Saturday, October 03, 2009

My Other Two Children

In addition to the four human children I have, I also have two canine children. I've never been one to refer to pets as children in the past. Don't get me wrong, I love them a lot but I know they are pets, and while spoiled, they are not treated like offspring.

So why am I now referring to them as children? Well, because they are now requiring as much care and time as my children. They are old, 11.75 to be exact. Howdy has a lot of arthritis issues that are affecting his mobility. I talked about that last month. Tobie is now having esophagus problems (that have caused vomiting, multiple times a day for a week) and pneumonia. She has also, over the last 9 months or so, lost a lot of weight and we don't know why.

It seems like they switch off months being the Crisis Dog. It started several months ago when Tobie injured herself jumping off the patio table. Since then every month there is a new crisis and a new care regimen. Just when it starts to seem manageable both financially and physically the other one has a new crisis.

I know many of you are now thinking. They are old, maybe it is time for it to be "their time." We have also thought about this. We are not willing to go to heroic means to keep them here but at the same time we are not willing to prematurely give up if they have good quality of life. We won't do surgeries or spend thousands but we will keep them comfortable.

So what does keeping them comfortable entail?

Howdy's daily medicine requirements

For Howdy it requires two different kinds of pain medication. One is given twice a day the other is given three times a day. He also gets three different vitamin supplements. To get him to take his medicine we have to put it in a small bit of cream cheese and wrap it in enough lunch meat to cover the cream cheese. He used to take it in a quarter of a slice of American cheese mushed around the pills, but he no longer likes that. He also has to have some rice and chicken broth added to his kibble to get him to actually eat it.

Tobie's daily medicine requirements

Tobie is doing much better than a week ago. She was diagnosed with megaesophagus and pneumonia. There is no treatment for the megaesophagus expect for changing the consistency of the dog's food to something that will stay in the stomach easier (like meatballs) and holding them in a begging position for 30 minutes following every meal. Oh, and feeding them small frequent meals. The pneumonia requires three different antibiotics and is a direct result from the megaesophagus.

Michael holding Tobie following an evening feeding earlier this week. While he doesn't have her in begging position it was the best we could do without building a special contraption for her.

We do not know what caused Tobie to develop the megaesophagus. Dogs are sometimes born with the condition and it has to be managed their whole lives. But for dogs like Tobie that develop it later in life there is usually an underlying cause. Unfortunately 80% of the time the underlying cause is not found and can therefore not be treated.

Luckily after about 72 hours on the antibiotics Tobie's megaesophogas symptoms have disappeared. We don't know why, but we are thrilled those symptoms have abated, at least for now. Trust me, a week of regurgitating every time she had water to drink, fell asleep or changed positions was long enough. Unluckily the antibiotics have affected Tobie's appetite. The only thing we have found this week that she will actually eat is boiled chicken with rice. Given her continued weigh loss it is extremely important that she eat.

The goal is to get 1500 calories in her a day. She is eating about a pound of chicken a day and a couple cups of rice, but that does not get her to the calorie target. We have been experimenting with adding kibble to get the extra calories she needs but she is not liking it. Today I went as far as crushing kibble in the food processor to sprinkle over the mixture. Not a hit. We have tried adding in peanut butter, she wasn't a fan. We have tried canned dog food, no longer a fan. She has become a princess. Oh, she also will no longer take her medicine in food balls (cream cheese with lunch meat or cheese) so now we have to do the pry open the mouth shove in the meds and hold her mouth closed until she swallows them trick. So much fun.

Ground kibble - Yes, I am debating on how many times I'll have to wash the food processor before I am willing to use it for human food again

Postal scale. It works great for weighing food. Right now we are using it for weighing Tobie's chicken.

Tobie is currently taking three different antibiotics, an acid reducer, probiotics, and three vitamin supplements.

So between preparing all the medicines and getting them to actually take them, cooking all their special foods, mixing all their foods, making sure they eat said food and don't eat each other's food, staying in the room while they physically eat - they won't eat otherwise, etc., the dogs are taking a lot of time. It is like having an infant in the house again. And they are getting expensive to boot.

But at the end of the day when I see one of them trot over with that sparkle in their eye, I know that it is not their time, yet...


1 comment:

Jill said...

Oh Jenn. Sorry that they are going through so much right now. I can't believe it's been almost 12 years. I remember talking to you on the phone one night while you were "wearing" both dogs while cooking dinner. "Wearing" consisted of having the dog leashes tied to your belt so you could work on training them. I still laugh when I think about that. The things we do for kids and animals.