How things have changed with our pets since adding a baby to the mix

Looking through old photos of when it was just Derek & I and our animal zoo makes me sad. While I wouldn’t trade Isabel for the WORLD, things sure have changed with our pets since she arrived. Totally unrelated to baby but just bad timing — our yellow dog is dying (has tumours that are a ticking time bomb — we just wait & see each day). Our chocolate girl has been refusing to come inside our house since September. She stopped coming in around the same time that Isabel found her voice (screams of joy!). Mya normally LOVES warmth but is dead serious about not coming inside despite the cold (she stays in our sunporch that’s not heated at all). Our vet thinks we should rehome her but we are so torn. And lastly, the cats, they’ve remained mostly the same but when they do fight it is more intense (a serious cat fight). They’d be happier if they were the only cat in a home. Sigh.

Looking at this photo, I miss back then…

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Put down a dog while they are still happy OR wait til moment of crisis?

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We adopted Mowgli from a shelter on September 3rd, 2010.
We guess that he’s 7 years old although he could very well be older.

To get you up to speed:  on September 3rd, 2015, an x-ray at the vet’s office revealed that Mowgli has two tumours. One on his prostate and a large one at the spleen. While we can’t know for sure that these are cancerous without a biopsy (which we’ve declined to do because of cost, risk, and it not changing treatment outcome), I find the fact that there’s not one but two tumours highly suspicious for cancer. Our vet told us that even if the two tumours aren’t cancerous, they are still very serious and “ticking time bombs”. Since that day, I’ve been living with a dark cloud re: watching for signs of Mowgli’s decline and waiting for that dreaded day. Reality is, he’s likely to die in one of the following two ways:

  1. if it is cancer, we could experience the typical signs that he’s going down-hill (lack of appetite, decreased energy and interest in the things he once enjoyed, etc). In my opinion, this would be the easiest way for him to go. I would get advance warning before we’d get to the suffering stage. I’d be able to make an appointment with our vet instead of going to the after hour emergency clinic that’s 45 minutes away (and lots of money).
  2. one of his tumours will rupture and he’ll start bleeding out. this is more likely than for him to succumb to cancer. with two tumours, the odds of one of the tumours rupturing is great. this would be a sudden emergency situation. he can be fine one minute and losing consciousness or non-responsive the next. He can start bleeding out in any and all ways – urine, stool, out his mouth, nose and ears. or he may all of a sudden be a very sick dog with no external blood (but he’s bleeding internally). I’ve read that it shouldn’t be a painful way for him to go (but how do we know for sure?). He may be anxious in those last moments knowing something’s not right.  I dread this happening at a time where we’d have to go to the after-hours clinic that’s 45 minutes away. Our vet has helped us tremendously over the last year and I’d really prefer for her to be with us in that final moment.

So far, Mowgli appears to be fine. I think his anxiety (OCD) is worse lately but it’s hard to know if that’s from him being uncomfortable with allergies or if he’s experiencing some pain or discomfort due to the tumours or cancer. His appetite and water consumption is good but that could be due to the prednisone that he’s on that increases appetite and thirst. His fur and skin looks unhealthy – again, could be due to allergies.

When deciding “when is time”, do you wait for a “ticking time bomb” tumor to rupture? Or do you act before the bomb goes off? Frankly, I’m scared of what that experience may be like. I’ve heard that it gives the owner a lot of peace when their dog can walk into the vet’s office with dignity. Things I’m considering:

  1. above all, I don’t want Mowgli to suffer.
  2. I’d really like for him to put down at our vet’s office rather than the after-hours clinic in a moment of crisis.
  3. I also want to have peace that it was “time” so not to have regret later.

A lady that used to work at a vet clinic told me that she’s never had someone tell her that they thought they put their pet down too soon. Instead, she’s had several tell her that they waited too long and wish that they did it sooner.

Mowgli could very well be in pain but just not show it. Dogs (and cats) tend to hide their pain. His excessive licking could be a sign of trying to sooth himself. His breathing is different – more laboured and irregular at times (when at rest). But otherwise he seems normal. He loves to go for his walks and hasn’t slowed down.

Do we put him down before a tumor bursts or wait for the bomb to go off and then act? Gosh, this is so hard. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!

