Love and Loss: Letting Go of My Dog With Dementia
I slowly meandered through the woods with Chester and sat on a log. I had things I needed to say to him. Things I wanted him to know.
There was no better setting than in the woods a few miles from my house to tell him. We’d shared almost 16 years of adventure in places like that.
As I held him tight and started to whisper to him, he looked away from me like he was searching for something. He struggled against my tight grasp.
My tears didn’t phase him. Unlike in times past when he would have recognized I was in pain, there was no nuzzle or soft lick to catch my tears.
As soon as I set him down, he started compulsively hunting for food. Looking for that next morsel, even though a lot of what he was trying to eat were little rocks and sticks.
I realized this had become his life.
The only time he had any energy was when he was looking for food and, believe me, he got plenty of food. It was more like a never-ending obsession.
Note: This post was written as part of my grieving process the morning of the day we chose to say goodbye to Chester. It’s raw and largely unedited. Please excuse any typos or grammar mistakes.
I’m a Monster
Between my friends and our blog fans, literally 100+ people have shared their condolences, their own heartbreaking stories, and their support in the few days between when we made the decision and when it was “the time”.
I talked with several friends on the phone, including those that have been in my shoes and those I knew I could tell exactly how I felt and they wouldn’t judge me.
I read and appreciated every single comment. Every answered call for help and support was invaluable.
BUT, underlying it all, was the feeling that they wouldn’t be so kind of they actually knew what I was doing.
I was killing my dog. For selfish reasons.
They would think I’m a monster.
You see, Chester could still walk. Three quarters of the time anyway and most of that was shaky at best.
He still had so much energy during the 25% of the time he wasn’t sleeping.
Like when he was barking compulsively and running around like a madman demanding food… whether it was actually dinner time or not.
Or between 2 am and our 5 am breakfast time.
He was so agitated during that time that I couldn’t get more than 10-15 minutes of sleep here and there in those wee hours of the morning.
Or if he had to pee, which he would do two steps from the dog bed without a thought. Thank goodness for diapers early on or our relationship wouldn’t have made it this far.
BUT, there were also things that were happening now, and writing I could see on the wall, that led to my decision.
There Were Signs
A year and a half ago when he first began to pace and demand bark, and I could finally tell for sure that he had doggy dementia, I started giving him Hemp CBD on a regular basis.
That, in combination with Vetriscience Composure, was enough to manage his anxiety and get him to calm down.
We tried the suggested supplements and medications recommended for canine cognitive dysfunction and nothing seemed to make a difference.
Fast forward to 6 weeks ago and, out of desperation for his wellbeing and mine, I asked our vet for heavier drugs to make him sleep through the night.
They worked in that they would definitely knock him out. EXCEPT for when his hunger drive kicked in at 2 or 3 am. Nothing put a dent in that.
I liken it to an animal, like a deer, that is almost dead in the woods. But, oh boy, if you go to touch it you will be in for a big surprise as it’s fight or flight adrenaline kicks in and it jumps up and tries to stomp you to death.
It’s an instinct thing. Not a thinking thing. Or even any indication of physical health.
As our veterinarian said, “His little reptilian brain is taking over. He’s animated but it doesn’t mean he’s mentally there. A lot of what he’d doing could just be instinctual impulses.”
The other thing was that the medication did definitely help him be less restless in his sleep and sleep maybe an hour later than he normally would.
But, between when the meds started to kick in and we went to bed, it turned him from “I’m really shaky on my feet” to “I can’t walk because my back legs won’t work.” It was heartbreaking.
He was falling a lot more often though, even without the medication.
Up until 6 weeks ago, it was clear he had dementia but he generally knew where he was. We remained hopeful and optimistic about his condition.
But then we started to seeing these advanced dog dementia signs:
- He started waiting on the wrong side of the door.
- Half the time when I tried to guide him towards the door with my hand, he turned and tried to walk the other way.
- He walked laps around the perimeter of the back yard because he couldn’t find the stairs.
- He ran right past our driveway and started to head up the hill when he got out of the car.
If he did turn up the walkway (usually by being directed) he would run right past the front porch steps into the breezeway between us and our neighbor’s house. We’ve never walked down that way in the 10 years that we’ve lived here.
I spoke with our vet about all of this and she said, unfortunately, it was only going to get worse.
I Can Beat Myself Up Better Than You Can
These are the “selfish reasons” for letting him to that run through my head.
The ones that I beat myself up for and that literally make me want to throw up.
I don’t want to wait to put him down until it’s too late – until he doesn’t recognize us anymore.
With how rapidly his mental capacity has declined in the last 6 weeks, that could be tomorrow or next week.
I wouldn’t be able to stand it if one day I walked up to him and he didn’t know who I was. Or worse. Was afraid of me.
His relentless barking and pacing we couldn’t seem to do anything about, the almost 6 months of waking me up before 5 am more than once (it’s progressively gotten worse), and the daily peeing on the carpet at least once, frustrates me.
There, I said it! Sometimes I get mad at him.
I admit I’ve even yelled at him.
My heart is broken after because I know he doesn’t deserve it.
He’s not doing what he’s doing because he’s “bad” or to make me mad. He’s slowly losing his mind and he can’t help it.
But I’m at the end of my rope.
This journey with my old man has helped me find patience and compassion I didn’t know I had. After each breakdown, I picked myself up again with a new plan.
We changed the way we did things. We tried new things. I stretched.
But I’ve stretched as far as I can go. I’m starting to go backwards. My compassion and patience is waning.
I don’t want to wait until the rope breaks and I’m frustrated when we choose to let him go.
Which brings me to the other thing: Gretel has been acting different for the last few months.
When Your Other Dog Starts to Be Affected by Your Dog With Dementia
I love Chester to the moon and back but Gretel is my everything.
We’re like two peas in pod. Her happiest place is with her Mama. But not so much lately.
She’s been distant. She’s spent more time laying in her bed across the room than in my lap. She doesn’t seem as in-tune with me as she usually is.
At first I blamed myself. I had to be the only cause behind this behavior change.
She’s a sensitive soul so me getting frustrated at Chester, and always being sad or on edge at least a bit, has to be the reason she’s acting different.
But these last 6 weeks, during Chester’s decline, I’m seeing that maybe it’s not all me.
She was never close with Chester but they peacefully coexisted.
She has growled at him several times for trying to get on the couch when she’s up there or into the dog bed next to the one she’s laying in.
I know that can be a sign that she knows something is wrong with him. That could be why she is acting different too.
All of what is happening – whatever that exactly is – is affecting her.
She’s starting to become a different dog than what I know and the only thing that has changed is what we’re going through with Chester.
This Isn’t My First Experience with Death and Loss
One of my friends, who is going through a very similar thing with her own Dachshund, said “This is it. We’re in hospice care now.“
Another thing I have been struggling with is the balance between all of the medical technology that’s available out there for me to “help him” and letting him to with dignity.
I’ve been “fortunate” enough to have gone through this grief-filled, emotional bucking-bronco many times in my life though.
- I watched one Uncle die of AIDS when I was 12.
- My paternal Grandpa died not long after that.
- My Mom was terminally ill with an autoimmune disease all my life and ultimately died of MS when I was 21.
- Another Uncle died of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (essentially, mad cow disease for humans) around 10 years ago.
- My paternal Grandma died of cancer around a year or so after that.
- My maternal Grandma suddenly died 6 years ago of a heart attack.
- My maternal Grandpa had Alzheimer’s and passed just over a year ago.
And that’s just the close family members I’ve lost.
As my Step-Mom put it, “[I know] it feels like grief is always around the corner for you sweetie“.
I can do this. If there is one thing I know how to do, it’s grief and loss.
Well, kind of. This is my first experience going through it with a non human family member as an adult.
End of Life Care
My family is practical when it comes to matters of death.
We care and feel deeply but we also know that death is inevitable.
All of my family chose some combination of no or minimal treatment to prolong life.
I had an epiphany the other day.
I was beating myself up for not doing absolutely everything I could to prolong Chester’s life. But my family never chose that. And he’s just as much family as they were.
The difference is that I have to make that decision for him. He can’t tell me what he wants.
But I can guess, because he is a part of this family, that he would want the same.
In each case of family death I’ve experienced, it was excruciating watching them decline knowing that the end was inevitable.
Sadly, most of them were around “too late” – past the point that they would have wanted to stay and suffering past the point we wished they had left us at.
Although it’s a source of great guilt, I have that choice with Chester.
He’s declined to a point where he’s just existing. I don’t want to wait until we’re just helping him barely hang on.
I want to let him go before we were unable to celebrate his final days with gourmet strawberry ice cream topped with bacon because he wouldn’t eat.
- Before all we have left is bad days.
- Before any glimmer of light goes out in his eyes.
- Before we don’t have any good times left together.
- Before his perpetually-waggy tail is still.
Let this be the best, last, most selfless thing I do for him. And let me find peace in that.
All of the kind words from friends, family, and fans are giving me the strength to do it. Because I want to run. And barf somewhere.
Goodbye. Love you Bubby, Tiny-C, The Chester, Old Man, Little Spoon.
About the Author
Hi, I’m Jessica. I’ve been studying the Dachshund breed since 2007, owned 3 of my own, and shared in the lives of thousands of others through their owner’s stories. When I’m not sharing what I know on this blog, you can find me hiking, camping, and traveling with my adventurous wiener dogs.
You have so accurately described what I just went through with my Bailey dog. A Black and Tan dachshund who I’ve had for 17 yrs. He did stop barking at all and he stopped eating though. But he roamed the house at night unless I gave him Xanax and rimadyl. He didn’t know which side of the door to go out. His hind legs didn’t work sometimes and his head occasionally shook as if he had Parkinson’s. I asked God for a definate sign to put him down because I didn’t want to just do it for my convenience. I soon was given that sign. His kidneys failed and I knew I had to do it. But I understand all of your pain and grief! I miss that little guy who loved me sooo much! Peace and comfort to you!
Thanks for sharing your experience. All except for the kidneys failing sounds just like Chester. I’m sorry for your loss.
My dog Bella is a dashound and is 16 years old and has cancer, she’s blind and is starting to pee all over the house. She is slowly getting worse, I just don’t know if it’s that time cause she doesn’t act like she’s in pain. Just don’t know what to do.
Hi Sandy. Decisions about your pet’s life is one of THE hardest decisions you’ll ever make. To me, it’s about quality of life. My Chester was spending most of his time not sleeping agitated and confused because of his dementia. I knew the end was inevitable and, personally, I didn’t want to wait until things were so bad that I was forced into that decision. It sounds like Bella has lived a long, good life so, to me, the questions are: Is she is pain? (you said no) Does she still know you? Does she seem to be enjoying life more often than not? (there is a difference between “no pain” and actually enjoying life) Does she have more good days than bad? Are you willing and able to continue to give her a high quality of life despite her needs growing? If the answer is yes to all of those, then perhaps now is not the time. When the answers slowly start becoming no, then it may be time to make that tough decision. I truly believe that letting a pet go with dignity is the last, best, most noble thing you can do with them.
I’m soooo sorry that you have had to go through this. Having had Chester for 16 years says you know what is best . You are a Great Mom and Friend !! Chester will forever be in our hearts!! ❤️
Thank you <3
Our Mazie is
18 yrs old. She will pace for hrs when she isn’t sleeping. She wets her beds… and will poo in them also…she used to be cuddley but now she doesn’t want to be touched..this had been going on for
soon 2 yrs. it’s time but so hard!!!! No quality of life .
Choosing to let go of a beloved pet is indeed one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make My thoughts are with you.
I have a little red miniature dachshund Chloe – she is now 15yo and has just become incontinent at night, in the past month. She has a growing dementia and is almost totally blind but her quality of life is still okay – she romps thru the grass and loves to go ride in the car. But the signs are becoming more evident…grouchy–snapping at the cat who she has always tolerated, snapping at the Chihuahua, barking when nothing is going on and little head jerks and then a strange sense of being lost. The vet says that is old-age vestibular disease. The time is coming, probably within 8 months, I’d say If lucky, given my experience with many other 4-legged babies. As a kind friend told me last time I euthanized by 15 yr old Audrey…”better a week too early than a day too late.” That has helped me a lot. God bless you all as you deal with the pain and the subsequent grief, but know it is also about loving them so much. Olive
I appreciate your article. I hate playing God but have put dogs to sleep before.
One of my dogs has dementia and is blind.
He wanders, paces and rubs his nose and mouth on the ground.
I don’t like making that choice for another’s life either. I’m sorry you are having to experience dementia in one of your dogs.
My Sammy is 16. He’s displaying so many of the symptoms you’ve experienced. Saddest thing is he use to give me kisses and love to cuddle. Not anymore. My son sent me your article and it gave me peace. I’m at that point where I just don’t know what to do. His best part of the day is eating. He can’t walk far. He crys in his awake and sleep time, but doesn’t seem in pains. Thank you for sharing your experience. I just don’t want my little man to suffer!
Hi Sonja. My thoughts are with you through this tough time. Personally, I would take an honest look at Sammy’s quality of life. If he still seems “present” and generally happy, you probably have some more time with him. But if he seems like an empty shell of himself, he may just be automatically existing. Sharing your thoughts with a veterinarian you trust may help you decide when it’s time to say goodbye.
I found your blog just now as I typed into the internet my labradors weeing and pooping constantly plus his barking is relentless, he always was a very barmy dog but now with his dementia it’s constant when I leave the room or through the night if he wakes, then that dreaded sound in the dead of night the sound of water being poured onto the laminate floor! Right now I’m simply going through the motions as he is still mobile even claiming the leather sofa (at least its easier to wash the poo off!) But that’s the problem and my conundrum of is he going to be this way for another 12mths, 18mths do I remain patient. Hes my shadow, best friend. I even worry if I get a full undisturbed sleep thinking hes gone! ?♀️❤
Hi Emma. I’m sorry you are going through this. The questions for me would be does he still seem “in there” and how long has this been going on. I think patience is important – our dog’s deserve it after years of loyalty. However, If it’s been going on for a long time, and he seems like he’s just going through the motions of life to exist, he may not have quality of life anymore. It’s my veterinarian that helped me see that. I got to a point where I felt that my efforts of patience, and enduring things like lack of sleep, were more for my benefit (because I felt guilty) than for his. Only you can make the decision that is right for you guys and I know you will make the right one, whatever that is at this moment.
Thank you so much for writing this. My dog is in decline. I’ve just got up to find him peeing in the kitchen, I’ve never caught him in the act before and just thought it was my fault that I hadn’t heard him bark. But I was sad to see, there was no bark and he was sniffing around the kitchen as if he was on a walk or in the garden. Toiletting at night has been getting more frequent over the last year or so, added to muscle weakness and most recently an episode that saw him not answer to his name or appearing to recognise us. He is on very strong pain meds now and that helped with the cognitive side (which I felt may have been pain related) but now I feel he is showing signs of dementia, as I look back on other signs, like wandering off and getting lost on walks, or deciding to walk suddenly into the road rather than on the pavement. . I’m heartbroken. I know I’ll end up making the decision as his condition becomes too much to ‘fit in’ with our life, as he becomes harder to manage, it’s either that or his back legs giving up. I’m not sure which will feel worse. So now I’m up late at nigh after cleaning wee and seeing my house trained and intelligent good boy, bumbling about the kitchen as if it was a row of lampposts just trying to get my head around what is to come. He can’t even go on long walks now, so car trips and ice creams may be the way forward to share happy times. Thank you again for writing this. It is sad but comforting to hear of another’s life with their lovely dog.
