Monday, August 23, 2010

The cost of a best friend

Sophie was at the vet today and I had her blood work done, had her knee and hips checked and generally just made sure all was well. I learned that Sophie definitely tore her ACL in the spring, which I likely should have had checked but opted to manage at home and monitor. She wouldn't be doing as well as she is, if it was a complete tear so my treatment plan of pain management and restricted activity has worked to heal it up basically. There's still some instability in the knee and scar tissue, but she's ok. Sophie wouldn't even let the vet check her hips. She didn't growl or get upset, she just moved herself away and politely refused. We both guessed she's sore.

So, I walked away with her Blood Work results. Unfortunately, my scanner isn't working or I would upload the results; that will have to wait for another day but basically everything was normal.

I am left with a young, high energy, depressed Lab who is in pain off and on, all the time. I have Deramaxx to manage the pain as the Glucosamine/MSM mixture she gets doesn't cut it. The Deramaxx comes at a price as it will eventually destroy her liver function but the goal is mobility in the short term. I also can do acupuncture, laser treatments and underwater treadmill work with her. Unfortunately, that all costs money and Soph is expensive. Her pain pills are about $5.00 a pill; she takes 1 a day when things are bad and that's the cheapest part of her treatment.

As I discussed this with a friend, she made the comment to me, "all this for a dog that doesn't do anything. At least she's not your agility dog". That got me thinking about everything. Would I pay for hip surgery if this was Spike we were talking about? Would that change my treatment plans, if it was my flyball/agility/therapy dog? How much is realistic, considering I am a normal person, making a decent living working as a teacher, but with other commitments like student loan payments from the last round of school and tuition payments for this round?  Does my inability to continue to do things like acupuncture regularly enough stem from the fact that she's just a pet, or would I be making the same decision for Spike? All interesting thoughts and questions.

Here's what I know. I love Sophie to pieces. Sophie is not an agility dog, she's not an obedience dog, she's just a pet. She lives in my house with me, licks my plate clean when my back is turned, sleeps with her head on the pillow beside me and is my constant companion. I have always claimed Spike is my heart dog, but Sophie has a greater empathetic nature to her; she gets things emotionally better than Spike does. She wants to make the world better with a tail wag and a lick.  When I am upset, happy, laughing or crying, Sophie is there first. She makes me angry when she's bad but she makes me laugh more than any other dog ever has. She would be an agility dog and obedience dog if she could physically do it. She  loves running agility; she lights up in the yard when I put her through a tunnel or over a tiny little jump. She has enthusiasm to spare and she was so much fun in agility class. Just because she didn't get to earn a title doesn't mean she didn't want to. If she had her way, she'd still be playing. Sophie was also very close to going for her CD title in Obedience; I had entered her in an Obedience competition last fall but my grandmother passed away and I had to withdraw her. She could have done it, and I know it but the winter was so hard on her hip that I just didn't enter her in the spring, when I had the next opportunity to.

So, I guess where I am heading now is that I know I am doing everything I can for Sophie. I will make her as comfortable as I can, for as long as I can. I hope more treatment options come along, in the meantime as I really think she's too young to be on as big a dose of Deramaxx as she is. And, I don't care whether Sophie is just a pet... she's my girl and I am trying to make the right decisions. I think I would be doing the same if it was Spike.


Mango said...

These are always difficult decisions. My last mastiff had very bad hip problems and at first we debated giving her the powerful medication but decided that we would rather she have a shorter pain free life than a longer painful one. Ultimately, it was her hips that got the best of her when the pain medication no longer cut it. Had she been a smaller dog we might have considered surgery, but given her 190 pounds combined with the short life span of a mastiff, we decided to let her go.

For me, I always remind myself that a dog lives in the moment and has no concept of death. And they all give us so much regardless of whether they are champions in a sport or "just" pets. My Mango means the world to me even though there are not many activities we can do together due to his clumsy, physically fragile, and slow of mind demeanor.

When Mango had a seizure, many of my friends urged me to get a brain scan to see if he had a tumor. I opted out. If he had a tumor, what then? I wouldn't try to treat it, I would keep him comfortable and when he wasn't I would let him go, knowing that I had done everything I could to make every day the best day for him. That's the best we have to offer.

Mango Momma

dewdana said...

I am pretty new to your blog but read back a bit about Sophie's hip troubles. My Moose had a torn CCL (and I learned from X-rays at that point that he has good hips at least) and we got the surgery (TPLO) when all was said and done (including followups and x rays) it was $4000 and I would do it again in a heart beat (though it may not be said and done since he started acting like he has a torn meniscus in that knee so we may be going back in for more). But I have to wonder how much knee surgery would improve her day to day life if she has somewhat limited mobility and pain from her hips? I don't think your decision is a bad one (based on only reading a few posts) and I also don't think you are making it because she is 'just' a pet or have limited finances but because surgery would not 100% or even 90% fix her. At least that is my take from what you have posted. I see you have taken her for swimming therapy and over time as something that benefits all the joints (and not exactly cheap) and I don't know that there is anything better you can do. Have you read about conservative management for CCL problems? There is a yahoo group that can help if you are interested. It might provide you with some tips on how to improve her quality of life. Deramaxx scares me too but when we need it it is there. The depressed dog makes me sad though. There are lots of non-physical but still stimulating things (Brain games) that can keep them happy and may help shake that depressed dog feel. They really helped when Moose was recovering. If you wan't more infor on the yahoo group or the one brain game I used feel free to peemail labramoose at gmail dot com

Jean said...

Jen, making decisions for our pets is always tough and it isn't just the financial aspects we consider. When Caleb was diagnosed with cancer, I opted not to take him through chemo. I had just adopted him after he had spent 7 months in a kennel (and after being abused and neglected prior to that), and chemo would have meant weekly trips to the city (1 - 2 hours each way) and an overnight stay for him. I decided I wouldn't put him through that given it would only increase his life by perhaps a year. Some faulted me for it, but I felt right about the decision. Same for Oliver - I did not take him to a vet (though I did consult by phone) because his deafness/cognitive disorder/visual impairment was such that a vet visit would have done more harm than good to his stress level. Again, some criticized but I know I did the right thing.

Deramaxx scares me - watch for ANY signs of blood in the poop or yellow poop such as might be visible with pancreatitis. I had to take Belle off deramaxx. I switched to the occasional tramadol for pain and she was fine with that.

I have some (unopened) canine liver support products (bought from the vet for Belle near the end of her life, but she died before I used them) which I can send you if you wish. Probably by the time I need them for one of my beasties, they will have expired!

If you can manage an acupuncture treatment or two, I know it really helped both Belle and Caleb. Belle only needed two treatments before we saw considerable improvement.