5 things you can do when your dog is dying

On Thursday September 3rd, on the 5 year anniversary of adopting our dog from a shelter, we discovered that he has two tumours. The large one at his abdomen doesn’t necessarily seal his fate like the other one does. A prostate tumor is always a very serious thing. Prostate cancer in a dog is a death sentence. Prostate cancer spreads so quickly through out the body that the life expectancy is 6 weeks – 1 year. Not knowing what will happen, our vet suggested for us to take it week by week. That’s exactly what we are doing. I’m less than a week into finding out that our dog is dying and its been hard. The following is the advice that I’d give to others going through something similar:

  1. The most important thing you can do is be educated on what the warning signs are that your dog’s quality of life has diminished. Lethargy, lack of appetite, no longer interested in their favourite things are typical signs. In our case, we are also on the look out for blood in his urine or stool as well as any digestive problems like diarrhea or vomiting. Dogs have a way of hiding that they are in pain. It’s so important for owners to be on the look out for changes in their dogs health or behaviour so they don’t unnecessarily suffer at the end.
  2. Make it a priority to do the things that your dog enjoys the most. For our boy, that’s walks, belly rubs and chewing a bone. And just being in the same room as us.
  3. Take photos. I hate the fact that our 5 month old baby will have no memory of our boy so I’ve made sure to snap some photos of them together. I’ve also attempted a few selfies of my dog and me 🙂
    P11605894. Say your good-byes. When you have advance warning that you dog is dying, you are given a unique opportunity to start the grieving process early. Even though your dog doesn’t understand what you are saying, say what you need to say. You’ll feel better having done this.

5. Plan for when you need to bring your dog in to be euthanized. Have the after hours vet clinic saved in your phone. Determine who will bring your dog in. Do you want to be there? If so, you may want to do some research ahead of time with regards to what the experience will be like.

Taking it week by week with your dying dog is very difficult. You have no idea what the timeframe may end up being. Our boy could surprise us and live a year or more. Or he could go tomorrow. It’s an unsettling thing to live with. But I also agree with our vet that it’s better to know. Regardless of being given a heads up, I’m afraid that when the time comes it’s going to hit me harder than I’m imagining. I’m hoping that doing the 5 things mentioned above will help. Is there anything you’d add to this list?

Discovering that your dog has tumors and preparing for end of life

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This was my FB status yesterday:

5 years ago today we drove to Gatineau, Quebec to adopt Mowgli from a shelter. As we drove away (on the hottest day ever!), he never looked back. He acted like we had always been his people. I know dogs are supposed to be loving, loyal and your best friend but he’s a champion at these things. He has his share of annoying traits but his heart is pure gold and gentle is his middle name. Today, I take him to the vet as he’s so sick. He developed terrible allergies for the first time 1 year ago and that hasn’t changed but he’s having other issues now. Hoping he starts to feel better soon! Being up several times during the night is no fun for the owners either.

You may remember my previous post (click here if interested in reading) where I debated re: when does a person draw the line and put a dog down instead of continuing to pay for meds for something incurable. The post was related to horrible allergies that Mowgli developed a year ago that haven’t improved despite many attempts (and a lot of money spent!). For the first 4 years that we owned him he had not one physical health problem. Then bam – out of nowhere, he’s a sick dog. You may think pet allergies doesn’t seem like a big deal but you’d be wrong. Until you’ve lived it, it’s hard to understand how costly and frustrating it can be.

Recently, we had to put Mowgli on a higher dose of meds to help him find relief from his allergies. As per usual, eventually, we try and reduce that dose. When we went down to the every-other-day pills earlier this week, Mowgli developed diarrhea. Up-in -the-night-taking-the-dog-out-multiple-times diarrhea.  He also vomited a few times. One of his vomits was so foul we questioned if it came from the other end (it didn’t). I found the following online on several sites: “Blockages in the lower GI tract cause abdominal distension and the vomiting of brown, fecal smelling material.”

Yesterday, I brought him in to see the vet given that his diarrhea hadn’t improved over 3 days time. Derek had wondered if he swallowed a large bone that he dug up last week. Knowing that we are dealing with a senior dog + our financial limits, our vet said that we could forgo doing an x-ray because if there IS an obstruction we wouldn’t do expensive surgery to have it removed (surgery that can cause the dog to die from complications afterwards — happened to our friends young dog). I told our vet that while we are reaching the end of what we are willing to afford for Mowgli, I also need to be able to sleep at night knowing that I did the right thing. I agreed to do the x-rays just in case they were to find an obstruction. If they found something, I’d rather put Mowgli down than have him suffer in pain.

As I was siting in the waiting room, I was thinking to myself that I just spent a bunch of money for x-rays that won’t show us anything. After 20 minutes, a lady came out and asked for “Mowgli’s mom”. She told me that the doctor would be with me shortly to go over the x-rays with me. I knew in that moment that they had found something. Why else would she have worded it that way? If they found nothing, why would she need to show me the x-rays? The vet came into the room and said what they found was not good. She said that while they didn’t find any evidence of a bone or obstruction, they did find something else. She pointed to an area on the x-ray and said that shadow is a large tumor in his abdomen. She shared that after she saw the x-ray she felt for it on Mowgli and found it. She also pointed to another area and said that he has a tumour at his prostate. She said its extremely rare for a neutered dog to have a prostate tumour but not impossible.