Hi Minnie. I am not able to check my blog comments often in the summer because we are so busy. So I apologize for the delay. I’m sorry you are having to go through this but I guess all pet parents know it’s inevitable, even though, personally, I spend most of my pet’s life thinking like it won’t happen. It’s truly the most heartbreaking part of loving a pet.
I can totally relate to you as I had to do the same thing May 2nd when my dachshund Toby had multiple seizures and the vet told me possible brain tumor or cancer. It was the hardest thing I’ve had to do. He was almost 16 and I loved him so much and still do. The loss continues but reading all these stories sure help. Sorry for your loss and may they all run in the fields until we see them again.
I’m sorry for your loss Judi.
May I ask, what the signs were of kidney failure?
I have a 16 yr old Bichon. He’s blind and deaf. Recently started peeing in the house. Will poop as he’s walking across the floor. Like he has no idea it’s happening.
Still eating like normal. But has started drinking more water.
My first experience with aging pets, man this is tough.
That’s where I am at with my Bijon.
I’m sorry. It’s such a terrible decision to have to make.
My buddy Is18
Yes 18. Kidney failure
Wobbly back legs
Just started peeing without realizing.
Pooping wherever he needs to.
This is the first time in 18 years he’s not in my bed
I put all beds , blankets. Pee pads in kitchen.
I feel horrible
I’ve said several rimes Tootsie is my first dog. She will be two in a couple weeks. She is burrowed asleep between my legs as I type this and wipe tears sliding down the sides of my cheeks. Mother’s Day just passed. I celebrated how much I love my Tootsie and what a sweet girl she is loving me back. She has licked my tears away many times until her job is done and I am giggling at her jumping all over me to pick my spirit back up. I get to experience the joy and pride and unconditional love of being a, “Mom” because I made the decision to have Tootsie in my life. My point is this. You have been and are and will always be a *selfless* Mother. Chester’s spirit is everywhere around you and I wholeheartedly believe he will find you and let you know he thanka you. You are brave and purposeful and full of love only a mother could know. I am squeezing and hugging you from afar….I see no monsters here. Pour out all the love, grief, memories, blessings and relief you need to and let Gretel heal your wounds. Love, Holly & Tootsie Joy
You are very thoughtful. It’s true that I was a fierce Mom to Chester. I pulled on that strength of love to make what I thought was the best decision for him. I try not to beat myself up too much but whether I did things right or wrong, it was done with wanting the best for him and loving him until I said goodbye.
Don’t beat yourself up over it. He knows you loved him very much. You were there when he needed you the most, that speaks volumes .
It’s hard to let go of our fur babies but sometimes holding onto them is selfish. With our first whippet, when he would check on his special treat in his special place but quit eating it we knew the time was near. He wasn’t doing any of the things he use to love. It was heartbreaking when we decided it was time to let him go. Somehow he knew what was happening. He did what he had never done before, laid his head on my knees during the wait. It was like he was comforting me and letting me know it was okay. Still, I’m crying as I write this and he’s been gone about 6 years.
I’m sorry for your loss. I know it was 6 years ago but, in my experience, the heartache never completely goes away. I applaud you for recognizing when the time was right and making that hard decision.
I understand all to well when reading these.Just last dec 7 I had to put my best friend Buddy to sleep.I am old man,86 so maybe I won’t have to wait too long till I can see and hug him again.tears are starting again as I write this.i can’t even go to the dog pound to see the poor homeless and lonely souls there.may God bless every good person on here. Bob
Hi Bob. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. I’m so very sorry that you had to say goodbye to Buddy. I hope you do see him again someday.
Thank you so much for your information. We have been going through all this with our 16 yr old Jack Russall and have an appt. to have himsent over the rainbow bridge at 1 oclock today. This has been a very hard thing to do, but I know it is best for him. His name is Toby and has been such a good boy and joy for many years, I feel I owe it to him to let him go as much as it is breaking our hearts Reading your article has made it easier to know I am doing the right thing. God Bless you
I’m sorry for your loss.
Tears tears and more tears. I’m so sorry for your pain. I know it all too well.
Thanks Lisa. It’s a big mess of heartache because I miss him but overwhelming love because I had the strength to be selfless for him.
We’ve “talked” on Fb many times, but I want to add this: You were not a monster or selfish or impatient…You did a “mitzvah” (a good deed) by helping him cross the Rainbow Bridge while he still knew who you were and could feel your love. Please don’t beat yourself up. In time, you will remember only the good things and the past few months of pain will fade. I promise you. And be kind to yourself in your grief.
Thank you. Any frustration we felt has already faded to happy memories. We’re glad we have that to hold onto. He was such a special dog.
Jess, sometimes the best decision is the hardest. Chester knows that you loved him to the moon and back and that you had to decide what was best for him. You wouldn’t want to see him listless, no sparkle in his eyes and not knowing you. He crossed over the rainbow being loved and loving back. He will always be a part of you and Doggie Daddy and all of his fans.
Watching a human family member go through dementia is so very hard. My dad passed 2 years ago after a 16 year bout of Alzheimer’s. I wouldn’t wish that disease on my worst enemy.
Doggy dementia is even worse but at least we as fur baby mommas can do something about it to make their discomfort easier and to ease our pain. It’s not selfishness, it’s compassion.
You’ll always be in my thoughts and my prayers.
Gretel may exhibit some grieving herself even though she wasn’t a Chester fan. Watch for signs.
Love to you all.
Jack and Hank’s momma
Thanks Connie. I do try to hold on to the fact that I made the choice out of compassion. It’s just hard when my heart aches and I miss him so. Perhaps blaming myself is a way of dealing with the feelings of not wanting to let him go.
I’m definitely keeping an eye on Gretel. If nothing else, she’ll still pick up on my sadness. And things are so quiet around here. Too quiet. She may respond to the fact that there is no “busy body” pacing around the house.
My heart breaks for you as the mom of two 12 year old mini dachshunds. I’m so sorry for all that you’ve gone through and the loss of sweet Chester. Sending a hug and prayers of comfort to you.
Hopefully you still have many wonderful years ahead. Chester was sharp and still going strong at 12!
It’s never easy to say goodbye to a beloved dog. I think it’s even harder than with human family. Dogs have such precious souls. You did the very best you could for him as long as you could. He passed as happily and easily as anyone could ever hope for in the same situation. There’s only love to feel there and no sign of a monster. I’m so sorry for your loss.
Thank you. He will be dearly missed.
God bless and keep you. This is the compassionate loving thing you’ve done. You’re in my thoughts and prayers.
Thank you Gayla
It took me forever to get through your post, I cried so much! I’m so sorry for your loss and pain! I have followed you guys and all your adventures on IG, and am so heartbroken for you! don’t doubt your decision! It is the most difficult decision to make and you clearly didn’t make it easily! You did right by Chester, as difficult as it was! Take solace knowing you have him an amazing long life filled with love and adventure! ❤️ My deeoest condolences !
Thank you. And I love that you followed Chester on Instagram. It’s shows how many happy adventures he got to go on.
I’m sitting here sobbing my eyes out reading these posts because my yorkies are 14 and my family thinks I should put them down because they are peeing all over the house. I can’t bear to
Do it yet because they don’t seem
To be sick. However, I am a single mom 100% of the time. Have 2 nursing jobs and am so frustrated constantly cleaning up urine. Tried incontinence meds and diapers. I don’t know what to do and
It’s killing me .
Hi Holly. I’m sorry you are faced with such a tough decision. In my case, Chester peeing in the house was not the reason I put him down. It was a symptom of his dementia though and his dementia did finally get the point that it was time. As I’m sure you know, there are a whole LOT of factors that lead to a decision like that. If the only issue is your pup’s peeing in the house, and they are completely fine otherwise, mentally and physically, there may be some other things you can try to manage it. I managed Chester peeing in the house for almost 2 years. This is how I did it: https://youdidwhatwithyourweiner.com/old-dog-peeing-house-help/ Good luck to you. Dealing with an aging pet can be taxing and hard on the heart 🙁
I too am crying my eyes outreaching this.
Tomorrow I have to say goodbye to my 16 year old Yorkie lily.
I have a big lump in my throat and can hardly see what I’m typing she has dementia and as gradually got worse.
We have been through so much together but I have to do what’s best for her and not me but it’s heartbreaking
I’m so sorry for your loss Alison
Sending you love and healing thoughts. I know it has been a tough journey and no one should fault you for doing what you think is best for Chester and your family.
I know how your feeling right now. Dimension is a horrible disease that can strikes any mammals. Dimension is not only strike the mind it also causes great discomfort joint pain and muscle pain slow breathing controlling your bowels. So you did the very best thing for your boy he is now free of pain his mind is sharp as a young pup and he’s looking over all of you with loving eyes. Our thoughts are with you during this difficult time
Yeah, Chester’s mind wasn’t the only deciding factor. There were little things that made his life uncomfortable too. But those would have been manageable without the dementia.
Every word you wrote was exactly what I went through with my 15 1\2 year old Jack\Rat LittleMan. I’ve had to make these decisions before but there was always a deciding factor. In pain, stopped eating…. I was feeling the selfish frustration of changing diapers contantly, feeling guilty about his constant pacing and what was I not doing to help him. That I owed him the sacrifice of being sleep deprived because of all the awesome years he had given me. You made the right decision. Feel the pain and relief of releasing him. My thoughts are with you
“That I owed him the sacrifice of being sleep deprived because of all the awesome years he had given me. ”
That’s exactly how it feels. That we owe it to them to make sacrifices to ourselves for them. And, to a certain extent I think we do. However, once you start going down that road, I think it’s easy to get suck in that thought pattern and forget to take a realistic look at where things are at (and are going). Of course, we do it because our fear of losing them too.
I’m sorry for your loss of LittleMan
I’m so sorry for your loss. It is a tough decision to make and you did everything you could to help him. I have 3 of my own and 1 of them is going through chemotherapy right now. She’s only 6 1/2 so still has a few more years. She is doing very well now. I know we will have to make that decision too if she starts to go down hill. We dont want her to suffer either.
RIP beautiful boy Chester. You will be missed.
Age definitely plays into the whole equation too. If Chester had been 8, or even 10, or it has been Gretel (she’s 8), different choices might have been made. I could take comfort knowing he lived a long, happy, quality life with me. 15 is the average age for a Dachshund. At 8 or 10, I would have felt like he still had so much life ahead.
OH, my! So sorry for your loss! It’s so difficult making that decision for them but he knows he was loved dearly. Sending healing purrs to you and Gretel.
Oh my gosh, tears were in my eyes reading this. Making the decision is so hard, hard to not be selfish & keep them with us longer than they want to be here, because we can’t let go, but knowing in our hearts that it is the final act of love, to let them go before it’s too late. I’ve have to make this decision more than a few times, not for the same reasons, but it is the most painful decision to make. I hope that you take comfort in knowing that you acted out of love & compassion & in some level even with his severe decline in cognitive abilities, he knew it & was grateful. I know that it doesn’t take away the pain, only time does that, but you can take comfort in knowing that you did what was best & gave him 16 years of a wonderful life.
I definitely have a lot of good memories to hold on to and know that I gave him a really good life.
Oh my…. Jessica! I’m right at the cross roads right now with my girl, Binks. She is 15 and also has dementia. Until I read your post I wasn’t really sure about the actual state she is in. She doesn’t do the barking, in fact she never barks at all. 6 months ago she would sit on my bed and bark non stop while I was in the shower. She knew I was probably headed out for the day and that was always her way of letting me know she was NOT happy about it. I would love to hear that bossy bark again. She isn’t waking me up to feed her. or she hasn’t yet. She easily sleeps at least 20 hours a day. But, when awake, she constantly, constantly begs for treats. So much so that I keep some in my bedside table so that I’m not getting as upset with her because she will beg and cry if I don’t give her something. She lost her hearing a year ago but quickly learned that when I pointed my finger at her, it was time to give up. Now, she just doesn’t understand when to stop. At some point, if I ignore her long enough, she will lay down and go to sleep. She does pace the floor at night. I can hear her little toe nails on the wood floor at different times. She misses her pee pads by at least a foot 75% of the time, and as you know, cleaning up gets tiring. She used a pet door (to a fenced yard) until about 2 years ago when she lost interest in going outside. I see so many of the things you have described, but watching her wag her tail some at her dinner time, or running down the hall at bedtime has kept me wondering if maybe things aren’t as bad as I thought. Now I realize those are food driven responses- her bedside treats. She goes to the wrong side of the door most of the time now. I’ve always had ramps in two places at my house because she is such an independent little thing, she hates being picked up to the couch or bed, always has, still does. I’ve noticed she misjudges the ramps often and has fallen quite a few times. Thankfully from the shortest part of the smaller ramp. I suppose the thing that hurts me the most is that she never makes eye contact with me at all. So, now I know I’m left with the dreaded thought of having to let her go- soon. She is my baby…my child. I had to do this 5 years ago with my other girl Nikki. She had chushings disease. It was awful. Your post was a God send for me because I’ve been so conflicted about what to do. The vet tried her on Composure Pro with no luck. She is now on Prozac, but it hasn’t changed her anxiety level at all. I know that you must be grieving, but your at peace knowing you did the right thing for little Chester. I want to do the same for my little Binks..it’s just choosing the day….I’m including my email address, but I rarely check it. I’m easily reached on facebook.
I’m happy to hear that reading my words helped you. All of the things you are going through with Binks are terribly upsetting. Everyone kept telling me “you’ll know when the right time is. They’ll just tell you.” but I don’t feel that is true with Dementia. It changes their thought process in such hard-to-understand ways. There were still good moments with Chester, or at least not so bad ones, when we were at the beach or at the park. I realized that there would always be a glimmer of hope here and there until there wasn’t any at all. Personally, I felt like “everything is gone now” was too long to wait. And “hope” is the wrong word for it anyway because hoping for what? As my vet said, his dementia was not going to get better.
I know how excruciating this all is for you. You’ll make the right choices for you guys because there isn’t any wrong “answer”. It’s just is what it is – a terrible choice to have to make at any time. My thoughts are with you.
My little Heidi (age 15) has diabetes and has peed all over the house for the past couple of years. We bought vinyl flooring remnants and put them down all over the house where we let her be. Now that she has dementia and is peeing far more… plus her diabetes is probably flaring up big time, we have to make the decision soon on where to go – she pees 4 times between 5 am and 7a.m. and as often as that during the day. When she can, she goes outside, but it gets more and more difficult for her to hold it. The decision to let her go is just terrible as she is kind, loving, and wonderful, but too many old age symptoms will never go away. My question to all is: what point do you get to in your heart to go ahead and make that move? I am stuck. Totally stuck. BTW: Lucy, at 16 is close to this stage also – but is totally different. I don’t know if I can put them both down so close to each other.
