culprit).

 

I have looked for any sort of research or literature into how this affects a pack, and can't find anything. My vet is concerned that once Zoe topples him as the dominant dog, the emotional stress might be considerable. We've had "the talk" already, and I'm not really sure that the selegeline is helping. Maybe some, but it's not a profound change. We were going to reassess in a month, and it's been 6 weeks. Yes, I'm stalling.

 

I feel guilty for even considering putting him down as he still seems to enjoy life, but the wear and tear on the pack (and myself) is starting to show. He's lived a darn good life, considering he was lucky enough to end up in a no-kill shelter, and still spent 8 months waiting for me to find him. I think my life would be easier, no - I KNOW my life would be easier, and I am pretty sure the other critters would also benefit. I just don't want to make a rash decision and regret it, nor do I want to wait until he seriously injures one of the others. They're all faster than he is, but he's a lot bigger. The selegeline is expensive, and although I can afford it, it's still a chunk of change, and I can't really tell if it's helping. I suppose I could stop it when I run out again and see what happens.

 

Thoughts? Anyone else out there dealt with anything like this? I know people say that "you know when it's time" but I always figured that applied to injuries, cancer or something else.

 

I just wish I'd find a lump and it would be a hemangiosarcoma, or he'd start limping, or really anything to tip the scales. I feel horrible for admitting that, but it would make this whole situation a lot easier. I also think I'm painting it as worse than it is - I mean, it's not like he keeps me up every day, or chases the cats every day, but it's a progression.

 

Thanks for any advice,

Danielle, Nik, Sasha and Zoe

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Wow. That is the hardest decision ever. Personally, I'd stop the meds that you aren't sure are helping and I'd crate or tether more. No, I'd crate AND tether more. I've been in your shoes, and there is no easy answer. You do have to take into account everyone that this affects and yet, how do you weigh everything. I don't have answers for you, but I'm thinking of you and praying for you as you go through this rough time. I know you will come to the right decision at the right time.

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I can't give you any real advice but I can tell you that I feel for you, and hope that is worth something.

 

You do make a lot of good points that it is not just about Nikolai and his quality of life but also about how it affects the entire household. I think that at some point, you will find that you may just have to decide that it's the good of the many that outweighs the one. But you already seem to recognize that.

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I just wish I'd find a lump and it would be a hemangiosarcoma, or he'd start limping, or really anything to tip the scales. I feel horrible for admitting that, but it would make this whole situation a lot easier. I also think I'm painting it as worse than it is - I mean, it's not like he keeps me up every day, or chases the cats every day, but it's a progression.

 

I don't have any advice, but I just wanted to say that I can relate to this. My oldest is gradually losing strength/mobility in his hind legs, but his front end is still incredibly strong and healthy for a 13 year old.

 

I don't know when to say he's in enough discomfort that his quality of life isn't what it should be anymore. He eats eagerly, he drinks, he even plays with toys. We have provided him with things to step on to get up onto furniture and he readily uses them, so at least for today he can still get wherever he wants to be. But just today I saw him literally drag his back legs behind him as he tried to keep up with the other dogs moving across the yard. He's OK walking - for now.

 

I'm to the point where I wish something very obvious would tip the scales - as you said. It's not that I want to lose him, or hurry him to the end of his life. This place of "it might be time, but I honestly can't tell" is such a tough, tough place to be. As excruciating as the last few weeks of Maddie's life were, when I knew for a fact that she would never eat again, the decision was effectively made for me. With Sammie I just can't tell. I know that he is uncomfortable sometimes, but to what degree and how often? Of course, he can't say.

 

For now, I'm adding back a pain med that he had been on but we took him off of due to some early concerns about his kidneys. At this point, long term side effects don't concern me like they did even a year ago.

 

And, like you, I have other dogs to consider. He is getting very nasty with one of them at times and that's causing some level of distress for all of us.

 

Like I said, no advice, but in a somewhat similar boat . . .

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No advice on the pack thing but I know what you are going through with the CCD. My 15 1/2 year old beardie had it. Luckily a mixture of anipryl and cholodin worked for her. I found that it was much harder to deal with than all of her physical problems. Before the meds kicked in, I also wondered if I would know when it was time. It was also tearing me apart with the thought of euthanizing her and her not even knowing I was there and loved her. At the end, she started having seizures so I knew it was time.

 

From what I remember, the anipryl may take a bit longer to fully kick in. It has to build up in the system. Since he did show some improvement and roll over for pets, I'd give it a bit more time.

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. Luckily a mixture of anipryl and cholodin worked for her.

Can you give me an estimate of cost for those drugs per month?

We're suffering the same here with Raven. Hearing is just about gone. Eyes are going and mind is there sometimes and other times not.

Saving grace is the rug she pees on is old, she is happier than she's ever been and she can't see or doesn't notice the pack dynamics have changed so dramaticly. I've watced all the dogs sorta of challange her, she doesn't even notice so they don't persue but I worry that one day when I'm not watching they will

 

It is so hard to make any decisions but I have told myself when I can no longer keep her safe from herself or she is not enjoying life I will make that decision for her.

 

Night time is the worst but if I lock her in my room she will settle quicker than leaving her wandering the house.

 

Raven has stress seizures, has for quite a while, if I try and crate her she starts stressing, if I put a leash on her she gets totally confused so those things aren't an option for now.

Our best medicine to date is taking her for long walks where she wears herself out and then comes home and sleeps!

 

Good luck with you senior. We owe them so much but I'm right there with you wondering if it's a good thing or not.