The only way to know if these two tumours are cancerous or not would be to do an ultrasound/biopsy. Given that we wouldn’t do chemo treatments if it was cancerous (we’d have to drive to Toronto for treatments – a 3 hour drive), she thinks its reasonable not to investigate further re: if the tumours are cancerous or not. Given the way that cancer likes to spread, I’m suspicious that it is cancer. Even if its not, the treatment would be the same. Noncancerous tumours can cause a decline in the dogs quality of life as well. The plan is to take it week by week. As soon as we notice a significant change in his behaviour or health, we would act quickly and put Mowgli down so he doesn’t have to suffer. The vet didn’t give us a timeframe but did say that we aren’t talking 5 years here. And she kept saying to take it week by week. She also said that his tumours are a “ticking time bomb”.

Finding two tumours on a fluke like this (they are unrelated to his allergies or his recent bought with diarrhea) was shocking. But I’m glad that I decided to do the x-ray. Now we are better prepared with what to do if suddenly his health declines. We also no longer have to worry about keeping his allergy dose as low as possible (prednisone isn’t recommended for long-term usage). The priority now is to make him as comfortable as possible. I feel bad that he’s been neglected (along with our other dog) since our baby was born 5 months ago. I wish to have more patience with him and to go on as many walks as possible.

We have no idea what the future will hold. We don’t know how much longer we’ll have our Mowgli with us. Could be weeks, months, or even a year. I fear how heartbroken our other dog will be without her buddy (that’s their paws in the above photo). I’m sad that our daughter will have no memory of him. But I’m grateful for a heads up. And despite the annoying things about him, Mowgli will always be the best dog that I ever owned.

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A dog or cat: which is better as a family pet? You may be surprised…

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Notice who is on the dog bed and who is on the ground? 🙂 There’s some truth to the saying, “cats rule and dogs drool!” Those cats are the boss around here. But that’s not the point of this post. I’m writing to share my observations from owning dogs and cats (two of each) and now having a baby. Historically, it seems to be quite common for kids to beg their parents for a puppy. Surprising to some, my recommendation is for more families to consider getting a cat instead of a dog. I know, I know. You’re thinking, “but doesn’t every child needs a dog?!” or “I’m not a cat person.” Here me out. If you consider the following, you may decide against that new puppy and lean towards a kitten instead.

  1. Financial: you need a lot more money to own a dog than you do to own a cat. Our indoor-only cats have been to the vet twice in the last 5 yrs. Our dogs go at least twice a year for various reasons (ex: our one dog ran away and ripped out his front dewclaw earlier this year). Vet visits + meds for dogs really add up. Dog food is more expensive and we need more of it than cat food. And boarding a dog at a kennel really gets expensive where as you can leave your cat for a few days with plenty of food/litter/water and they are fine.
  2. Freedom: Are you a family that likes to go away? A little or a lot? With a dog, you give up the ability to go away last-minute. You have to make arrangements for the dog. And kennels fill up fast for every holiday. When you own a dog, you chose to be tied down. To be a homebody. Sometimes you miss out on once in a lifetime events (ex: seeing a new baby) because of the dog(s). A cat does not tie you down in nearly the same way. Also, you have to live a very scheduled daily life with a dog (they need to go inside/outside several times a day). Want to pick the kids up from school and do an evening outing with them? You gotta plan in a trip home to let the dog out first.
  3. Work: do you have the time to train a puppy? You can’t expect the children to train the dog – that’s up to the adults. A puppy requires a whole lot of attention and training for the first 2 years of their life (formal training recommended). A puppy will require you letting it outside 1-3 times during the night at first. Your puppy WILL pee in the house (our kittens used the kitty litter from day one), chew inappropriate things,  jump on the kids, etc. Do you have the time and patience to train the puppy? The latter being just as important as the first. While kittens are little balls of energy for the first couple of years as well, they are nothing compared to the energy and work of a puppy. Believe me on this one.

If you are an experienced dog owner (meaning: having owned a dog as an adult and not just as a child), have done your research, and are willing to make all the sacrifices to be a dog family then by all means: get that dog or puppy. But if you aren’t sure if you are up to the challenge of having a dog or a puppy, I’d consider contacting a local dog rescue and sign up to foster a puppy or a dog. This will give you a test drive without having made the lifelong commitment of owning a dog. Dogs aren’t for everyone. Through owning dogs, we’ve come to realize just how time-consuming, costly, and inconvenient owning dogs are. We’ve realized that we are dog people when it’s someone else’s dog! That’s why our current dogs will be our last.