What a difficult situation to face. I’m sorry.
The turning point for me with Chester was when my vet sat me down and pointed out how Chester was just existing. His mental state was rapidly declining and there was no bouncing back. A continued downward decline was inevitable. Then I remembered by other family members I had lost and how they didn’t want the living to hold onto them until they were in a very bad state mentally and physically. Something in me just clicked and I knew it was time.
Everyone is different though and, unfortunately, only you will know the right time to say goodbye. My heart is with you. It’s one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make.
Hello Dear sorry for your loss I have a 9 year old pit bull mix who I love so much Buster is his name Im dreading the day hopefully another 6 years from now that I have to put him down, But I know the Lord said the Lamb will lay with the Lion So I Know the Lord of All Glory Will give Us Our precious Pets again He Said Behold I make All things New We will See them again right along with our loved Ones who passed before Us, Be of good Cheer
I’m facing a similar situation with my 17 year old mini dachshund. She’s mostly blind due to corneal issues, at least partly deaf, rear leg lameness and mobility issues. Most days the only spark I see in her is for food – both ours and hers. She rarely responds to her name, doesn’t know how to do her tricks anymore, never plays with her toys, hasn’t wagged her tail for anything (not even food even though she’s obsessed with it) for 6 months. She hasn’t greeted us when we come home in many, many months – if she’s awake she just looks at us confused. She’s also incontinent (bowel and urinary) starting a year ago but it’s much worse the last few months, to the point that I have a mess to clean up on the floor or in her bed every 2nd day or so and that’s with being hyper aware and vigilant with her bathroom needs. Some days her mobility is so bad we have to hold her up to go to the bathroom or she’ll just fall into it. I was looking at videos of her from even just a year ago and she’s a totally different dog, she’s a shell of what she used to be. She was diagnosed with dementia about 7 months ago but the signs were there longer than that, I just didn’t know it at the time. She will pace around the house for hours, often we find her in an area she’d usually never go to and just staring into space or nose 2inches from a wall. She has started going to the wrong side of the door or waits at the outside gate to be let inside instead of the door to the house. She’s become cranky and sometimes will nip at us if we try to kiss her. Thank goodness she still sleeps through the night and isn’t a yappy dog so nights are relatively peaceful except when she wakes at 2 or 3am because she’s had an accident in her bed. Once a week or so she’ll become distressed and whine softly in bed at night but a few minutes of comfort and she settles down. Family members who hadn’t seen her in a while but spent a weekend with her recently said her condition is bad and that it’s her time and she’s not happy. I guess because it’s been so gradual I have become accustom to the changes. My vet said it is appropriate to consider euthanasia and that the point is to spare her more bad days. But mixed in with those bad days are some good days (granted, “good” is relative and what I consider good now would be terribly concerning a year ago) and I don’t want to take those decent days away from her too early. I don’t know what to do. It’s breaking my heart to have to make this decision on what feels like a guess about her mental state.
Hi Karissa. I’m sorry you are going through this and it’s only a decision you can make. Personally though, I would let my dog go if they progressed to the point you are describing. In my mind, a few ok days here and there do not consitute a quality life. Everyone around you seems to be confirming this idea. I understand how painful it is to let go of a beloved furry family member though so I am always respectful of others’ decisions about the right time.
Oh, Jessica – what a hard time you’ve been through. Thank you for sharing your honest feelings with us; it helps the rest of us who have declining dogs. One huge help for us has been Eileen Anderson’s website: https://dogdementia.com/ – Dog Dementia Help and Support. It has a lot of information in one place. She has also written a book called “Remember Me? Loving and Caring For A Dog with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction”. It has a very helpful chapter on making the final decision. Highly recommended.
Big hugs from Boise, and our deepest sympathies as you wander between grief and relief at Chester’s passing.
Thanks. I’m familiar with that website and have found the educational information about dog dementia very helpful.
Extremely hearfelt ….Beautifully expressed. Amazing how many folks aren’t really paying attention to their dogs personality changes and when they show signs of any pain or health problem. My 58 year old brother in law is dying of a brain disease and pretty much is showing signs as well. Caretaking is exhausting!!! Worrying is exhausting!!! My sister and I honestly bring up this subject about them going to sleep and having the doctor help us with that to put an end to this madness. If we had that choice with people like we do with our pets….Here anyway…..It is on our minds constantly. Bless your heart and thank you for being so brave. God Bless Chester. He will be missed and I pray that Gretel comes around and gets cuddly again Jessica. OOOXXX Patti Ann Maggie MAe And Ginger Rose
Thanks again for your kind words and support. I’m sorry about your brother in law. That is a difficult and heartbreaking thing to have to deal with. Part of what makes me feel so guilty about letting Chester go is that I have family members who would have wished for that yet it’s not (at least wasn’t at the time and is still extremely difficult) we can do for them. We can give our pets death with dignity but not our human loved ones if the wish? That’s messed up to me.
Jessica, I read your Facebook article about losing your beloved Chester to dementia and felt the pain and the ache in your heart. We just had our sweet little dachshund, Greta put to sleep yesterday and I’m grieving over making this decision. She would have been 15 yrs. old in September but dementia denied her that.
A few months ago, I noticed Greta slowing down, not wanting to fetch or run and play with our other dachshund, Hans. However, over the months she would get up at night and wander around the house and then sleep most of the day. There were other unusual behaviors that prompted me to read up on dementia and with the exception of barking which she never did anymore, she experienced all of the other behaviors listed – walking behind doors and staring, walking under and behind furniture and staring, wondering aimlessly throughout the house or in the yard and then just stopping to stare into nothingness.
After reading more about dementia, I ached in grief realizing how much my little Greta must have suffered being trapped in a shell of her former self, fearful and confused as to who she was or where she was. She would flinch when I touched her to pet her or pick her up and I’m sure now, that this was a response of fear because she didn’t know who I was but only that something or someone was touching her. I remember seeing all of these behaviors getting progressively worse over time but never realized what was going on inside of her mind like being fearful not having a life, but only existing. At first, I attributed her behavior to losing her sight and hearing but after reading more about dementia in dogs, I learned how debilitating it was. What I saw in Greta wasn’t just old age, but a mind deteriorating attack on her very being.
What I read made me see Greta’s existence through her eyes and it breaks my heart that I couldn’t do anything to help her. When a pet is ill, at least they can understand our giving them comfort in the final days of their existence and they can feel the love in the care that we give them. They “know” and recognize our love. It doesn’t make losing them any easier but at least they know at you were there in their final moments.
In Greta’s case, I don’t think that she knew me anymore and that she was hopelessly trapped in some fog of an existence. Her days and nights were mixed up, she was disoriented and she lost all interest in everything but food, but even that was gone in the end. I realized that this must have been a terrifying experience for her and life as she knew it was gone forever. I think my grief is not just for losing her but also for the frustration that I couldn’t do anything to ease this horrible existence while she was going through it. No amount of loving touches or soothing words could have eased this dark chasm that she slipped into. I know that she’s at peace now but I still remember seeing her in what must have been a nightmarish existence for her. I never realized how debilitating dementia in dogs could be. The technical term is, canine cognitive dysfunction. (CCD) but they also call it “dog dementia.” Her quality of life was gradually taken away from her and the end result was that she felt lost and fearful. How I wish with all of my heart that I could have done something about this!!! I am so wrought with frustration!!!
My research into dementia opened my eyes a little more as to the mental and emotional toll that this disease takes on our precious fur kids and the fact that we can’t do anything to stop its progression or prevent it all together. It helps my heart a little to share what was happening with Greta and why we made the decision to end her suffering. It started out as what we thought was senility (difficulty in hearing and seeing) but ended up to be totally physically debilitating.
I’m still working my way through losing her and also facing the fact that in many ways, I lost her a long time ago. I’m still so saddened that I couldn’t do anything to help her. The frustration that I’m feeling is the realization that this was something that was totally out of my control. I hope that God will take some of this pain from my heart and help me to appreciate the happy times that we shared. I want to remember the joy and not the sorrow. I think about the joyful times that we had and miss them terribly wishing that we could relive those precious moments. Her presence is forever in my memory and in my heart. I’ve reached out to family and friends who have also had to make this decision and they have been very supportive and understanding. However, that doesn’t alleviate the pain in my heart and the lump in my throat choking back my tears. I know that my decision was in Greta’s best interest but my emotions are tearing me apart at losing her this way. After reading about the pain in your heart and your sweet Chester’s experience with dementia, I needed to reach out to you and tell you that I understand what you’re going through. You’re in my thoughts and prayers.
Hi Barbara. I received your email and responded there. Thank you for sharing your story with me.
Oh my this is exactly what I just went through with my almost 16 year old Sadie. Her decline started about 5 years ago with Diabetes, then she went deaf, then blind, congestive heart failure and dementia. How did this happen to my sweet baby. She still slept with me at night and would usually flinch when I touched her or picked her up. The last thing she started was waking with blood curdling howling or maybe screaming. I had her put down about a week ago. Loss is horrible. I cry all the time.
I’m so sorry for your loss Bruce. That sounds like it was a heartbreaking experience.
I’ve just lost my best friend and your words are so familiar. Sorry I’m too upset to carry on but thank you .
I’m so sorry; this was a sad, but beautiful post. Our pets are so dear to us and we suffer with them. Letting go is never easy and it is always a different situation that we have to cope with. Peaceful thoughts to you.
Jessica, there really are no right words. I just want you to know how sorry I am and that I’ve been thinking of you.
I had to do the same thing with my Dexter on January 12, 2015, when he was 14, and I felt like the worst Mom ever. He was eating and drinking but his outgo was nothing. I knew his kidneys had shut or were shutting down. What was wrong with him could have been prevented when he was a pup and I didn’t know anything about dachshund teeth until he was 11 years old. I beat myself up as to why didn’t I research the problem more, taken him to one more vet, recognize what was happening. When he was a pup one of his adult teeth grew outward because his baby tooth wouldn’t release. Since he had a testicle that didn’t drop, and had to have surgery, the vet took care of removing the baby tooth as well. Throughout his life he would be fine then run 106 fever in the snap of a finger. After many vet visits and nothing be found, I listened to the Vets’ advise and took care of him when he got sick but didn’t worry too much about it. What I didn’t know till years later when he’d sneezed blood over my deck was how very sick he was. I rushed him to a new vet because mine was out of town. He told me I needed to rush him to Mizzou Vet Teaching Hospital so I did. Long story short, when the vet removed his baby tooth and aligned his adult tooth in place he did not bust the enamel sack the adult tooth should have taken care of. It was discovered that his enamel sack became a bag of infection which eventually burst spreading infection in his sinuses, which, in turn, caused a hole between his nose and sinus cavity, a hole in his upper lip, and his canine fissures were pretty much non-existent. I decided to have surgery done to repair the issues along with multiple antibiotics to help clear the infection up. In the end, he had to have 6 dental surgeries and in the middle of this they discovered his dental issues had affected his heart. He put up a good fight but in the end it also affected his kidneys. Dexter was my first dachshund and I learned a lot. When my little girl was a pup and had the same tooth problem I made sure she went to a dentist to have her problem fixed and made sure the enamel sack was taken care of as well. I no longer beat myself up but sometimes cry for him because he was my first and my sweet baby boy.
I am so so sorry for your loss! I definitely know what you are going through right now…and just that you know, your are not a monster! You did what was best for Chester. Strangely enough, your post reminded me of my grandma, who had dementia as well. My mother took care for her, but at some point she couldn’t manage work, family and care any more and decided to put her in a nursing home.. She felt the same guilt feelings like you do right now, but in the end it was the best decision for both of them. I am sure you will feel the same some day. Lots of love to you!
I felt like I could have written this about my dog Winnie. She had pretty much all of the same things but had heart disease on top of the dementia. After weeks and weeks of sleepless nights and her getting stuck in corners or behind doors, or not being as excited to see me, and me getting angry at her for what she couldn’t control – I took her to my vet and we talked about everything. She said that Winnie (or little bug as she called her) was there but not really there and not that I needed her blessing to make the decision, but she thought it was best for both of us.
There were days she seemed like my old Winnie and other days when she struggled. In the end it was the right decision for her. It helped a little bit knowing when it was going to happen. It’s been over five years since I made that decision and I still miss her terribly. I have two boys, one is 15 and the other 11. I’m hopeful that similar decisions will be years off for them.
And when you’re ready – I’d suggest reading “Lily and The Octopus” by Stephen Rowley. It’s his story of losing his dachshund Lily. I’ve never cried so hard when reading a book before but it really helped. I’m sure with time you guys will find a new normal and feel more comfortable about your decision. Thank you for sharing your adventures about him (and of course Gretel) with all of us.
Am having the same problems with my Winnie dog she is 16 yrs old and am really struggling with putting her down just because she don’t act like she’s in pain but my Anna is blind deaf and has Alzheimer’s and she pees anywhere or poops and since she’s blind she will walk thru it if your not watching her she is consistently walking around and around but I can hardly bare the fact to put her to sleep I pray nightly for her to go on her own but deep down I know it’s probably time can someone please help guide me in right direction
Hi Becky. I’m sorry you are going through this heartbreaking experience. Personally, and it may not be a popular opinion, but I don’t think it’s helpful to the dog to wait for them to go on their own if they don’t have good quality of life (and by what you said she doesn’t, although I could be wrong. Only you can decide). Unfortunately, most pets stay physically present long after they should have been let go. As my article said, I heard from several people that said, looking back, that they wish they hadn’t waited too long to say goodbye. However, I completely understand the desire and need to hang onto your baby as long as possible. And only you can decide whether she has quality of life or not. Talking to a vet about that can help with your decision though. My heart goes out to you and know that, whatever decision you make, it will be the right one for you and your situation.
I’m so sorry about your little one. We have never had a dog with dementia, but other maladies create similar feelings. It’s heartbreaking and you don’t want to make the decision. We prayed Katie would just go to sleep and not wake up, but it didn’t happen. Chester will love you forever, and you will never forget him.
My heart goes out to you, I am so sorry about Chester. But you did all you could do for him. He couldn’t have had a better home.
Oh I’m so sorry….you’re never ready, even when you really think you are and know that they are. We went thru this and understand the need to just cry and throw up. And then you hug your other pets and cherish each moment together. Xxoo
I am so very sorry for your loss. My first OES had dog dementia and it was heartbreaking, especially at the end. Rescued from the Dumb Friends League in Denver, he lived with me until he was probably 13 years old. He had a good live and while he was a pill of a dog, I loved him to pieces. Who doesn’t love a wool sweater with feet? When he eventually went deaf, it was a blessing because the incessant barking stopped. He shuffled into dementia and when he kept walking into a corner and unable to get out, I knew it was time. Not long after, my female OES also a rescue, began to fail. Mind like a steel trap, her vessel of a body began to deteriorate. I knew she was hurting but her heart was still in the game which made the decision to let her go all the more difficult again and at the end, she fought it all the way to her last breath. As I recall that evening when the vet came to the house to do ‘it’ like it was yesterday despite it being 7 years ago, tears are filling my eyes and heart. I know what you’ve been through. Trying everything you possibly could to make a good life for 4 paws that managed to steal a large spot in your heart makes the ultimate ending heartbreaking. Letting go was the final gift you gave your Chester. He lived a beautiful life with excellent care. Now is the time to honor him, recall the wonderful memories and let them provide you with peace as you comfort your sweet Gretel. Rest in peace dear Chester. Hugs and tails wags.
