Dog Dementia

pico on high alert2

My dog is senile. He is sixteen years old, even though we refused to admit he was getting on.

Living in denial was easy until he lost his mind.

Poor Pico! He is completely nuts. He doesn’t know what he’s doing or where he’s going or what to do when he needs to move backwards or turn around.

He howls for hours. He pants and whines. He often needs help to stand up because his rear legs are so wobbly. He has arthritis and I don’t know what else. The vet advised us that any kind of surgery was out of the question. I like her for not trying to squeeze money out of us.

She’s a wonderful vet even though she’s unsure about penises. My BFF remarked that Pico’s penis is probably the first one she’s seen in years. I think that’s to her credit. She didn’t mind at all when Pico shat on her floor.

I don’t know whether ‘shat’ is a word but I’m using it anyway. My dog has been shitting in the house for more than a week. This ties into my recurring dream that everything is Shit.

This morning, Pico backed himself under a couch and started howling. The more I tried to pull him free, the more he reversed, moving more of his body under the couch and getting stuck. I tried to lift up the couch like mothers can do when their child is underneath a car, but this supermom thing doesn’t seem to work with dogs.

I ran outside and got the drug dealer from the house next to the house next door. He lifted the couch and took a phone call from someone named ‘Josh.’ “I’ll call you in a few minutes, babe” he told Josh.

I am really at a loss here.

Pico still likes his food, even though he forgets where the bowl is. Otherwise, his life seems pretty awful, with all the confusion and anxiety. I personally will not be the one to pull the plug because I’m already permanently traumatized.

Advice, dog owners?

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24 Responses to Dog Dementia

  1. tin Lizzie says:

    It’s time to let your beloved dog go. Take him to the vet and let him go. I wish we could all do this when we lose our minds. That’s another conversation. Dear Pico deserves an end with dignity. xoxo

  2. Gretchen says:

    if this was a human, the doc would check to see if the patient had a bladder infection. my mother had Alzhimers or something of the same nature (it’s not known for sure) one of the many horid diseases that have the same eventual outcome and bladder infection can cause even more disorientation. I have no idea if the same applies to dogs, but you might ask your vet.

  3. Jools says:

    My husband made the decision. Our lab mix was 16. She also suffered from dementia,loss of control of bodily functions, and she needed help to stand up. Oh and she never lost her appetite either.
    When the vet gave her the sedative before the overdose of pain medicine she lay in my arms and I felt her body relax for the first time in years. I realized then how much constant pain she lived with and how stoic she was (she had been on anti-inflammatories and pain medication)
    The only regret I have is that I didn’t end her suffering earlier.
    Bring his favorite blanket. Hold him in your arms and tell him what a wonderful dog he has been and how much you love him. Try not to cry because you want his last moments with you to be without fear and full of love.
    I believe in euthanasia for humans. Why not dogs too?
    Don’t wait too long to get another dog.

  4. Bevitron says:

    Oh Sister Wolf. I’m not currently a dog owner – two cats here – but I have been. tin Lizzie said it perfectly, the Time Has Come, whoever does it. In the late 90’s my 26-year old siamese cat started peeing and pooping everywhere, crying, staggering, and sleeping in his litter box. He had a good, long (I’ll say), happy life, was loved fiercely, and I know your Pico has had that too, and now his time is up. Unless there is a REALLY good chance of improving an animal’s quality & length of life, I don’t believe in heroic veterinary care. I wish it was okay to help humans out of the confusion and misery and fear, too. Love to you and Pico.

  5. MizLottie says:

    Sixteen years is a very long life for a dog and I’m sure Pico had a very good life in a caring home but it’s time to let him go, it’s a merciful act of true love to have him put down. I’ve had to do it twice, the first my dog had incurable liver disease and diabetes and it broke my heart in a million pieces when she went blind and walked into a wall and came away with a look of utter confusion, there really wasn’t much that could be done with her liver being shot. It was so peaceful and I was grateful she was able to go without any pain or stress. The second time was a lot harder, took my beloved Fred to the vet thinking he had another seizure, turned out to be a heart attack and he had another at the vet — the vet and I were already aware that he had a bad ticker. It was awful when he went, he was gasping and in pain and again my heart was breaking for him, I held his heaving little body while the vet gave him the shot, it was sooooo hard but it was the best thing to do for him. It’s a hard decision and sorrowful to go through for you but it’s really the kindest and most loving thing to let your pet go, you don’t want to see them suffer. I’m so sorry, please give Pico many hugs and kisses. My heart goes out to you.

