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Peggy ONeil is a Shitzu who turns 18 Sept. 1. She barely

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Peggy O'Neil is a Shitzu who turns 18 Sept. 1. She barely sees through her cataracts and is deaf. We've always noted that her tail is down when she is scared or uncomfortable. She doesn't wag it in playfulness any longer, but it is up more than half mast or down. Today when walking, her back legs tended to slip, barely holding her up with the right back even more pronounced almost as if broken. Her body is curved to the right as if she were a crab walking instead of a dog. She sleeps a lot, still eats what she wants, (right now it's only people food chicken and a little dry dog food) although I give her some canned food mixed in. She bumps into walls and gets disoriented when going for water and food but finds it back to the TV room where she has her favorite sleeping rug. She doesn't stop to defecate any more. . . she just drops it as she walks so it is spread out 10 feet or so. She's always been an indoor dog paper trained because she is so highly allergic to flea bites when she goes outside. She lets me pet her and doesn't appear to have pain when I touch her back legs and hip area. Could it just be stiffness or arthritis from old age? Is it possible for her to live comfortably until she dies on her own of old age rather than put her to sleep? What does it mean to die of old age? Thank you, Emmy
Hello, Everything you described above is typical of age and progressive arthritis. The uncoordination is part from the cataracts but shear age is causing the nerve signals to her legs to be not as fast anymore and not being processed by her brain fest enough to smoothly coordinate movement. Also, arthritis can be adding to stiffness and the curve in the spine to compensate while walking.

So there is nothing to do for age. Human doctors define dying of old age as multiple organ dysfunction. Animals are so tolerant of high levels of age and disease that they just keep going along like nothing is wrong. They don't have the mental component of understanding aging like we do. She considers her age and discomfort as normal and just goes with it while a person would be effected mentally by being in the state Peggy is in.

So my advice is to talk to your vet about treating her arthritis and making her as comfortable as possible. From your description I find nothing in her daily activity that necessitates euthanizing her. The defecating thing could be an incontinence or unawareness from age but also the arthritis could be making her sore enough that she does not bother to hold it or posture to go regularly. I recommend an anti-inflammatory called Metacam for her along with a pain medication called Tramadol. I believe a combination of these two drugs will help her be more comfortable and get her to that 18th birthday. Thanks for your question

J Bache, DVM

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