Oh Jessica … my heart is with you. My sweet Kenji was my love and companion for 18 years. For ten of those, he was a diabetic. Yes, I gave him shots twice a day. Yes, I planned my life around his needs. Yes, I took really great care of him. But at the end, he let me know it was time. He had started uncontrollably shaking and collapsing when walking. The light went out of his eyes. He went limp and listless. I knew. He knew. He really wasn’t there anymore. My vet agreed that it was time. I held Kenji in my arms while they administered the drugs. There was a brief moment of the old Kenji in his eyes as I cried and kissed his face, singing his special theme song and telling him he was the best damn kitty to ever live. I believe, in my heart of hearts, that he was thanking me … for understanding, for loving him, for taking care of him, for being his mama. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Cancer (mine) wasn’t that hard in comparison. I cried for weeks. But, one night, I looked up in the sky, at a big, juicy full moon, and I saw my boy. So, now, every full moon, I talk to Kenji and tell him I still love him. Sappy? Yep. And I am okay with that. Find your peace, Jessica … Chester knew you loved him. You did the right thing.
Like the others above, I also shed tears today when learning of your loss of Chester. I am seeing many of the same traits in my 18 yr old Oscar as the ones you described. It will be hard to say goodbye but I will remember your bravery and compassion. I’m glad you had final quiet moments with Chester and a “heart to heart” talk and I thank you for your truthfulness and candor in describing the mixture of emotions you have felt. May Chester rest in peace after a life well lived and well cared for. May your pain diminish soon. While Gretel may not be as cuddly as she used to be (Oscar also pulls away from me, especially during the hot summer months!), I am sure she knows you “have her back” and are there for her.
So very sorry for your loss and what you are going through. Thank you for leading the way and sharing your life, love, and adventures with all of us. As difficult as this was for you, you gave him dignity and showed him love and compassion. His was a life well lived and much loved. Gretel is grieving right now too…it’s got to be hard but hang in there! Before you know it you will have your cuddle bug back ❤️
All your stories are helpful as my sweet boy max was put to sleep 2 days ago after an agonising decision what to do as he had progressing dementia and I’m sure he’d forgotten who I was with is heart breaking I can’t stop crying for him and feeling so so sick the only thing that’s killing me is knowing the last thing he’ll remember is the pain of the vet trying to put in the needle in his leg they then sedated him and I wish they had done that in the first place
I’m sorry for your loss Joanne. My advice is not to agonize about the needle situation too much. A dog with dementia doesn’t have a clear short-term memory so he’s probably forgotten already. However, he stills know for sure how much you loved him.
Thank you Jessica your words were very comforting today I brought Max’s ashes home from the vets I got in the car and burst into tears but he’s home now x
I’m sorry. My heart goes out to you.
Thank you Jessica your story of Chester and everyone’s eals s is helping me come to terms with Max’s death now I know I’m not alone dementia deprived max of a long life he was only 11 I stayed with him till the end I couldn’t leave him and the last thing I told the vet was I couldn’t remember the last time he wagged his tail then when he was gone the last thing his body did before I left was Waugh his tail like mad which made me smile I like to think he was telling me he was happy and at peace now x
I’m so sorry to read about Chester…reading this brings tears to my eyes and breaks my heart because it brings back memories of my last weeks with my minpin. He also had dementia, which was short-lived due to a lung condition (never went down a long testing/treatment route as he was already 15) but I remember getting ready to go outside one morning and he just peed in the living room – he had no idea where he was. I got so mad, and after yelling at him, just sat on the floor sobbing because I knew he couldn’t help it.
I hope Gretel is doing ok now and adjusting to the new dynamic.
My little sausage dog Toby is 16 on 23 July but I’m not sure if we can let him make it . Your posts have made realise how far he has gone . I’ve known for a while that he has doggie dementia. In the beginning it was just hearing loss and sight loss or at least that’s what I’ve been telling my self . But now I see having read you posts the same symptoms , hungry all the time , pacing around , getting stuck in corners , getting stuck wrong side of the door . He flinches sometime when we touch him . It’s a battle for him to get out in the garden because he flinches and bites the air bites at his own shadow , the wind , the rain . We no longer get a greeting when we come in the door . He spends all day in his bed unless food is around . Sometimes he appears not to know me at all , other times he does .
To date we have only had half a dozen wee wee accidents , he just walked in the room and peed like it was the normal thing to do .
My heart is aching how long do I let him go on ? Do I wait until the light has gone in his eyes and he has no control over his bodily functions ?
I’m trying to find the courage to do it in the next couple of weeks , I don’t won’t him to get to the stage when he doesn’t know me and loses his dignity . My Mum has dementia it’s a cruel disease she doesn’t know me she’s just a shell. I have the power to not let my darling Toby get like that . It’s just a battle inside the guilt that I should do everything I can to keep him and that it would be too soon to do it now. However reading your posts I’m slowing finding the courage to do the right thing and to believe it’s the right thing. We will spend the next 2 weeks loving him as always but trying to make them as special as possible and then let him depart to cross the rainbow bridge to meet up with Molly his life long friend who we lost 18 months ago xx
I’m so sorry Sue. The decision is literally gut-wrenching. I’m glad my article gave you food for thought. Having watched a lot of my human loved ones die, I want nothing more than good care and dignity for those that are declining. In fact, I’m so adamant about it, I was afraid I made the decision too soon with Chester. Looking it back on it now, I don’t think I did. I will never know if it was “too early” but I know in my heart that we would have only had a few more months anyway. And I know that things would have gotten worse over those months. I will say that the week before we did it was one of the toughest weeks of my life but there was a peace – both in my heart and in our house – after we said goodbye.
Only you know Toby and your heart. I hope that you can come to a decision that you’re at peace with.
I have cried and cried after reading your post about Chester. I have been through this more times than I care to say and don’t look forward to going through it again, but I will and I will do exactly what you did and let my beloved go with dignity. I went to a workshop with an animal communicator several years ago and although I was a bit skeptical I came away with one thing that she said that has stuck with me throughout the years and that is . . . when we have to make that decision, our loved fur babies understand and are okay because they know we are doing what is best for them. This has brought me a lot of comfort and has helped relieve some of my guilty.
I want to share two important things: 1) your Pet knew to the end you loved them enough to be merciful and let them go and not suffer even though it was the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do and 2) no guilt should ever be involved in this process because no matter what we do, we will never win the war against death.
I still feel guilty every time and no matter what – there is always a piece of my heart missing.
Love to you, Sharon
Thanks for the kind words, Sharon. I like what the communicator said to you – that our pets know we love them and are trying to do the right thing. Something a friend said to me when I doubted that I was showing Chester love by letting him go (my worry was too early), is that that I obviously loved him or I wouldn’t even have been questioning my choice and laboring over it. I do believe Chester knew I loved him and felt it until we said goodbye. Knowing that is what makes it not as painful.
I am going through this process right now. My dog is not a weiner but still my baby. She is 17. I revolve my life around trying to get her to eat. If she is alert, try to give her something. Anything! Ramen!? Sure! Chicken breast? Pizza? Whatever. I have never given my dogs people food ever but I am desperate now. She paces when she isn’t sleeping… but more importantly she has become mean. She has bitten me 4 times so far. This isnt my dog! But she still has her moments. Romps on the beach… so I am still not there but your story has helped me not feel like a monster for thinking I may need to make the decision soon. Thank you.
I’m so sorry you are going throough this. We all have to make the decision that is right for us and our pet but dementia can certainly change our beloved dogs into someone they were not before. It’s very hard to watch and deal with. My heart goes out to you.
I just finished reading about your dog and it was beautifully written. We are faced with the decision for our 16.5 year old chihuahua who has dementia. We have 4 dogs and she loved the one dog Timmy. They slept together and would lick each others faces. Today we noticed she walks right by him and doesn’t seem to remember him. He is very nervous around her. She circles and stumbles around getting stuck different places. My heart is breaking and I feel at times I can’t breathe. I want her to go with dignity but a part of me wants to hold onto her even though she isn’t really there. I don’t want to be the monster who ends her life. I know we will have to decide very soon and it hurts so much. Dementia is a terrible disease.
I’m so sorry for what you are going through Gini. It’s heartbreaking and one of the toughest decisions you will make. I know you love her though and will do what is best for both of you.
I felt exactly the same way. “I’m a monster”. “I killed my dog”. Those were words I said over and over and over. I am still saying them, 10 years later. I did the right thing of course, but that knowledge meant nothing…they are our family. Our best friends…we can’t tell them, they have relied on us to care for them, and they trust us. It is the hardest thing we ever do as doggy parents…is to let them go. I am comforted by the thought that she (Biscuit) is waiting for me on the other side. A moment for her, a lifetime for me. We will see them again…right now, they are playing together waiting for us….pain free and enjoying their new lives. Waiting for us, like they used to do at the window. Or the door… some day I will call her name, she will turn and run to me. Just like she did years ago.
Thank you for your kind words and sharing your experience. It’s definitely hard. I think about him often but, luckily, it’s primary happy memories now instead of beating myself up. Sometimes I still catch myself thinking I didn’t do enough though.
I’m so sorry for the loss of your little Chester. I can barely see what I’m typing as I read your post/comments. My sweet little Winston is lying next to me as I google euthanasia for dogs with dementia. He’s been misdiagnosed for 4 months as I went from vet to vet desperate to find out was wrong with my once spunky, healthy little boy. Last night I rushed him to the ER bc he couldn’t tinkle/poo. The Dr confirmed what I suspected all along – dementia. This morning my sweet boy doesn’t seem to know who I am. He frantically paced/cried for 30 minutes and nothing I did could comfort him. I held him tightly, crying and begging God to tell me what to do for him, not wanting to do what I know would give him peace. In the past when I cried or was upset, my Winston instinctively knew and licked my face trying to comfort me. This morning, as I sobbed and held him to my heart, he turned away, staring blankly into space. My heart is broken.
Hi Caroline. I’m so sorry to hear about your Winston. I found it to be true that a dog without dementia can generally “let us know” when it’s time but dementia is a whole different experience. It’s a very difficult one for sure. Do know that a diagnosis of dementia may not automatically mean it’s time to let go. Chester slowly progressed for well over a year before it got too bad. Unfortunately though, some dogs progress much faster than others.
This support group on Facebook can be helpful because you’ll see that you are not alone: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CanineCognitiveDysfunction. There are many supplements and medications you can try that may help him be more “there”. People in this group are happy to share what worked for their dog.
Ultimately, the decision to let go is up to you. To me, that tipping point was when Chester had more bad days than good and he started to now recognize me. My thoughts are with you.
I’m glad I found your post and am so sorry about Chester. My Gingi is a Havanese rescue that I adopted when she was about 4. Now she is going on 18 and has all the symptoms you and others have mentioned. She is basically deaf and also has Cushings but that is controlled with meds. She is chronically restless and pacing, falling down, losing her place in the house, always hungry, and whines and barks incessantly from morning until bedtime, only sleeping a little at a time during the day. She does settle down once we all go to bed (I have 3 other small rescues and a cat) which makes me get in bed really early every night just so she stops all the symptoms. I work at home and am so frustrated that I can’t help her. Throughout the day I am getting up like every half hour to try and figure out what she wants: feed her again, let her out again, hold her again, etc. My vet prescribed a low dose of gabapentin which is not doing anything. I saw that Anipryl is a med that is mentioned for dogs with dementia. Have you heard anything about it?
Hi Jodi. How awesome that Gingi has made it to 18! I can totally empathize with you because dealing with dementia is very difficult and frustrating at times. Anipryl is another name for selegiline, which we did try but, sadly, it had to effect on Chester’s behavior. I, too, have heard it worked wonders for other dogs though, specially when used in conjunction with other supplements. Do you belong to the Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) Support Group on Facebook? That drug is frequently talked about there so they may be able to provide more information. Here is the link if you need it: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CanineCognitiveDysfunction/
Thank you for this. Our poodle Griffin is 16 now and I’ve felt so guilty when I think about how angry I’ve been with him at times over the past year. In addition to all of the above that you have shared – we ARE in a rental – and he is ruining spots on the floor of this beautiful place (this may seem shallow however it is a real concern). Thank you for giving me permission to look more clearly a choice that has been on my mind so much lately – you are an angel.
Hi Leslie. I’m sorry your going through this. It IS so hard. You want to make every choice with your heart but you can’t always. Getting frustrated is human and having to consider things like making a landlord angry, or having to pay for expensive repairs, are realities. If you were looking for information online, it shows how much you care. I know you will make the right choice for you guys, whatever that is.
Going through this exact situation with our 16 year old Jasper. I want to let him go with dignity, the rest of my family is not on board yet. Its so hard. Thank you for sharing your story. It means a lot to me.
I’m so sorry. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve gone through with a pet.
Your post has helped reinforce the decision I am making right now with my 16 year Chihuahua. He is my best friend and this is so incredibly hard, but he does the nightly thing too. He howls, whines and spins incessantly – all day and all night. He no longer lets me hold him. He’s become blind and deaf. He wants to eat like a pig though. My vet said it’s time when he stops eating, so I’ve been holding on because he eats but now I realize that’s the dementia too. It has just gotten so bad and so quickly too. I just started trying the CBD Oil which has helped him to calm down and sleep but that’s just a temporary Band-Aid and doesn’t last long. Before I know it, he’s up and spinning again and running into things… and falling over. I don’t know if he knows I’m there or not – I’d like to think so, but if I hold him he just wants down to keep spinning. It’s time I give him the gift of peace and rest. Thank you for sharing your story. It helps me like I’m not alone and that I’m doing the right thing for him. Always in my heart.
How heartbreaking Melissa. I’m sorry that you and your pup have had to deal with the dementia monster. You are doing the right thing – it definitely sounds to me like he needs some peace and rest. He’ll always be alive in your heart <3
Exasperated. Chihuahua’s. Brother and sister. I had to put sister, Scout, down in February, she had a stroke and went very quickly in a matter of hours. She would have been 17 in June. He brother, Chan, will be 18 in January. I am struggling…he sleeps 75% of the time, he’s almost completely blind and deaf. He knows the layout of the house, so doesn’t so much run into things. I work from home so I get to spend a lot of time with him. He doesn’t go down stairs anymore which is a problem because no matter how you go out of the house, there are stairs, so I carry him up and down. He wanders around the yard trying to find the stairs which sometimes he does and he makes up on his own. He pees on the floor continually. I just get one spot cleaned up and there is another. I use towels instead of paper towels…run the washer and dryer every day. Love that little dog but…some days I wonder when to say when. He had a hardy appetite. Solid bowel movements. He’s active. He lets me carry him around, he never used to like that at all. He is spending more and more of his time in his kennel – which is good sized. I am just beginning to wonder just how great his, and mine, quality of life has become. I feel like a complete monster for thinking about that last trip to the vets office. With Scout, it was obvious it was time…with him, not much…just venting I guess…just cleaned up more pee and I am tired, and wondering if he isn’t as well.