  6. carla fox says:

    It’s time to let him go. Sad as it is, it is the humane thing to do. Animals can’t tell us in words how much pain they are in, or how awful they feel. I completely understand, as we had to have our dog euthanized several years ago. I still tear up when I think about it. This past year we had to do the same with our little 16 year old cat, and our 29 year old miniature horse. I have to say, in each case, they were ready to go before we were ready to let them go. xo

  7. Andrea says:

    We put our 11 year old goldendoodle, Tallulah, down last October. She was suffering from hemangiosarcoma, a cancer made up of blood vessels that bleeds into the abdomen. Since it wasn’t in the lungs, we opted to try to extend her life because she really loved life. She underwent a splenectomy & a liver resection, & they tried to get all the cancer out that was floating around. Chemo came next, & we know we made the right decision, because she had 3 more good months of playing & running around at the dog park, right up until the night before the end. The next day, she had a chemo appt but she didn’t seem right. The dr did a sonogram, & sure enough, she was bleeding into her belly & there was nothing more that could be done. She was in so much pain and couldn’t even lay down due to all the blood in her abdomen, and the most humane thing to do was to end her suffering. We all hugged her and told her how much we loved her and what a good girl she was. The dr put a blanket down & began to inject the medicine. She collapsed into my arms and I petted her & told her I loved her. In 30 seconds she was at peace, finally able to lay down. We stayed with her even after, still petting her, until we were able to leave. It was comforting to have her cremated & save her ashes. We miss her terribly every day but we know we did the right thing. From what you say, Pico is most likely suffering. It’s an incredibly hard decision to make, but you will be doing the best thing for him. Get another dog after you feel enough time has passed. We waited just a month, because missed having a dog in our life so much. She is not Tallulah, but she is her own personality & we love her too. Letting him go is a way to show your love too, as he is probably suffering on some level. I wish you the best whatever you decide. It is never easy. And if you do get another dog, adopt a dog that needs a home. Pico’s death can lead to saving another one, which is a wonderful legacy.

  8. Andrea says:

    Also, take a look at this. It may help you deal. This family did it beautifully.

  9. Tenley says:

    I love my dog and have thought about the “last things” she might need. I say let your dog go. There is a lovely retired hunting dog in my village here in the Luberon — arthritic, incontinent, and persistent! The one thing he cannot imagine is that he may feel better in the future — if he takes the meds, gets some rest, or responds to our affection. He knows only the misery of the present moment. I send much love to you and Pico.The end matters.

  10. thriftstorelawyer says:

    My theory that a long pause between your posts indicates a terrible life event appears proven. So sorry to hear this. But what a lovey, sweet dog. He surely has protected you from a lot. I filled a few days feeding my mom’s dog peanut butter from a spoon and scratching his belly before we let him go. May you have an opportunity to say your own sweet goodbye. Xoxo.

  11. Andra says:

    Yep. You know what to do.
    I am shedding a tear for Pico but it’s time for him to go.

  12. Dj says:

    Oh sister, such a heart breaking decision to make. I have had to put down several beloved cats, and I was there with them until the very end. I had to be there. I had to hold them,afterall, they took care of me…they kept me level and made me smile. I wanted to show them my loyalty. Pico is waiting for you, he is ready. Be brave, show him you have learned a lot from him and let him go…

  13. Stephanie says:

    Please, please, please let him go and end his suffering.
    I send my love in this terrible time.

  14. Christina says:

    I have read your blog for a long time, but never commented until now. From everything I’ve read, you are a highly moral person (although you may not like to admit it). From your description, it seems like your much loved Pico is suffering. You are making a profoundly loving decision to end his suffering, if you decide to let him go. It will be harder for you (obviously) than for him. I feel for you.

  15. Kimberley says:

    My “heart dog” Walter, a 50 lb., mutt lived to be 20. I had some success with melatonin, EFAs, and valarian for his nightime anxiety and confusion. They gave him another 6 months of comfort. Some ideas

    Nobody can tell you when it is time- you will know without doubt when it is time to let Pico go.
    I had the vet come to the house and I will never do it any other way again.
    Lots of love to you.

  16. Beannie says:

    I am so sorry for you and Pico. Imagine what you would want if you were Pico and do that.