When you consider the pros and cons of owning a dog or a cat, I think that more families with young children should consider getting a kitten or cat (that’s had experience with children) rather than assuming that they have to be a dog family. Be a dog family if you are up for all the work, if money isn’t an issue for your family (and you don’t mind spend a butt load of money on a pet!), and it doesn’t bother you to be tied down by a dog. If you want to save money, time, and still retain some sense of freedom, consider a cat. And if you think you aren’t a cat person: not all cats are the same. You may not have met the right cat yet. One of our cats greets us at the door, growls if it thinks someone is breaking in, and loves when we have company over (loves to be pet!).  Whatever you decide,  remember that it will be YOU (as the adult) that will end up doing the majority of the work taking care of the family pet.  Don’t assume that you must be a dog family, there are many benefits to NOT owning a dog and having a cat instead. You may not be cut out to be a dog family and that’s okay. You may instead be surprised to discover that you’re much happier as a cat family. All the best as you decide what pet will work best for you and the kids!

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Friday Funnies: Our Pets

I recently came across some funny FB posts of our pets, I thought I’d share them here. Hope you have a great Friday!

“She was naughty. I scolded her. This is her response to me.” – Derek
Storm likes the view from the ceiling! Crazy 🙂
Meet dumb and dumber. These dogs seriously have 9 lives. This traveling duo ran away today and were gone for over 3 hours (it's SO hot out!). They ran at least 1.5 miles as our vet office called and said they were there. We live in the country and our vet is in town. Get this. There is nothing that Mowgli hates more than going to the vet. But seeing as they made a pit stop there, he was captured and got to hang out at the vet office til we arrived. Think he'll learn from the experience? Never! :)
Meet dumb and dumber. These dogs seriously have 9 lives. This traveling duo ran away today and were gone for over 3 hours (it’s SO hot out!). They ran at least 1.5 miles as our vet office called and said they were there. We live in the country and our vet is in town. Get this. There is nothing that Mowgli hates more than going to the vet. But seeing as they made a pit stop there, he was captured and got to hang out at the vet office til we arrived. Think he’ll learn from the experience? Never! 🙂

How I feel about my pets having had a baby

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We have a small house and two large dogs and two cats. All of our pets shed but our one lab mix sheds like crazy. It’s been convenient that our baby arrived in the early spring as the dogs have been able to spend more time outside. It cuts down on the shedding and chaos but it also mentally tires out the dogs more to be outside vs. inside all day. The dogs still sleep in our bedroom at night (on the floor). When the dogs first come inside, they are hyper around us and the baby. But after a little time goes by, they tend to “leave it” in regards to the baby. We let them be around her but not lick her or get too close without our permitting. They need to understand that we call the shots re: baby and so far, they get it. I believe that putting a lot of time and energy into training our dogs in the years before baby came along will pay off (hopefully!). The cats…well, they acted like she has been here all their lives from the start! Not overly excited or fearful, just indifferent. It’s kinda crazy how easily they adjusted considering that we captured them as feral kittens. But I guess we shouldn’t be surprised as they adjusted to us getting the dogs with zero problem. Our one cat is a bit more vocal since the baby has come, I think he’s a bit starved for attention. I would say that’s been the biggest change in regards to our pets: they don’t get the same attention that they used to. We never babied our pets before so it’s not like they were spoiled, but we naturally had more time for them previously. If Derek and I both want to go for a walk, one of us takes both dogs while the other pushes the stroller. I haven’t dared to walk both dogs and push the stroller by myself yet. I may never do that.

I’m not looking forward to our baby crawling in the wintertime when the dogs are inside all the time! So much dog hair. Ahh! I’ll have to remind myself that it will get better when she moves from crawling to walking. I often wonder what having a baby is like for those who have zero pets. I’d imagine that it’s so much easier! But I also can’t imagine getting a puppy when you have young children. It’s nice that we know our pets well, invested time into their training, and now have added a baby. We said this before our baby came: these are our last dogs. Our dogs are 7 and 5 years old. It’s a shame that our child won’t have them for the period of her life that kids tend to appreciate having a dog the most (5-10 yrs old?). But the thing we hate the most about having dogs is the way that they tie you down. If we wanted to go away last minute we rarely can because we have to make arrangements for the dogs. It’s just not worth it for us to not get to see family and friends as often because we have dogs. We love to travel. To go places. To not be tied down. I’m writing this now so that when our dogs go I remember why we don’t want another dog! 🙂

How do I feel about my pets having had a baby? Surprisingly, very similar to how I felt before. I care for my pets. I love them. But they also annoy me sooooo much at times! They can be a royal pain in the butt. But I feel a responsibility as a pet owner to take care of them until they pass away. Unless there’s behavioural problems or our child develops allergies, I’m committed to them. Life with all our pets is not easy. Life with a baby isn’t easy. But we take it day by day and so far: we are doing OK!