Hi Steven. My heart goes out to you. It’s indeed a tough decision and only you can know when the right time to say goodbye to Chan. As I explained, sometimes a dog may be physically existing but not have a good quality of life. it’s definitely harder to make a decision in that situation (than when there is a clear physical issue).
I just wanted to thank you for writing this. I found myself taking many deep breaths while reading. Last year we made a this decision for our 13 year old Ridgeback – very clear his reptile brain had taken over, dwindling mobility, with the added bonus of severe unmanagble anxiety and separation anxiety (his whole life). But he still had some sparks of life. It was so hard to explain to people – especially when they say “you’ll know when it’s time” – it wasn’t that easy. We knew we did not put him/us through an emergency where we had to leave him at the vet or make super quick decisions. We were able to do it at home with our vet and all dogs present. Now we have a 12 year old pittie who has rapidly turned senile and is agitated/uncomfortable/vocally demanding/needy during awake hours/waking up in those early hours of the morning and just in general turning into a different dog. As I’ve come to terms with and started to forgive myself for the loss of our Ridgeback I’ve told myself it will be different or more obvious with our other two…. But it’s not turning out that way. We are vetting and experimenting but we can see the road ahead isn’t paved with candy or gold. Your post helped both my spouse and I get some perspective and it really really helped me feel not so alone among all the “just do this for your senior with canine dementia” info on the internet. Thank you – I’m grateful I found your post.
Hi Amy. I’m sorry for your loss and that you had to deal with dementia. I, too, found the comment “you’ll know when it’s time” unhelpful and an inaccurate gauge of our reality and Chester’s quality of life. I suspect people that share that sentiment are trying to give some comfort but have never dealt with a dog who has dementia. The whole ordeal was out of the norm from what I’d ever experienced before and the decision to let go was extremely heartbreaking. I have no doubt you gave your dog the best care, and made the best decisions you could for him.. and that you will do the same with your current dogs. I’m sorry that it’s not turning out to be as straightforward as you had hoped with your 12 year old.
I’m lying here on my sofa with Gracie snoring on the floor next to me. Mine are not dachshunds but big goofy black labs. Gracie is 12 1/2 and just came to live with us last fall. We took her in from a terrible situation only to finally get the diagnosis of dementia. My sweet boy, Edsel, is 5. He’s my everything and is sleeping in the bedroom with my husband. Everything you’ve said here is so right on. It’s exactly what we’re going through. And I know that in a couple weeks when Gracie has her appointment with our vet we will likely not be bringing her back home. Even though she’s only been with us a short while I am just heartbroken about this decision. But she just seems so lost, so frightened and so “not a dog” anymore. It’s as if she just exists. I tell myself that she’s had a wonderful 6 months here. With soft beds in a warm, safe home. Lots of treats and walks in the woods. I know she never had those things before. I hate that I have to make this decision again. But she has no real quality of life and my sweet boy is getting depressed and frustrated as well. And I too am getting exhausted and feel my patience is short more days than not. I’d rather let her go before everyone is at their wit’s end. While things are still more good than bad. Thank you for writing this. It’s helped me so much.
I’m so sorry you are going through this with Gracie. Thank you for giving her a good, loving home. She knows she is loved.
Just like to comment on more heart breaking stories and like to add my dog max who was put to sleep last week because of his progressing dementia the last thing I told the vet was that I couldn’t remember the last time he wagged his tail then when max was gone the last thing his body did was wag his tail I’d like to believe that he was telling me he was happy now and at peace he was robbed of old age as he was only 11 year old miss him terribly and always will he was such a loving forgiving dog
I’m sorry for your loss. I am sure he is happy to be free with no worries.
I’d just like to add having read all the heart breaking stories that when my loving dog max was put to sleep last week having progressing dementia dispite been on medication 3 months the last thing I told the vet was I couldn’t remember the last time he wagged his tail then once max was gone I was distraught then that the last thing his body did was wag his tail which I’d like to think he was telling me he was happy now and at peace
I have a dachshund that is 16 years old, started noticing her dementia symptoms June 2018, Vet confirmed it September 2018 and is on meds. She has the sundowners and paces all the time in the evenings, She is not sleeping good at night, wonders a lot.
She circles to the right all the time. She will stare at her food and will eat it but sometimes doesn’t know what it is or how to eat. Stands at the water bowl and doesn’t know what to do, I know she is drinking water because she pees a lot. Used to potty on pads or outside, now it is all over the house. Sometimes after she pees or poops she circles in the pee and poop and it’s all over her to where she has to have a bath. She also shakes a lot like she is cold. I dont feel like this is a good quality of life, or is she still happy? I don’t know what to do. Any advice is welcome. Thanks
Hi Terry. It’s heartbreaking to watch our senior dogs decline, especially when their mind is going. When to let go is such a personal decision. For me, I would definitely be questioning my dog’s quality of life and the behavior you described would indicate our time together might be ending. Good luck. My heart goes out to you.
I am am so thankful for your article. I am so unsure of what to do with my 16 year old Lady. She is a Dachshund mix that we found on the side of the rode and Santa brought her to my daughter. She wears a diaper, she paces, she runs into walls and falls a lot, she tries to bite me when I get near her while she is sleeping, and she does that hunger thing you mentioned. The only thing that makes me question is it time is the fact that she is so genuinely happy to see me when I get home from work. She cries and jumps and smiles. But that is the only time. Thankyou
I’m sorry you’re going through this. It is indeed a very difficult situation to make. In my case, I saw the road ahead and Chester was declining rapidly. I didn’t want to wait until I had to make a decision in a crisis situation. I know at least a few people think I let him go too soon but I think I did the kindest thing I could do for him.
I feel the pain. I am actually at that point right now…not knowing what is right. Lil Bit is a 11 pound mix. She is totally blind and mostly deaf. Before loosing her sight completely she started the pacing at night. At about the same time she stopped indicating when she needed to go outside. Now that she is totally blind, she constantly – except for an hour sleep then up again – paces. She shows the same characteristics. One or 2 steps from her bed then stops and pees and poops. Sometimes wetting the bed while asleep. I am at my wits end. I get very little sleep. She seems to know me if I pick her up. She will lick my nose but there is little to no tail wagging. My vet says she doesn’t know that her quality of life has diminished. She gets stuck between the wall and a chair or my bed and just stands there. Recently her blood sugar dropped dangerously low and would walk and fall over. The vet wanted to make sure that wasn’t her real problem. But I know better. I just am having a difficult time deciding what’s best. Can this really be a good life for either of us? The worst part is the not knowing…the self doubt.
I’m sorry you are faced with this situation Cindy. It’s not always a popular opinion but I definitely think you need to consider YOUR quality of life, not just hers. And I do think her quality of life is quite diminished. Your vet may be right about her not knowing – which can bring you some peace knowing she probably doesn’t care – but you need to decide if “just existing” is ok with you. Sometimes the answer is yes to keep our babies with us as long as we can.
I came upon your site looking for information on aging Dachshunds. I inherited mine from my mother when she passed away. I am so grateful to you for sharing your experience with the difficult decision you had to make. I have wondered how I will cope with the inevitability of losing my #1 furry friend.
I don’t say this to be upsetting (It’s just that I’ve been there) but but expect that it may be especially hard because you are having to let go of something that belonged to your Mother too. My Mom died when I was young and every time I have to let go of a peace of our past it is hard. It’s never an easy decision but know that you are not alone and reach out for support when you need it when the time comes.
Thank you for taking time to write this. I have experienced a similar loss (VERY similar) this week–and it was painful. I read your words as though I’d written them myself. It is helpful to know that others understand this kind of pain and loss. I have to believe that my sweet Rudee did not want to live another day not knowing who he was, who I was, who the other dogs we have in the house were, etc. He’d forgotten how to do so many things and there was not much “quality of life” for him. I miss him like crazy, but in my heart, I have to believe that I made the best choice.
Debra, I’m so sorry you had to say goodbye to Rudy. It’s such a difficult decision to make. I am sure you did the right thing and he knew he was very, very loved.
This post is old I know, I stumbled upon it because my 16 year old has been cursed with dementia as well, I cried as I read your post here, you are NOT a monster and you are NOT bad person, you’re NOT selfish, I hope you’ve come to realize that, I think you did for Chester exactly what he needed you to do, some people don’t understand quality of life or they gauge it differently but you knew Chester’s quality wasn’t good and that he deserved better, I had a dog a few years ago, Samwise, something happened to him and within 2 weeks he couldn’t walk and he didn’t know me, my best friend didn’t know me anymore, but I kept him around because I didn’t know any better, then he quit eating and I knew, but it was my mom who had to talk the sense into me, I feel terrible for not knowing what to do, I felt like I made him suffer, it’s been about 5 years and I still have to deal with me beating myself up from time to time. This story helped me accept what I have to do for my dog when it’s time, she’s been around for half my life ( I am young) and it’s going to be so hard, but she’s only been sick for a few weeks and watching her deteriorate is breaking my heart and I can’t help but think “it’s not fair to her” but at the same time I wonder “is she ready?” This is truly the worst part of being a dog parent.
Thank you Cait. I did feel more confident it was the right decision after we let him go. I’m sorry you are going through dementia with one of your dogs again. It’s certainly terrible and finding the tipping point of when it may be time to let go is heartbreaking. My thoughts are with you.
I came across your website in the middle of the night when Googling about elderly dogs with dementia. I do not have a dachshund, but a pug. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with Chester. It’s so difficult having to make that decision with any of our furry babies, but especially difficult when the body is working but not the mind. I know my baby is in her twilight time, and I am hoping for things to go well at least a bit longer. But there are times the deterioration seems to be speeding up. And most people think she “looks great“ other than a little bit of occasional limping from arthritis. But I’m the one that’s up with her throughout many nights with no sleep, watching her terrified of her own shadow, and once even not recognizing me. And most people haven’t seen her on the days where morning did not bring relief and she stayed inside her mind. She’s on meds for her dementia and arthritis, and one for night so she can sleep. It doesn’t always work. While physically she looks pretty good to people, sometimes she is so lost in her mind that it’s as if she’s being tortured mentally. Luckily she still has more good times than bad times, but I know what’s on the horizon. Your words on the subject have been extremely helpful to me. It helps to compare notes and hear of other people‘s experiences. And so many of your thoughts are identical to the ones that I have been having. It’s always a difficult decision saying goodbye. And it’s so easy to drive ourselves crazy thinking about it. Thank you so much for sharing.
Hi Sue. I understand what a heartbreaking experience having a dog with dementia is. My heart goes out to you.
Jessica, thank you so very much for sharing your story! It resonated so completely with me as your story seemed to follow pretty much what I have been going through with my furbaby for the last 9 months. It not only clarified and put my feeling into words, but it gave me the courage to accept what she was telling me and that it was time to make the call to the vet. I will be forever grateful to you and so will my Halle.
Jan, I am so sorry you are faced with a heartbreaking decision like this. Dementia is something I’d never experienced before with another dog and it made it even more heartbreaking for me. Trust yourself that you know when it’s the right time. I’m sure Halle feels the love.
Thank you for posting this. I can’t tell you how much reading this has helped me as I deal with my grief. I feel like you have very eloquently described the feelings of guilt that we have to work through to make the best decisions we can for our animals. I still cry almost every day.
I’m very sorry. Hopefully it get’s easier for you.
Thank you so much, and I hope it does for you too.
Like you, I write while tears are flowing. My Cocco’s time is near. It’s so hard. She turns 15 on Oct 13. She is also diabetic. So my day consists of taking care of a diabetic dog with dementia. I feel like a prisoner – a guilty one. It is hard for me to get out knowing she will be in a corner somewhere crying when I’m gone. When I come home, I hear her whimpers, run to pick her up and get lots of kisses so I know her love is still there. Feeling trapped while life passes me by does anger me at times. I wonder how much longer I can go. God I love my little Cocco so I’ll probably keep going feeling trapped and sad at the same time.
Hi Dan. I am so sorry your Cocco is not doing so well. It is indeed a heartbreaking dilemma to be in for you. It’s obvious you care for her very much and I know you will make the right decision for you and her (whatever that happens to be as time goes on).
I’m glad to have stumbled upon your site. I’m in the throes of making this same decision with our 17.5yo tweenie, Opal. So much of what you’ve described in Chester mirror where we’re at currently. It’s been a sharp decline over the last year, and I want her to pass on with dignity. Solidarity ♥️
Brooke, I’m so sorry you are going through this. It’s hard to watch the decline and a heartbreaking decision for sure.
Thank you for your honesty and compassion. I am sitting here while my 16 and 1/2-year-old dachshund Zeke is pacing and roaming. I am experiencing so much of what you went through with Chester. My poor Zeke also does not think to turn around when he walks into a corner and will bark for me to come “rescue” him. This behavior is increasing. It was so bad last night that I probably only got a couple of hours of sleep. He is doing the same thing right now. I am having to get up to rescue him about every 10 minutes, As exhausted as I am I cannot imagine what he is going through. Even though his heart is strong (according to his doctor) his mind is going. Having to make this decision is breaking my heart, but I need to do what is best for my baby Zeke. I have had him since he was 7 weeks old and will miss him dearly, but in my heart, I know it is time to let him go. Your story about Chester has made my decision easier and I thank you. I know that Zeke will be waiting at the Rainbow Bridge for me. God bless you.
I’m so sorry. My heart is breaking for you right now. I know how devastated and sick to my stomach I was having to agonize over what to do. I’m glad my story was able to help you.
Thank you for this post. I found this just now while googling end of life dementia in dogs, and this is exactly how I have been feeling. I’ve had my 16 year old little man for only just over one year, so it was hard to recognize the signs in him at first because I thought he was just a quirky little old man. I’ve slowly come to realize he has horrible arthritis, is mostly deaf and blind, and has pretty advanced dementia. In the last two weeks he’s suddenly become incontinent and keeps having accidents, and it’s making me so mad. And then I feel so guilty. Last night, he suddenly stopped being able to use his back legs consistently. The strength has come and gone and he’s walked a few times normally today, but is now back to scooting around. I was wondering if I’m jumping the gun too soon by thinking about euthanasia because he still has good moments and generally seems okay. Your post is helping me a lot because I have felt all of those same exact feelings and had the exact same thoughts. I appreciate you sharing your experience with the world.
I’m so sorry you are going through this. It’s definitely not easy. Chester started peeing all over the house about a year and a half (it started slow and got worse) before we said goodbye. I found myself getting angrier and angrier at first. Doggy diapers were a lifesaver for me and they allowed us to live peacefully together again for a while. This is a an article I wrote about how to deal with an old dog that pees everywhere: https://youdidwhatwithyourweiner.com/old-dog-peeing-house-help/ Good luck to you. I know you do will do what is right for you and him… whatever that is.
