Here’s our situation. Bijoux, my beloved 13 year old mixed breed dog, was diagnosed 5 months ago with a terminal, inoperable spinal tumor. She was given 2 to 3 months to live. So, if it is possible to be fortunate in this situation, we have been. Bijoux has not only lived well beyond her diagnosis, but has done it with a decent quality of life and a good attitude.
Here’s what I want to share with you. This is what she has taught me along the way plus a few miscellaneous tips.
1. Find a great vet. You need someone who really listens to both you and your dog. Someone who trusts that you know your dog. It should also be someone that is open minded and will do research, confer with a colleague, call a specialist, or do whatever else is needed when she doesn’t know the answer. I think Bijoux’s life would have been much shorter and less comfortable if my vet hadn’t been willing to search for solutions beyond the obvious.
2. Don’t give up hope when you reach a new stage of the disease. When this journey started, I expected a steady decline in Bijoux’s health. It hasn’t really worked that way at all. It has gone in stages. In a few cases, a new stage might be better than the one that preceded it. A the beginning of each new stage, you need to be very alert to what your dog is telling you and work closely with your vet to adjust medications and other treatments accordingly. We have just entered a new stage in the past couple of weeks and it has unnerved me. My vet’s sage advice this week has been to give Bijoux a chance to respond to the change in treatment and let her tell us how it is going.
3. Listen to your dog. Stop trying to figure everything out yourself and just listen to your dog. Dog’s have enough sense not to overanalyze situations like humans do. They live in the moment. For example, I spent 20 minutes crying a few months back because I could hear Bijoux grunting instead of sleeping. I thought she was in pain and that her quality of life was rapidly diminishing. Finally I realized she was just hot from the prednisone she was taking. I moved her bed away from the heating vent and she was fine.
4. Be your dog’s advocate. If you believe something is wrong, talk to your vet. Your vet doesn’t live with your dog and hasn’t spent a lifetime with her. Only you have. Trust your instincts. If you think something is wrong, it probably is.
5. Be respectful of your dog. Before you lay hands on your dog to express her bladder or give her medicine, take a deep breath and relax. Don’t let the frustrations of the day interfere with this moment. Helping your dog is an act of love and respect; treat it that way.
6. Have a good sense of humor. It is your only defense against the messy moments. Bijoux lost control of her bladder many months ago. Sometimes in the early morning hours her diaper falls off as she heads to the back door in an earnest attempt to go out to poop. Unfortunately, she doesn’t wake me and I get up a few hours later and tread (often multiple times) in pieces of poop cleverly hidden in the pattern of my oriental rug. Trust me, you need a sense of humor when you have cold poop between your toes at 6AM. If you can’t laugh, you will go nuts.
•If you need a cheap elevated feeder, find a box of the appropriate height. Take a disposable bowl of the size your dog usually eats from. Cut a hole in the top of the box so the bowl will lay flat but not fall through. Tape the bowl in place with packing tape. Cover the entire top of the box with packing tape so that it is waterproof. Put your dog’s food in a second disposable bowl of the same size. Place it in the bowl on the box. Now your dog can eat without the bowl moving around. You can toss the disposable bowl or wash and reuse it.
•Baby diapers are much cheaper than dog diapers. If you have a dog under 35 pounds you can probably use them instead. I buy Huggies Natural Fit Size 6 for my 30 pound dog. Since she has a cropped tail, I don’t need to cut a hole.
•Shop around for the best prices on medications. Walgreens will let you enroll your dog in a program for uninsured medications. It immediately saved me $30+ even with the cost of annual fee.
•If your dog is on a lot of meds, write out a medication schedule to help keep it straight. Use an alarm clock. Set it for the next time a medication is due. Also, put your dog’s medications in different colored bottles if possible. Make it as easy as possible to ensure you are giving your dog the right meds at the right time.
•If your dog is slipping on non-carpeted floors, get mats. Cheap alternatives to nice rugs are: multiple small, cheap door mats with non-slip backing, yoga mats, non-slip drawer/shelf liners
•Try and make your life a little easier. Centralize cleanup supplies where you need them. I have diapers and wipes near the back door so cleanup is easy and quick after taking Bijoux outside.
I don’t know if this posting will be helpful to anyone else, but I think it is helpful for me to write it.
I would love to hear what you have learned on your journey. Thanks!
Last edited by Bijoux
on Sun Aug 10, 2008 6:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.