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Dr. Deb
Dr. Deb, Dog Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 10861
Experience:  I have been a practicing veterinarian for over 30 years.
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I have a 15 year old cross ***** *****. He has arthritis

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I have a 15 year old cross ***** *****.
He has arthritis in his back legs and a stomach tumor.
His vet has put him on steroids, which he has been on for the past 3-4 weeks.
He is starting to go off his food again and panting very heavily.
I don't know if its because he is in pain or cooling down?
Is the best thing to have him put to sleep, only i'm finding it very difficult to do this.
We lost his twin sister last year (2014) and that still hurts.
Please advise.
Hello, I'm Dr. Deb and will do my best to help you today.
This is obviously a really tough situation since the loss of his twin sister still causes such heart break for you and your family.
Panting can be associated with pain but there are other explanations as well:
Aging changes since older dogs don't oxygenate well.
Senility issues
Warm temperatures since dogs don't sweat and this is how they eliminate excessive heat build up in their bodies.
Other systemic diseases such as Cushing's Disease.
Side effects from drugs such as steroids (although I would have expected him to pant before now).
If he were just panting and this were his only symptom, then I might not be as concerned but if he's starting to show disinterest in food, then it's possible that his stomach mass is responsible or his arthritis is bothering him.
As to whether or not it's time to let him go, there isn't always a clear cut answer to this question in every case, unfortunately.
For me, it comes down to quality of life issues; this is the priority although often this is very subjective between individuals.
When contemplating this decision, I ask my owners to consider the following questions:
1. Does your pet have more good days than bad ones? Sometimes it helps to keep track of them on the calendar.
2. Do they still enjoy doing the things they used to enjoy doing (even if for shorter periods of time) or are they too painful, tired or weak to do so?
3. What is their attitude like? Are they lethargic/depressed or upbeat and enjoying interaction with the family?
I find that if you can answer these questions honestly and objectively, then it often helps make this difficult decision.
My personal opinion is that it's best to let our pets go before they deteriorate too far, while there's still some dignity to their lives but this is only my personal opinion. For me, quality of life trumps quantity.
However, having said all of the above, if you're not comfortable with saying good-bye just yet, then I do have a few additional treatment options which you might discuss with your vet:
1. Pain medication such as Tramadol or Gabapentin regardless of whether his symptoms are primarily related to his arthritis or stomach mass.
Most dogs tolerate these drugs very well and they can provide much needed relief.
2. Appetite stimulants such as Mirtazapine which may help to stimulate him to eat.
3. Cerenia which is a drug with anti-vomiting properties as well as appetite stimulant ones. Even though he may not be actively vomiting, he may feel nauseous which is why he may have decreased interest in eating.
This drug is available as an injection or in a pill form.
4. I could suggest supplements which might be of benefit for his arthritis (if he's not already taking them), but response isn't typically seen for several weeks once they're started. I suspect you're looking for more of an immediate reaction.
I'm not certain that it's time to make any final decisions just yet if his quality of life is still good; if he were my dog or my case, I'd want to pursue additional medical options before coming to that decision.
I hope this helps and provides additional options for you to consider. Deb
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