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Doc Sara
Doc Sara, Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 952
Experience:  I am a dog and cat veterinarian with a lifetime of experience in our family veterinary hospital.
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My 16 year old Labrador Retriever just about 80 pounds

Customer Question

My 16 year old Labrador Retriever just about 80 pounds recently passed. I'm questioning the care he was given. In July 2014 we tried to go for a 2 mile walk he was really sore 1/2 way through and it took us quite a while to get back home. That day I gave
him a double dose of Rimadyl and he had projectile diarrhea for a few days until the vet gave him some sort of anti-biotic. He got his annual wellness exam in Aug 2014 and everything checked out great as far as blood work. At this point I discontinued the
Rimadyl. He also had fecal incontinance. I found out about Adequan and tried that for a few weeks and also took him to one session of acupuncture. My job ended so I ran out of money until April 2015. I took him back to his primary care vet and asked for bloodwork
and X-rays. I was working again and had money to spend. He said why ... if i find anything i can't do anything anyway and gave me Proin for the urinary incontinance. So a few weeks later i took him to another vet for a session of laser therapy, they seemed
puzzled that he was not on Rimadyl and suggested blood work a wanted to wait for another paycheck. A few weeks later he fell down and would not get up for a few hours so I took him to an ER and the DR said he was not sure it would get better, his spine issues
or arthritis to maybe consider euthanasia. He gave me tramadol and gabapentin. My primary care DR gave a follow up call to see how he was doing. He seemed fine... He still fell on slippery floors but was fine on grass or carpet. He turned 16 on July 26 2015
and passed away a week later. I had kenneled him and when we returned on the 30th he would not eat his food. Canned Pumpkin and i/d dry. But he kept following me to the kitchen. Finally on August 1st I gave him a raw hide he chomped it a few times then followed
me back to bed. He fell off my bed which is less than 2 feet high and when I helped him up he peed. I helped him outside he made it down the 2 steps to go out to the court yard and collapsed a few feet later. This time his front legs dig not move when I helped
him up. I carried him back in to my apt and for awhile seemed mad that he could not move but eventually went in to some sort of shock. Every time I tried to pick him up he cried. I tried to give him a gabapentin and he bit me. I had no way to get him in my
truck to go to ER and was so confused by so much conflicting advice I decided to let him pass which took over 12 hours. This has made me an emotional wreck. 1st of all I don't understand why he was given Proin because the spinal issues are probably what lead
to his incontinance. I don't understand why get kept going to the kitchen but would not eat his dog food or the raw hide. I regret not trying to give him people food. I regret now not taking him to the ER, not trying harder if it may have been something simple.
I question giving proin without lab work and wonder if he collapsed from being light headed from lack of food and did he have an upset stomach. Or did the fall or the steps aggravate his spine. I was just overwhelmed and did not know what to do. Plus with
any of the medication no DR told me what side effects to look out for or how to deal with a dog with spine issues such as make sure he doesn't fall... careful with steps etc... (he jumped down the 2 steps) or maybe his bladder got messed up because he couldn't
pee from the Proin. Too many things happened at once and I guess I just froze. He was slowing down but still happy. I'm frustrated over this and now have lost my friend of 16 years. I just think his primary care DR owed to me to be more thorough. He never
explained anything to me specifically about what was causing his conditions. After he passed the DR sent me a card and said that he lived well beyond his life expectancy because of the great care I have him and that he was on borrowed time. A follow up e-mail
simply stated that he "had many problems that would have been difficult if possible to treat" but never said what they were?? This sounds weird to me. If he was over his head why not refer me to a specialist in Aug 2014? I realize he was old but I don't know
if he got the care he deserved. He had been really healthy besides Emergency bloat surgery at age 8, occasional ear infections and an ear hematoma at age 11.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Expert:  Doc Sara replied 1 year ago.

Good morning, I'm Dr. Sara. I'm a licensed vet who works exclusively with dogs and cats and I have plenty of experience with arthritic aging patients and end of life care.

I'm really sorry to hear about the stressful and scary situation you experienced there at the end with Angus. At 16, I hate to say this, but there was likely very little that you could do. In older pets, a lot of times we do what we can to help with their quality of life without hitting you with lots of expensive diagnostics because they are likely only going to tell us what we already know - that he is aging and parts are wearing out and there's not a whole lot we can do but continue using whatever medications we can to keep them comfortable. Vets are especially cautious about recommending expensive diagnostics if you've previously been in a financial bind - we don't want you to think that we are just out for your money.n We get to the point that we are treating symptoms, not individual diseases. In that case - if he was incontinent and this was a concern for him, it's not unreasonable to try some medication to help him hold his urine. Proin is quite safe and has very rare side effects - the most common one I see is that some dogs can become hyperactive or nervous when they are on it.

I'm sure that in the end he was weak from his spinal disease combined with general age and declining condition. I suspect what you saw was progression of his weakness from spinal disease/arthritis combination. He also could have suffered a vascular accident (think like stroke in humans), which there's not really good treatment for either.

In many of these cases with very aged pets, we don't put names to diseases because mostly they are not possible to treat. Let's put it this way - for most owners, it doesn't help for me to tell you, "Well, he has Type II IVDD lesions at T13-L1-L2 causing spinal cord compression (diagnosed by an MRI scan), mild renal insufficiency (diagnosed by blood work), a few nodules in his liver and/or spleen that are likely benign (diagnosed by ultrasound), and a leaky mitral valve in his heart (diagnosed by an ultrasound of his heart), but there's very little we can do about any of those things except what we are already doing." I guess for some owners - potentially you - that would have been helpful, but most owners would be angry that we ran up a $2,000 bill to tell them what we already know - that we can't do much more. Sometimes we can run all the tests in the book and still come up with no particular answer other than "parts wearing out" and general aged condition.

Based on all the treatments you've mentioned - you did everything that I typically do with my geriatric patients to help with spinal disease and arthritis. In fact, you went beyond what many of my clients are able to do, as laser and adequan or a larger dog can be cost prohibitive. Do not beat yourself up! You obviously did a great many things right in his lifetime to help him live to 16! That's almost unheard of in a large breed dog. I know that doesn't lessen the sting of his loss, and I'm very sorry :(

It never hurts to send your primary care vet a letter airing out your concerns. This will help them handle similar situation in the future and it can be very cathartic to you. It's also not unreasonable to pick a new vet should you need one again. As a vet, I hate to lose a client but by the same token, I want my clients to be comfortable and happy with us.

Please let me know what other question I can handle for you :)

~Dr. Sara