  17. Miss Y. says:

    Well, we had to put our beloved dog down last November, because his dementia had gotten to a point that was just too sad to watch.
    To give you the gross detail (and you can absolutely choose not to publish this comment because it is sad and gross), I told my mum that enough was enough when we caught him drinking his own pee (he had become incontinent, he was almost blind). I thought that this is not a quality and worthy life, this is not how we want to remember him. His dementia had started two years peviously, but as long as he seemed happy and wasn’t in pain, we wanted to keep him as long as possible. The peeing thing was really, really sad.

    Sorry for any spelling/grammatical errors, English is not my mother tongue.

  18. Marn says:

    Within the last few weeks Anne Lamott, author, posted a passage on Facebook which included the quote below. (Anne, a spiritual writer, has had WAY more than her share of sadness of late. Fair warning if you choose to read her on Facebook.) I saved part of her passage to perhaps share with a friend going through the death of a beloved pet. I am sharing it with you with in the hope that it may resonate and even bring you some comfort.

    Anne Lamott..on the death of her dog Lily: “But one of the saddest things happened. We had to put my darling old dog Lily down. She died peacefully at home in my son Sam’s arms on Wednesday.

    I think she was the closest I’ll come, on this side of eternity, to experiencing the direct love of the divine. You may know the feeling.

    Through this love, Sam and I came through. We cried a lot, but agreed to let our hearts stay broken for awhile, because that is how light, grace and healing can get in, through the armor.”

  19. Debbie says:

    Sister Wolf, I have put down one dog and two cats and it’s never easy. You’ll cry like a baby for sure, but if Pico is too old and sick maybe it is the best thing. I’m so sorry you’re going through this … it really is the worst to watch a beloved pet deteriorate like that. Whatever you decide to do, I’ll support you.

  20. Sister Wolf says:

    Tin Lizzie – Yep, I wish it could be o easy with humans too.

    Gretchen – We did test for bladder infection, but thank you for mentioning.

    Jools – Yep, yep. I have been through it with another dog. The vet stayed with me while I cried. Not looking forward to doing it again.

    Bevitron – Yep. I would want to be euthanized. Thank you for sharing your story with me. xo

    MizLottie – Waaaah! Okay. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Carla Fox – Oh god. I know you’re right.

    Andrea – Oh dear, so much suffering. Yes, I will ALWAYS have a dog, could not stand daily life without a dog.

    Tenley – Okay. Thank you for your wisdom.

    thriftstorelawyer – He doesnt like peanut butter (!!!) but he loves my chicken. I’ll roast him a chicken.

    Andra – Okay. xo

    DJ – I’ll try, Thank you xo

    Stephanie – Arf.

    Christina – I’m glad you left a comment! Thank you so much.

    Kimberley – What a great resource!!!! I’ve already shared it with friends. Thank you.

    Beannie – Ok, xo

    Miss Y – Your English is fine. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Marn – Very helpful words, thank you.

    Debbie – So much sadness, so unfair. I’m getting ready to let him go.

  21. Bevitron says:

    This is a little poem by Franz Wright that appeared in The New Yorker a long time ago – I cut it out & stuck it on my fridge where it has been ever since. It’s about a cat, but it translates to dog, too. It’s helped me with various beloved animals over the years; maybe it can help someone else.

  22. Madam restora says:

    For fucks sake sister. Get Pico to the vet tomorrow. It’s time. By the sound of it, he’d do it himself if he could.

  23. ali says:

    I am sorry about Pico. I haven’t commented because my attempted comments contained stories with strains of sympathy that degraded into horror. Pico looks very sweet and at peace in the photo. I have no doubts he is well loved. Reading this makes me miss my dog, Bo. He suffered similar ailments. I never got to say goodbye to him because he lived in Costa Rica at the end of his life and I lived in Colorado. Give Pico a belly rub and a kiss from me. Thinking of you and sending love.

    Good luck.

  24. Belle says:

    My dog is 18+ years old. She went through a bout of dementia at 16 and her symptoms were similar to what you described. She would walk towards a wall and just stare at it and sort of just forget where she was going. She would pace constantly at night which drove us nuts (we thought she had diarrhea). In any case, we saw our vet and gave us a few options. We opted to give her a super low dosage of anti-anxiety meds and it helped A LOT! We only used it for 6 months and she is just fine. She still has bouts of confusion but its not like she’s in pain -just a bad day here and there.

    As long as your dog is able to control their urine/poop and is not in pain then it doesn’t make sense to put them down. But if there is no chance of treatment then it is hard to see them suffer..

    Best to you both!

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