I’m so glad I found this while googling dog dementia. My Nearly 15 yr old Rat Terrier has gone from what use to be just funny kooky behavior, to driving me absolutely insane. He can’t be left for long at home in his crate, he carries on and barks and cries non-stop and the neighbors complain. So for the past year and a half, I’ve been taking him to work with me. There, he rarely lays down for more than 5 minutes. He has to sit ON my feet and follow me everywhere. When we come home, he paces and paces and cries for no reason. From early morning until late at night, he never sleeps. Thankfully, usually when I go to bed, he sleeps in his bed, at the bottom of mine… but lately he’s taken to laying ON me, or I wake up and he’s standing over me staring in my face! He never seems happy anymore…. he can’t get close enough, if he could attach himself to me, he would. I could go on and on…. but you already know…
I feel selfish and mean, and others tell me I am. But they have no clue what it’s like.
I sometimes wish he would die in his sleep, so I don’t have to make the decision on when his life should end. I LOVE him, I can’t imagine life without him.
But if he is not happy, then what is living?
Your story and others comments make me feel less guilty. Thank You. I don’t know when the time will come… I am just trying so hard to be patient and kind, without losing my OWN mind. It’s not like suddenly he’s going to “get better”. It’s only going to get worse. And the humane thing to do is to stop his suffering.
Hi Patty. I’m sorry you are going with this. It’s certainly heartbreaking and I totally get the wish for them to just die peacefully in their sleep. Isn’t that what we all want in the end? I know you will make the right decision for you guys no matter what you decide to do for now.
Thank you. I am going through it now with my 16 year old Boston Terrier, Froggy.
I’m sorry. It’s so heartbreaking.
Ty so much for this blog!! I’m in the process of hospice for my 16yo chihuahua AbbiGayle. She has been my all!!! Slept with me every night since she’s been 8 weeks old. I love her snoring and Chi noises!!! But I know it’s getting closer with her incontinance of urine and recently her bowels. She’s developed cataracts which makes it hard for her to see at night, sometimes if I’m too far away from her to see me she doesn’t recognize me but only by voice. She’s constantly barking at fathom people. I’ve noticed my other Chi has stayed clear of Abbi more often -I think “Minnie” knows! Just this morning I’ve looked into Abbi’s eyes and told her I think it’s time to let you go. I’ll speak to her Vet on Monday who told me “When we are ready to let her know, I’ll know when it’s time!” As they say-it’s time to cross the rainbow bridge. I need prayers about this.
I’m sorry you are going through this Jeanie. It’s always so difficult to figure out when it is time to let a beloved pet go. My thoughts are with you.
You said it all!!!!! The doubt. I’m taking my 16 year old beagle with dementia to be put to sleep today, and she seems to have more energy!!!!! Pacing etc. But she’s not there and I Consolers myself with the fact that she’s 16. Beagles average life span is 13. I also did appreciate your strength in having done ” death ” before. Sometimes I think I can’t do another death, but you turned it around, kind of for me. And your honest frustration with all of this. Thank you so much. Susan
Awww… I’m so sorry Susan. That’s so hard. I’m glad my words helped you a little.
About a year ago, my dog Brain (15.5yo Boston Terrier, mostly blind, mostly deaf) was diagnosed with canine dementia. For some time now, he’s been showing all the known symptoms of the condition. Caring for him has become increasingly more difficult. The more challenging traits he displays are aggressive behavior, and extreme restlessness during night time hours. Meds have helped some, but the condition is permanent, and his behaviors have been getting more worrisome over the last few months. He already takes Gabapentin, Denamarin and Trazodon.
I’m not sure there is anything else I can do for him, and I am in a desperate position. I am very sleep deprived (very!), and don’t know what to do. My health (and that of my family) is taking a toll. I feel like I’ve been taken hostage by my own dog, and it is quite obviously not his fault. I love him so much and want to take care of him and do right by him.
I don’t know if Brain is happy in general. He seems mostly miserable, except for when he eats, sleeps, walks outside in good weather (which isn’t often), and only very occasionally when he allows limited petting… those moments give me hope that he at least he is still capable of enjoying life to some degree. But then the barking, howling, whimpering, heavy panting, pacing, all night long, suggests he is not having a good time. Mental anguish is not as straight forward as physical pain, so it’s hard to know where the lines are drawn. There’s an inner life inside that little head, and I shudder to think that I must decide at one point when that light should go off.
This whole situation is really not sustainable, and I don’t know what to do.
Any advice is welcome and appreciated.
AT THE BEGINNING
Brain was never an easy dog. I understood that to be the case from the get-go when I adopted him as an already adult 9yo dog set in his ways. I accepted the challenge, even though I never had a dog before and had not experienced caring for one. I don’t think I was entirely aware of how much a pain in the ass he could be, but we were right for each other nevertheless, and I have loved him like I never imagine I could. He came with all sorts of issues, and I certainly didn’t know any better, so I gladly dived in. Brain was anxious and prone to barking fits from which it was never easy to snap him out. He was very demanding and not the kind of dog who favored snuggling or kissing. He was growly and spunky, though never malicious or threatening—he never once bit me back then. Growling was his way of expressing every single emotion in his arsenal. It was a really funny and charming aspect of his personality.
Brain had not been properly socialized, I assume, so he didn’t get along with other dogs. But he did love humans! And he loved attention, which for him meant an expectation of extreme play time. If one petted him even for a second, he immediately took that as an open invitation for him to rush and grab a toy and not give up until you played fetch and tug-o-war straight until he tired, something that could take quite a while. Even at 9, 10, 11, 12 years old, he had enviable amounts of energy. That was a challenge, but it was manageable, and I loved how into playing he was.
Even with all his quirks, complicated patterns of behavior, and medical conditions (of which he had a few), I loved looking after him and could manage it without much problem. When I traveled, which I often did for work, I had designated dogsitters who knew of all his quirks and how to handle him.
DEMENTIA CREPT IN
But of course, handling him has become an entirely different thing. He lost most of his hearing and then most of his eyesight, surely an extremely confusing thing for any dog. But then his mind has been going as well, and that has truly complicated matters much more, as anyone dealing with canine dementia will surely attest. His behavior began to show symptoms of aggression and confusion, toppled with nighttime restlessness and at times, extreme separation anxiety.
Pretty much every symptom associated with canine dementia, he has shown to varying degrees. All of them concerning in their own right, but it’s the aggressive behavior that became the most worrying. It became tough to handle him. Putting on his harness or dressing up for the cold turned into potentially unsafe situations for myself. It got so bad that at one point last year I believed the end had arrived. He bit me pretty bad. He had that evil dog look in his eye.
He was prescribed Gabapentin, and that helped a lot in calming him down. Though of course, aggressive tendencies popped up from time to time.
He was also put on Denamarin when it was confirmed he in fact was suffering from dementia. (Selegelin was prescribed before but it only made him more restless and aggressive)
Things got substantially better, though of course, a dog with dementia is a dog with dementia and I’ve had to resign myself to the idea that the disease progresses no matter what. As of the last few months, he has become very barky, confused, extremely restless at night, and sometimes a little aggressive and snappy.
At night, he really doesn’t let me sleep for very long before he barks, whines, howls, scratches at walls. He wants to pee probably 7-8 times a night, and I have to let him out. (It would be great if he’d just do his business on wee-wee pads, or even straight up on the floor, but he demands to go outside). He wants attention, or rather he wants something. He is confused and restless and agitated. He paces back and forth, panting heavily, and no matter how many times I let him out to pee, or try to comfort him somehow, he keeps at it.
I have been very sleep deprived the last year or so, but especially more the last few months. I have a 7 month old baby, and I am blessed that he is a good sleeper and doesn’t wake up with the barking (it’s a miracle, really), but my wife and I are truly suffering with all this. I constantly end up sleeping on the couch in the living room, with Brain leashed to the end of the couch so he doesn’t ambulate freely all night long creating havoc. If he barks or howls I will pull on the leash a little, see if that works. Or I may get up and let him outside.
He was prescribed Trazodon as a sleeping aid, but that will only knock him out for an hour or two, after which he will wake up, drugged, confused, and equally barky and howly.
I am the only one that can handle him when he’s at his worst. I know all the subtleties and nuances. I know when he will snap and when to quickly move my hand away before he chomps on it. A 20lb, 15.5yo Boston with missing teeth can still bite down hard and break skin if he catches you unguarded.
Another concern of mine is that my son is fascinated by Brain. He doesn’t even flinch when Brain has a barking fit. He is 7mo and is now showing signs he’ll start crawling any time soon. Before we know it, he will be walking/running as well. That gives me pause. Brain will not attack unprovoked, but and uninvited hand could surely be taken by him as provocation. We will always keep them apart, but walking infants and old dogs are both unpredictable and occasionally sneaky.
Brain sleeps most of the day, so at night he is definitely energized. I’ve tried to keep him up during the day, but work schedule doesn’t allow me to constantly monitor him. It’s also not easy to keep him up during the day, though. He is lethargic and mostly uninterested in doing anything. He is not very keen on going for walks unless it’s warm outside. But even if I did manage to keep him mostly awake and active during the day, he will still be agitated and disruptive all night.
I am looking forward to warmer weather soon so I can at least have him exercise a little more. Maybe that will help with his cognition, and hopefully it will tire him enough to maybe sleep better at night.
I don’t know if there are other drugs he can take, but it seems like we have tried everything his body can take (he has other health issues, so not every drug is on the table).
I know his journey is coming to an end in the not so distant future. It’s a disarming thought. Mostly because dementia is not clear cut, and the decision of when to draw the line will fall on me. How do I know if he is suffering more than he is enjoying life? Mental anguish is not as straight forward as physical pain. At some point, this will not be sustainable. I don’t know when that is, though. When one can confidently draw that line. All I know at this moment is that he is not doing great, but it is also probably not his time just yet. I think that’s the case. I hope that’s the case. I can’t tell and I’m getting desperate not only for him, but for myself and my family too. I can’t stress enough how sleep deprived I am and how much it has affected my own health and well-being, and that of my wife, who maybe doesn’t deal with Brain at night, but does wake up often with the barking and the howling.
I am not going to send him away to a shelter or anything like that. I doubt he would be any happier in an unknown place, living in a crate. (I for one can’t bear the thought) And he’s most likely not the type of dog that could be rehabilitated with training at this point. Too late for that.
Sadly, I am thinking that I will wait for the weather to get warmer, maybe that will help some, and in the meantime suck it up with the limited sleep and constant stresses. Best case scenario, he will have a good spring summer and be active during the day and sleep at night. Worst case, he will enjoy some days and continue to be miserable at nights.
At the very least, I want him to enjoy a few more months of walking out in good weather (whenever that happens), smelling whichever tree and fire hydrant he desires. He genuinely does seem happy then. That makes me happy.
Please, if you have some suggestions, I would love to hear them. I am pretty bummed out about it all and anything is appreciated.
Thank you for sharing your story. I hope that it helps other owners to see their dog in your Brain. It is very true that dementia is not clear cut. That’s is a huge part of what makes it so excruciating for us. My vet helped me to see that dementia is not necessary mental “anguish”. The “problem” is that he was just phyisically present but not mentally – that his body was animated but he was not mentally able to enjoy life anymore. I hope he is either still with you and you have been able to get some sleep or you chose to let him go and have some peace with your decision.
Thank you so much for sharing your story. I needed to read your words tonight. I’ve suspected for quite a while that my Sam has dementia. Before reading your story I had no idea that he had so many symptoms. He seems to forget where he’s going and stares into the distance often. I assumed the forgetfulness to potty outside is normal for a 15 year old doxie. But he also struggles to remember how to use the doggy door. More often than not he scratches at it now. I’m fearful he won’t know how to come back in while I’m away from home. The weather is temperate now but if it were extreme either way I’d have to lock Sam and his brother inside while I’m away from home. I thought the constant desperate need for food was a new symptom of the PLE he’s battled for years. He literally yells at me for it. And the pacing! I just told my husband the other day I wish I could put a Fitbit on him to see how far his little legs take him everyday. Thankfully he still sleeps well at night. I cannot tell you the last time he wagged his tail though. It’s always down and occasionally between his legs. My sweet, sweet, happy boy…where are you? I don’t want to make this decision.
I’m so sorry Debra. Dementia, if that is what it is, is a very difficult thing to deal with, mentally and emotionally. I have an article on my other Dachshund blog specifically about dementia. You can check it out here: https://formydachshund.com/is-your-senior-dachshund-showing-signs-of-canine-dementia/. If you do continue to suspect dementia, I encourage you to discuss it with your veterinarian.
Thank you for sharing this and putting this out here. Opening up like this. Right now my almost 15 year old Golden/Corgi mix is going through this and just got off the phone with the vet and he has seen my girl since she was a pup. He basically said is definitely dementia and it now becomes a quality of life race and I am so not ready for this at all. Every thing you described my dog has been slowly going down that path since last September and has only gotten worse this last few weeks. She had a bad fall on steps and things have gone downhill. I have had dogs before but my girl has been with me the longest. She has been here as long as my two daughters. And tears are rolling down my face as I type this. Thank you again for sharing.
I’m sorry you hear you are going through this John but glad that my article helped in some small way. You will know when the right time to let your her go is. Until then, cherish every moment.
Thank you for helpful article….I recently had to put down my minpin Rosco of 15+ years. It was so heartbreaking. I was told he had dementia about three months ago. It was a steady and awful decline. Towards the end he had trouble standing up and walking without bumping into things. But he was still eating and drinking. He hardly slept and he seemed tormented at night. He would bark nonstop and walk around aimlessly. We tried everything and was giving him sedatives all day long which at the end became a struggle and I felt we were forcing the pills on him. The vet said there was only one option left as he would not get better. He did not seem to enjoy life much anymore. His little head would shake so much. So we decided to put him to sleep two weeks ago which was so hard to do. I guess I always thought in the end he would be more physically sick, not eating, drinking unable to walk at all etc… I think that would have made the decision a little easier. Thanks again.
I’m so sorry you had to go through that.
I am so sorry that you had to make such a difficult decision like that. I have had to make it once before, but it was very clear that it was the end. Unfortunately I am needing to make that decision once more.
My 17 year old Schnauzer mix was diagnosed with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction about a year and a half ago. It had definitely been going on before that, but I didn’t know what it was. After countless months, probably closer to two years, I have experienced interrupted sleep and almost constant monitoring. When she is awake, I have to keep an eye on her to make sure that she doesn’t pee or poop on the floor, get lost or stuck somewhere, dribble water all over the floor, etc. It has been exhausting! Her other health issues include a sarcoma on her hip, weakened rear legs due to Degenerative Myelopathy and her vision is slowly failing. I have kept her with us for all of the reasons that you kept your little guy around. Her organs are healthy, she can still walk, etc.
After reading your blog post, I am taking it as a sign that it is time. Thank you for talking about the “selfish” aspect of this. (My dog is currently next to my TV tray that I have my laptop on and she is trying to figure out how to get out from where she is.) I am glad that I’m not the only one feeling like I have to do what is best for me and her. Her state is starting to affect my health and I know that she isn’t going to get better. She was such a good dog in her younger days. One of the best. Luckily I do have two other dogs to help soothe the pain. It will never replace my Sweetness, but it does help. One thing that I have said to my husband is that I feel like I said goodbye to her a while ago. I’m glad that you mentioned that at this point, they are only physically here. That is so true. 🙁
Thank you so much for sharing your story. It has helped me tremendously. God bless.