 

 

Hey....where's our spell checker with the new format???

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I really appreciate all the kind words, all. I never really foresaw this, although thinking back, my own family dog was PTS at age 18 for really severe symptoms (I was away at college).

 

I think what really made me start asking was that yesterday was the first time in awhile I've spent a really good chunk of time at home with them and it was the first time I'd realized that he really does look for me and assume I'm behind a closed door. Reminding him that I'm not really didn't help. He destroyed the door to the guest room last year (I think it was during a thunderstorm while I was at work).

 

I asked my petsitter what she thought as she sees them intermittently, and she gently commented that she felt like the lights were on, but no one was home.

 

The selegeline costs me about $250 a month, and that was comparing 3 pharmacies (I don't have a local pet pharmacy) - the highest priced was over $500. He's about 60 lbs, so it's a big dose, and the vet loaded him the first week, so I really think I'd be seeing results at this point if it was going to work. I thought it might be a little bit at first, but it might have been wishful thinking. OR he did get a little better, was more active, and then I did noticed that his hips seemed stiffer than I remembered. Since I'm out today, I think I'll see if I notice any changes without it.

 

As I ponder all these things, I really do feel like things are gradually peaking, and I will have to make the call in the next few weeks. I really think that if it was just him, this wouldn't be nearly the issue that it is becoming.

 

Thanks again,

Danielle

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I have long thought that elective euthanasia is one of the nicest things we humans can do for our animals at the end of their lives and continually wonder why we don't reserve the same courtesy for our own kind. I'm very sorry you're dealing with this and I know you say he's enjoying life and he probably is in bits and pieces, but there is a lot in your post that indicates a stressful and unhappy existence as well. Perhaps the good of the pack and the good of the one are not at odds nearly as much as initially thought?

 

One thing that has helped me when these tough decisions come about is to remember that while thousands of years of evolution produces a fear of death response in animals when they're put in circumstances that mimic a natural death -- prey animals being restrained, for instance -- they rarely exhibit that same fear response in the humane and calming circumstances we humans are able to produce for them at the end of their lives.

 

Whatever you decide, I hope you and your boy find peace soon.

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Perhaps the good of the pack and the good of the one are not at odds nearly as much as initially thought?

 

Whatever you decide, I hope you and your boy find peace soon.

 

Perhaps not.

Writing it out has helped, I think.

We just got back from a walk. Nik tuckered out around .2 miles and it was a very slow amble the rest of the block. And he's lying in the shade in the backyard now.

 

Perhaps it is coming sooner than I'd thought. And perhaps that's ok.

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Years ago I had a16 yr. old weimaraner that had CCD..

 

My vet who is just wonderful and very down to earth and realistic about these things suggested rather then the expensive drugs that really don't have that great of a track record to put her on Choline.. If I remember correctly it was very cheap and I did see some improvement. It is suppose to help the brain function better and help memory..

 

I'm sure if you google it you can learn more.

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"The Decision" is a highly personal one. Others can offer advice, but ultimately, the dog's (or cat's, or horse's, or...) owner must make the decision alone. Having said that, I want to endorse Olivehill's thoughtful post. I know many people say that your dog will tell you when it's time. Of course no one wants to let a good friend go before his time, but also ask yourself if it's in your friend's best interest to wait until he is so miserable that he is blatantly letting you know he doesn't want to be alive. We aren't blessed with the ability to know how many good days might still remain, nor what misery might lie ahead if we postpone the inevitable. We can only just do the best we can. But, to slightly rephrase Olivehill's last paragraph, dog's don't fear death; they fear pain and abandonment.

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So... I have been agonizing about this as you know, and a couple of thing have turned the tide, and I think I've made the right decision.

 

Nik crossed the bridge this afternoon in my arms. We'd gone for one last short walk, and at one point, his legs went out from underneath him. And I knew.

 

Thank you for your support. I've been bawling my eyes out all day, but I think it was time.

D

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I am so sorry for your loss. Your post made me think about my situation with my 16.5 year old Sheltie rescue mix. She is still fine (for her age), but I am not looking forward to the mental deterioration that I see slowly creeping up on her.

 

Based on what you described, I agree with your decision - and the timing. From what I have read on these boards, people often rue the fact that they waited too long, rather than making the decision too soon.

 

RIP Nik.

 

Jovi

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No matter how well we understand the inevitability in our heads, our hearts are never ready for that final goodbye. Nik took his leave peacefully, knowing love and friendship and partnership through his last breath. We can ask for no more than that. He was blessed to have made his way into your life, and you will be forever blessed to have shared your life with him.

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I'm sorry. Nik is pain free now and knew your love right up to the end. That's all we can do for our beloved companions. A dear friend of mine once said of the decision to end a pet's life: We do it because we love them that much. I think that says it all. You'll always feel the grief, but as time passes, you'll also be able to remember all the wonderful things and smile too.

 

J.

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Sometimes it's hard to be the strong one for our pets, but that is what they need from us. I'm sorry you had to make such a difficult decision, but I believe you made the right one. Nik was so lucky to have you. I'm sorry for your loss.

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I'm so sorry to hear about Nik. It is also a year since I let my Zachary go. Nik was lucky to have you and knew you loved him right up to the end - it is our love that allows us to make the decision to let them go. He will forever live in your heart.

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It's been a year for Jazz too. It's so hard to make that decision but know time does really fill in your breaking heart with the wonderful memories you and Nik made together.

Run free Nik.

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