Hi Joanna. I’m sorry you are are having to go through this. I don’t wish it on anyone. I’m glad reading my story helped you.
Thank you. I decided to send her over the Rainbow Bridge on Friday. It went very well and was very beautiful. She was so at peace and I knew that I had done the right thing.
I’m so sorry you had to say goodbye but am glad to hear your heart is at peace with your decision. Hugs to you.
I saw this while “in the middle” of my decision. My SWEET Nina has been with me nearly 15 years. She has been one of the greatest gifts God has given me. Yesterday, I made the decision to do what is best for her, and tomorrow morning, we go to the Vet, together, for the last time. She has been my heart on legs and my shadow for those years. My sunshine in the rain. Literally, the only reason to live, sometimes, as I fought my own battles with cancer and a Brain Tumor and so much more. I know that this is the right thing to do by and for her, and will show how much I love her, but it’s so hard. Your piece helps bring me some peace and comfort. Thank you…
I’m so sorry your journey together has come to an end Amanda. I am sure she knew how much you loved her and you gave her the best life that you could.
Hi, I have just finished reading your blog and had to take a few minutes to myself. Such a sad but warming story to read and at this present moment am feeling everything you did.
The thing is I’m really not sure whether my situation is the same, whether my best friend has dementia or it’s old age. All I can do is explain his actions. I know you are not a vet, but you are the next best thing in having had that experience.
I’m so confused. I don’t want to take him to the vet to be poked and prodded and to have tests; he’s nearly 15 years old. He’s always been such a lively cross collie; full of energy and life, however I would say it’s been since he had an op on his back leg as he tore his cruciate ligament. Hasn’t been the same since (2 yr ago) he occasionally stares into corners and briefly at the wall, goes to the opposite side of the door when taking him out (sometimes) and Altho he’s slowed down a lot walking, his sniffing has increased immensely. I am not sure whether his eye sight or hearing is fading as he doesn’t always know you are behind him; yet not walking into things and he still looks as though he can see me as he looks up the stairs when I go? We call him out loudly but doesn’t seem to hear us, yet jumps at certain noises? He eats really well, but not maintaining his weight as he’s becoming quite bony 🙁 He does sleep more and struggles getting up and sometimes off balance. He has been waking up in the middle of the night for the last few months pooping and paces a lot.
He just doesn’t have the energy to play, but… how will I know. I wouldn’t wait to see him in pain, we have had him on CBD oil for some time now and feel it helps but still groans occasionally.
I know his faculties are going but still doesn’t seem right to let him go yet. I know that sounds selfish but i don’t think he’s that bad although I don’t know how bad they have to be 🙁 he also has arthritis which may explain some of the things, but really not sure about the dementia whether it is that or whether it is… just old age?!
Hi Lisa. First, there is no “poked and prodded” test for dementia. At least not for most and especially not at first. Your vet will ask you questions about his behavior, and perhaps to some sensory tests to verify he can smell and hear fine, and assess whether he has dementia or not based on that. The symptoms you describe could be a number of things, including dementia or perhaps not. it’s definitely work having him checked out since it might be something that can be managed with medication. Good luck to you.
Hi, how are you? I hope you’re well. I stumbled across your story looking up on how to live with a dog with dementia because I’m desperate for answers. I would like to begin with I admired your love and dedication towards Chester, he was a lucky dog to have you as his companion. Your story is heartfelt, made me cry but also comforting. I connected with your story as I think I’m about to embark on a similar heart wrenching end with my dog but I’m not sure yet or maybe I’m in denial. My dogs name is Vito, he is a Lhasa apso, he turned 13 in October. He started to become deaf or so I thought, he wasn’t responding to his name or hearing when I came home and greeting me with a delayed reaction. I got him a full medical check up to eliminate physical ailments: all of his white blood cells, organs, hearing, no diabetes, etc. He’s healthy and he can hear fine. He does have arthritis in back legs, he’s now on medication to ease any pain. The vet has suggested dementia as an explanation for his odd behaviours and the change in him. In recent weeks he doesn’t respond to his name anymore (I assume he has forgotten it), he has started to pee at 1-2AM in the living room but not every night (yet?), stares at the sky or appears to stare at the wall or wardrobe sometimes (or maybe into space), all he wants to do now sit by my side and overall when you look into his eyes he seems different. He looks depressed. He does still recognise me, wags his tail when he sees familiar family members but doesn’t bother with them after the initial greeting, has some moments of play but not for long. When he goes for a walk in his area he still knows his way around and knows his way back (on the leash he leads the way), if I take him somewhere else, like the park he’s ok, less interested in other dogs than before but he was kinda always like that, minus a few exceptions. He will constantly want to sit and sleep beside me, all day, he does not want to be alone. If I get up, he’ll follow me. Although today he did lie on the bed by himself. Is this how Chester began? I’m trying to establish how long he’s had the symptoms of dementia(?). The Vet hasn’t been helpful and has said to try some medicines to reduce symptoms but they don’t appear to be working. I’m feeling extremely guilty because I think I overlooked some of the symptoms early on, he started to howl when I left him home alone from November last year (which was only for an hour or 2 at most), I just thought he was getting old but now I realise it was separation anxiety(?). I did start to make sure he wasn’t alone for no more than an hour and now of course I never leave him alone. Like you I don’t want to get to the point where he doesn’t recognise me, that will be too heartbreaking in a already unbearable situation. I’m struggling to cope emotionally and I’m only at the beginning (I think) of this disease with him. I won’t be able to bear it when I finally have to make the decision to place him at peace. I feel in limbo with him. I miss him already even though he’s still with me, it’s the constant expectation of when he will become worse and forget me. I want to make him comfortable and happy as possible during these times of his life but he looks unhappy. I know we all inevitably have to say goodbye, even to our pets, but dementia is one of the most unfair things. I don’t want to look into his eyes one day and not see him in there anymore. Currently right now he looks and his demeanour is one of a very unhappy dog. He’s just not happy. I don’t know how to make him happy. Even on his walks he’s not a happy dog.
Hi Michael. It definitely sounds like Vito is experiencing the beginning to moderate stages of dementia. The fact that your vet said that may be a cause reinforces my (non-veterinary) opinion. First, don’t beat yourself up. First, that won’t help anything. But, more importantly, based on my experience with Chester, it’s almost impossible to catch the “first signs” because those first signs often look like something else. It’s not until there are several symptoms that can’t be explained by other medical causes that dementia can be suspected. As symptoms progress, if they do, it’s really only then that dementia can be confirmed. It is true that the earlier you can start medication to slow the progression down the better but it can help at any stage. It can also not help. Medications don’t work for every dog. Also, gauging whether it “worked” or not is hard because medication is not intended to reverse any symptoms – just make them progress slower. Progression is progression and it’s difficult to tell if it progressed slower than it would have without the medication. In regard to when it’s time to say goodbye, do remember that “happy”, in the contest of “he doesn’t LOOK happy”, is a human emotion we often put on our pets. It’s very subjective. I suggest you look at his quality of life score. This worksheet is a basic walk-through and calculation of it: https://journeyspet.com/pet-quality-of-life-scale-calculator/. You can find other information that explains it online too. The quality of life score offers a more objective look at your pet’s quality of life. I’m sorry you are having to deal with this. It was very heartbreaking to me. I hope that my response helped.
I am literally in the midst of this right now with my pup Isa (sounds like Lisa without an “L”).
She’s 14-15 or so, a bichon/maltese, fluffy little 13lb white thing. Spunky and sweet, but over the last few months has lost her sight, and I’m afraid is in the grasp of doggie dimentia. Constant anxiety, howling, barking, whining when not medicated. Have tried food and treats and are supposed to stimulate brain activity to no avail. The vet keeps prescribing drugs but they all amp up her anxiety, not the other way around.
She’s just not the same dog anymore, but luckily still healthy physically.
I’m at a fork in the road because of that. I’m torn because my gut says her quality of life can’t possibly be good (deaf, blind, scared/anxious all the time unless on her Xanax) but on the other hand still can walk/climb stairs and has a good appetite.
She is my first dog, and a GREAT dog, but I’m afraid she’s starting to lose sense of who I am. (Doesn’t cuddle much anymore, again, unless sedated and certainly doesn’t play or run/chase with me anymore.)
This feels like the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make….
I’m sorry Kevin. Indeed decisions about when to let our pets go is one of the hardest decisions in life. I definitely feel for you. If you haven’t already, I would talk to your veterinarian and have him or her help you objectively assess her quality of life.
Thank you so much for sharing your very personal experience. I read your story and cried because I can relate to it. My beloved Sadie, also a dachshund, will be 20 in 2 months. She’s shared her life with me since she was 6 weeks old. She’s a part of the family and like 1 of my kids – in fact she grew up with my youngest daughter. For the last 4 years she’s struggled with dementia. She doesn’t remember anyone but me and lately has become aggressive to other people she used to know and love. She’s actually tried to bite me twice this week when I picked her up outside when she refused to come in the house. She wanders all night, is incontinent, has a sporadic appetite, stares into space, barks constantly at nothing, and stumbles often. Her symptoms are getting worse. I’ve even thought the worse of neighbors thinking they poisoned her because of her behavior but I should know better as they’ve always been kind and have pets themselves. I admit I keep hoping she will pass peacefully on her own. I mean, how many dogs live to her age? I know she doesn’t have quality of life anymore but I’m struggling with the idea of having her put to sleep. I lost another doxie 4 years ago to cancer and made that decision. It still hurts. I also watched my father fade away when he had dementia before he passed. I feel selfish but I can’t do it. Any advice? It’s heartbreaking for me to watch her go through this but just as painful to think of her being gone.
Hi Roxy. I am sorry that you and Sadie are dealing with dementia. I know it’s very hard to say goodbye but I do implore you to consider her quality of life and comfort. As I said in my article, letting a pet go when their quality of life just isn’t there anymore is the most compassionate thing you can do for your pet. Perhaps she would choose to say goodbye but her body just won’t quit? And maybe she will get miserable before it does? It’s a very personal decision and I know you will make the right one for you guys though. My thoughts are with you.
Every emotion I’m feeling at this moment n have felt in the last week relates to so many of these stories I am reading. My handsome toy/ rat terrier is coming home today , I don’t know if I will get peace from looking at a box on my shelf or if it will just make me sad. Chance was a rescue that had been through a rough beginning, i brought him home when he was nine months old, the most timid shy baby, he had not been treated well, I nursed him back to health, he had worms, fleas and was scared. I loved him back to a “dog”, for seventeen years he has been my best friend , my shadow, my handsome.! The thought of him not by my side would make me cry but the dementia was getting to a point where I knew I was being selfish, keeping him going through the hell I saw everyday. Every description of CC’d which people have described , Chance had, this amazing strong dog never once cried out or complained during this hell on earth. I miss him every minute, I see him in the house everywhere , it’s such a void. Watching videos of him brings me temporary happiness n I can get through the day. Thank you for this venting platform, it has helped me to know others who loved their friend like I did, always will. My heart aches but I know he’s not hurting anymore n I will see him again.
I’m so sorry you and Chance had to experience dementia and that you had to say goodbye. Losing a pet is heartbreaking enough but being taken by a mental disease feels more cruel. Hugs to you.
I’m so relieved to have found your post and it’s given me some peace. I’m 22 right now and my family has scheduled to put our 15 year old dog, Tucker, to sleep next week and I’m very deeply emotionally attached to him because we’ve had him in our lives since he was about 5 weeks old. I’ve been really struggling with if it’s right for him or if it’s selfish of us because he’s declined in ways we weren’t expecting so suddenly. I keep googling “when is it time to put your dog to sleep” because I just needed confirmation that we were doing the right thing. The past few months have been absolutely heartbreaking for us, and I think now I’m ready to accept that it’s best not to let him get to the point of suffering. I want to hold on, but he’s ready to let go. I don’t know if you’ll read this, but I just really appreciated seeing that it wasn’t just me that felt the way I was feeling and I wanted to thank you.
Hi Rylee. I am sorry you have to say goodbye to Tucker. I’m glad reading my blog post helped you.
I know this article is older, but I wanted to let you know how much peace it brought me on Monday. I made the choice to say goodbye to my sweet Emmie, a 16 year old Chiweenie. Her dementia was becoming such an issue that most nights it would take Melatonin and Xanax for her to relax. While her body was slowly starting to fail her (arthritis, constant shaking, muscle spasms), it was ultimately her mind that she was fighting. I couldn’t bare to see her suffer another night and had to say goodbye. Looking back, I realize how much I adjusted everything to accommodate her and was not truly seeing the reality of what was happening.
Your last line in this article brought me so much really resonated with me. I questioned if it was too early but also realize I was probably only seeing part of her pain. I miss her so much. So so much. But I remind myself (and deep down inside, I know) the best thing was letting her go before it got even worse for both the both of us.
I’m sorry for your loss Allison. I’m sure Emmie knew how much she was cherished.
Jessica, I’m lying here awake at 1:30 a.m., and I just came across this post. It’s 3 years since you had to help your sweet Chester cross the rainbow bridge. I will be doing the same thing for my dear boy, Rags, on May 18th. This has been the most difficult decision because end of life dementia is not clear cut. Your words have helped me during this very difficult time. Thank you for sharing your experience. ~Colleen Corey
I’m sorry for your loss Colleen.
Thank you for sharing your story of your sweet Chester. Also, for all the comments if others that have gone thru the same thing. My Micky, a little female American Eskimo, is 15. I got her when she was 7. A rescue dog. Her master died and she was left outside in Colorado by his adult children thru winter without any shelter. We bonded the first time we met and I brought her home. She has dementia and kidney disease. Dx in December. I have bought her renal dog food, moist and dry. Never know if she will eat or not. She prefers human food and I give her a little, but I am a renal dietitian and I know it stresses the kidney function that she has left. She has had accidents. Has a dog door and that never happened before. I’m always looking for wet spots on my carpet. She seems to prefer my red rugs in the kitchen..sometimes. At least I can throw them in the washer. I have been more patient with her because I know she never would have done this if she was aware. She used to jump on my bed at night. That stopped. Then she was jumping up in my recliner and lying with me for hours at a time. I’d be afraid to move. That has stopped. I pet her face and sometimes she will really lean in to it, so I will stroke her as long as my back will let me. The thing is, she always looks so sad now. She looks up at me and there is no joy or happiness their. She still gets a little excited when aI come home from work, but that is slipping away too. It is the sadness that is breaking my heart. I have a friend that is a dog groomer, and if I bring up the subject of euthanasia, she immediately makes me feel guilty. The sadness in her eyes is breaking my heart. I found a place in a city an hour from my home that will let me sit with her and hold her while she slips away. I believe dogs go to heaven and we get them back when we go….so why am I hanging on now. And another place that will cremate her with dignity and love. I just don’t know when. My heart is breaking.
Hi Joan. That sounds like a very heartbreaking situation and Micky does indeed seem like she is getting tired of going on like she is. It’s super upsetting to me that your friend would make you feel guilty for trying to do the right thing for her. I don’t know your friend but she doesn’t seem to understand the difference between our personal desire to keep our pets around as long as we can vs trying to be the best owner we can by selflessly being willing to let them go when it’s time. I hope you can find some peace with whatever decision you make.
Thank you for sharing your story. It validated everything I felt when making the decision for my black and tan dachshund Joey who was about 16.5. The guilt about making the decision for selfish reasons was the hardest part.
Hi Cynthia. I’m sorry you were faced with such a gut-wrenching decision. I’m glad sharing my story helped you.
I wanted to share my story with others. On June 12th, I had to make a very difficult decision to have my beloved faithful companion of 14.5 years Tucker put to sleep. Tucker was an Irish Terrier/Poodle mix and was diagnosed and had surgery for Hemangiopericytoma (cancer) last year. While the vet gave him a few months to live due to his age, God granted me a year in which I held on to him so tightly. However his pain and suffering became greater than my need to hang on and keep him here with me any longer, I loved him like a son. He would howl and scream all night long. The vet gave me various medications to help with his pain, for a while Tucker seemed to handle things well, so I kept loving and caring for him. He soon started to lose weight, went from 25lbs to12lbs. He began to have accidents, trouble walking and sleeping. For six months, I hand fed him, gave him water, changed his diapers, and lost sleep caring for his every need. It was like caring for a baby again. It was when he stopped eating, drinking and walking, and could not hold his head up that the decision had to be made. When I adopted Tucker; I had just lost the love of my life to cancer in 2006, and I wanted the man around the house. So letting him go was never an option at the time until one day, God whispered to me and told me all about His cycle of all life with a beginning and an ending, and I should not hold onto anyone or anything to the point that it becomes crippling, and I was crippled at the thought of letting him go. I would not sleep for days on end just watching him. So, I finally let my love go. He is back home now, in his favorite spot, my office. I still have two little ones, 17 and 16. I will hold them close, but not to the point where it scares and cripples me. Emma has dementia now, Coco is also getting older, but I will not wait until it is almost too late because I know I truly loves them and want them to keep their dignity.
Hi Dawn. I am not able to check my blog comments often in the summer because we are so busy. So I apologize for the delay. Thank so much for sharing your story. The more people that share their experiences, the more people can be helped through this heartbreaking transition period. I’m sorry for your loss.
Hi, I just wanted to say your blog has really helped.
So, my little boy (parsons JRT) was diagnosed with hypothyroidism summer last year… not long after, even though we got his thyroid levels under control, his health in other areas diminished as a result of the hypothyroidism. My little man went deaf and shortly after.. was diagnosed with vascular dementia. At only 10 years old.
He did good for a year.. with only little dips. Then the past months got a little worse, then the past weeks all we could see was suffering. We’d tried EVERYTHING with the vet. But he got to point of pacing, up at night, ‘stuck’ in corners, little cries of confusion as he circled the living area, soiling in the house, he couldn’t walk as far, got tired very quickly, forgot he was out on a walk at times!
We held on to the idea that because he had good ‘moments’ and still enjoyed food and even initially going out for a walk etc.. that he had quality…. But it wasn’t quality of life.
I was so frightened of making the decision. I didn’t want to lose my boy! He’s my heart, my soul… he’s literally the reason I exist!
But we couldn’t see him suffer anymore… when we stopped looking through rose tinted glasses we saw he was lost, he was depressed, he wasnt him anymore. So, yesterday we said our goodbyes. It was the most heart wrenching thing I’ve ever had to do! (Especially as he was so frightened in the vets as he didn’t know where he was or who the people were – he’s never been upset at the vet before). I held him and he went in my arms.
The thing is… the absolute pain and agony I’m in without him is unbearable. I know he’s suffering has ended… and I’m in my suffering now. The anger, sadness, guilt! But reading your blog has helped me.. I did the best for my baby… till the very end ❤️
I’m sorry for your loss and that sharing my experience helped.
Im sitting here searching on the internet try to find some kind of comfort in my decision I had to make over my baby girl who I have 3 days left together. So as Im searching I came across this story and WOW, exactly my story, exactly what im going through! So my baby is a black lab 13 years and 3 months old. She has hip and elbow dysplasia and kidney issues therefore the every day medication is a problem for the kidney. Every day as I inject the medication in her mouth I feel so bad knowing I m poisoning her kidney, but I had to make a decision what she benefits more. So we decided on the pain killers. I tried everything , I tried all the natural treatments but nothing worked.
So here I am worrying about kidney failure or if she wont b able to move one day as her hips bearly hanging there almost out of the sack, and then one day like a few weeks ago I noticed she does very strange things (now I know they are dementia symptoms) then I didnt know what to think! We blamed it on old age, pain. I mentioned to our Vet but I never got a clear answer, so I started my research and yes my girl has dementia and has all the listed symptoms. I imidiately orderd all the supplements I found to stop it cause Im in panic attack to losing her. Unfortunately she is worse by the day, going downhill so so fast I just cant believe what’s happening… I took time off from work just to nurse her cause she needs help! She soiling in the house she need to be hand fed cause she dont know how to eat, she still find the water but takes her awhile to figure it out beetween circling around. The night are raugh, I havent got much sleep lately, some days I feel like a zombie. Im debating every day to make this step cause It hurts my heart to see her being lost and sad, but making this decision is killing me , it hurts so bad I feel lost! I feel horrible as I got upset with her making a mess in the house etc, before I knew of all this. But since I found out about her condition I cant stop loving on her, I want to hold her 24/7, not like I didn’t do it before but now its stronger then ever. I would do anything to see the spark back in her beautifull eyes. Just to hear an other bark. Unfortunately she stoped barking for over a week now, its just the crying, mowing sound. Also she isnt interested in food for a couple of days, I cook for her all kind of goodies but doesn’t matter, I go after her with little bites just to keep her strong, but no success more then a few bites. I decided to call a mobil vet who comes to my house as we live two hours away from a clinic and it’s extremely cold outside in alaska where we live I want her to be in her own comfort and not be terrified of going in a clinic on her own little wobbly feet.
Well, unfortunately the soonest they can come out is 3 more days, i say unfortunately cause she is suffering, im suffering with her but at the same time I have more time with her to loving on her every minute of the day! At the moment I cant picture life without her beautiful face, im terrified of the day, the moment. She is sleeping with her head on my lap at the momen, and I already miss her crazy! I feel like I waited too long just like Jessica’s story sais.. no good days just bad, and now that she dont eat Im not even sure how we gona make it 3 more days. 🙁
My other dog who im very very close to , he started to distance himself from me, looks like he is scared to come close when I take care of my girl. Its my other heartbreak as I will need him more then ever once we get through this.
Sorry my story got a little long. Thank you for the article again, it helped me! God bless everyone and all the beautiful little creatures.
I’m s sorry you had to go through this experience and agonizing decision. I trust your girl has found peace now and your heart has started to heal. Hugs to you.
If I am honest with myself, our miniature dachshund, “Duck”, is a shell of her former self. She is only 12.5 years old, but weighs 6.4 lbs, half her 13 lbs of youth. The incontinence is manageable, but all she does is sleep, she doesn’t even want to cuddle on the couch. I could write dozens of paragraphs about the dog we loved and the dog we have. Forgive me, I know that sounds terrible, but this beloved pet has completely disrupted our household.
Why haven’t I euthanized Duck? She still eats, with passion. She still wags her tail when she sees me. She still has a sparkle in her eye. There are still moments when she is Duck. If she wasn’t so emaciated, you would think she is a normal, healthy dog. I can’t conger up the courage to kill a dog I know would continue living if I don’t intervene.
I know my household is suffering, even if the dog is not. The end is near, I just need to find the courage. Your post and all the comments will help me do this.
Hi Bill. I’m so very sorry you are going through this with Duck. It helped me with Chester to not think of letting him go as “killing” him. I shifted my thinking toward the end. I came to realize I was honoring him when I recognized it was his time to pass on and let him do that. I didn’t want to wait until there were zero moments of Chester left. It’s such an individual decision and I hope you can find peace in whatever you have decided to do at this point.
Well Jessica, I finally found the courage to euthanize Duck. At the time of her death, she weighed only 5.5 lbs. If I am honest with myself, I waited too long.
I found a really good veterinarian who came to the house. She anesthetized Duck just like before surgery or a teeth cleaning. I was given all the time I needed to say goodbye, then I left the room and the lethal dose was administered. I got to “be there” for Duck without being there when she died.
It hurts really bad, but our vet made the best of an impossible situation.
I’m so sorry for your loss, Bill. I’m glad you were able to find a compassionate vet that would let you say goodbye to Duck in your own home.
Thank you for sharing your heartfelt story. I’m in very much the same situation, and have been agonizing over the final decision. It helps very much to read your words, feel your hurt, and know that someone is out there that truly understands.
Your story of sweet Chester has given me strength to do what I know is right for my boy. I write this through tears but I am releasing the guilt. He is ready. And so am I.
Laurie – I’m glad my article helped and I’m sorry you have to say goodbye to your furry friend.
I cannot tell you how bad I needed to read this today. I’m having to make the decision to put my baby to sleep tomorrow. She’s a 16.5 year old Tibbie. I’ve beat myself up thinking I’m “killing” her. I feel such horrible guilt. She still looks at me with her beautiful little eyes. I’m having to hand feed her and hold her up to drink water because she’ll fall in the water bowl if I don’t. She’s been my sidekick through the worst and best of my life. But after reading this, I know it’s for the best. Thank you for sharing this.
I’m very sorry you had to say goodbye
My husband and I are going through this with our 15 year old lab and it’s agonizing. At least once a week we have the discussion of where our line is. Where her line is. I’m exhausted, frustrated, beyond sad and so so so guilty feeling. Thank you for your article and the raw emotion you showed. It doesn’t make it easier but it is comforting knowing we aren’t alone.
I’m sorry you are being faced with this decision Amber.
I said goodbye to my 14 year old husky shepherd two days ago. He had been struggling with dementia for a year and a half, and it was so stressful: finally reaching the diagnosis, dealing with his anxiety, his pacing, being up all night, scratching at me and breathing at me heavily, as if he was expecting me to calm his worries but I had no way of doing that. He would stand in narrow places, stare at the wall, eat things from the garbage, and occasionally get lost in the neighbourhood. My vet and I eventually found a combination of three different drugs that put him on my sleep schedule, but the joy was mostly gone, and he was no longer my boy. He didn’t play, on our walks he became obsessed with just sniffing everything. He still recognized me but seemed indifferent to me. He would not even greet me in the same way when I came home. A few weekends ago he caught kennel cough despite being vaccinated, and it took a real toll on his body. He lost control of his bladder, he had no strength in his back end, and he just stumbled around the house coughing and hacking. I decided to have him put down.
The things is – I do think he would have recovered from the cough. But our bond that had been so strong was broken by all the stress, the sleepless nights, and the fact that I could no longer comfort him as his human. I don’t think he enjoyed life anymore.
The hardest part was seeing that he was gone – he was wrapped in the blanket at the vet and his little paws no longer reacted to my squeeze. All I wanted to do was pet his soft ears and little head cause I will never get to again.
I’m so very sorry you had to let him go Carla.
Hello Jessica, I’ve just read your post. We had to put our beloved dog a month ago, same story, dementia… What a terrible disease… She had had cancer before that and thanks to CBD oil, she recovered, though unfortunately developed kidney issues after the surgery. Then dementia hit and I felt exactly the same as you. Thank you for being so brutally honest. I loved her to the moon, she was the centre of my life and the decision to euthanise her was excruciating. But I believe the only choice. We shouldn’t hold on to suffering pets forever as it is unfair to them. I hope we meet our pets in the afterlife or that they are still with us now but in a different form. What heartbreak and loss… I wish you all the best and once thanks for this genuine account, Karolina
I’m very sorry you had to say goodbye to your baby.
Wow this really hit home. I’ve been struggling with the decision for my 18 year old Yorkie and it’s breaking my heart. He has kidney disease and dementia. Thankfully I don’t have to travel to an office for work, so we spend every day together. I love being with him every day, but saying the selfish things out loud- it’s exhausting. Especially considering he also keeps me up at night pacing and whining until he’s ready to go to sleep. He is still eating, a lot, and I was also taking that as a sign that he was hanging in there and now I realize that may not be the case. I’m not ready for what’s coming, but I know I will never be.
I’m sorry you are going through the dementia experience with your dog. It’s so difficult. I hope that my article at least showed you that you are not alone.
I found your website looking up my little Shadowman, my nearly 15 year old mini-schnauzer who has begun urinating on the floor. In reading the comments, he had begun increasing his water intake some time ago, and I’ve been flushing/detoxing his kidneys, hoping that could help. His hind quarters have clearly weakened and “the hesitance” of getting up, had me begin CBD from a trusted friend who has seen over 74 stage 4 cancer remissions and many other miracles from the use of CBD.
I wept reading these messages around dementia, as his head/jaw does have bouts of tremoring, but it goes away, and hasn’t shown any signs since beginning the CBD.
I know the pain as though it was yesterday when my 10 year old Gizmo ruptured a tumor I didn’t know he had, and was bleeding out. Looking at me rushing him to the emergency vet as my vet said he was losing blood (blue tongue), looking at me with the whites of his eyes, as if to say, Mom, I don’t want to do this without you, tore my heart out, as I had to put him down that day, with zero warning.
Reading these comments with tears still streaming down my face, knowing that everyday he is here on Earth side, still with his little King prance and capacity to run will be a day I will honor in gratitude. Until the day comes when he is no longer showing the joy that clearly says, Mom, I’m still loving my life, I too know what will need to be done to honor the unconditional love that wraps my heart in love.
My heart truly aches, and the tears still stream when I remember the last breath of my other two treasured Souls. What they have taught me about unconditional love is incomprehensible and beyond words.
When I read about the people who could just abandon their senior dog off at a shelter, the amount of pain and rage I feel leaves me sometimes hopeless that our humanity will ever WTF up and realize the all sentient life matters, and carries equal value (I may argue greater value than many less than humans) to any life. They’ve given us their tail wagging unconditional love for their entire life…. and the very least I can do is return the depths of my love as they journey into their senior years. When I see someone just drop their dog off at the vet and refuse to stay until their last breath, this too sends me beyond my normally balanced heart….
Godspeed awakening to all those who are disconnected from their own hearts that they cannot feel the depths of unfathomable love that lives in the beating heart of the gift of emotions that our humanity offers.
I’m still weeping and have a lot of reckoning to embrace…
Hi Carla. Thank you for your heartfelt reply. I apologize for taking so long to reply but I was switching my website over to a new look and was unable to make any changes during that process (so replying to comments had to wait). Losing a beloved furry family member is heartbreaking. My first experience with Chester actually made me reconsider signing up for the experience again. I already had a second but did I want to go through it a third time? The answer was yes for me but it was something I gave a lot of thought to. I’m glad that Shadowman is still doing relatively well and that you are able to enjoy more special time together.
Our Mia is 15 next month & things have gotten really bad. She paces & whines 18 of 24 hours at all times of the day. I go through 30 pee pads a week, our home & kitchen are tiny so half my kitchen is pee pads & I have to pick my way between the mess to do laundry or get anything from the back of the kitchen. She’s gotten snappy at times & like your baby she’s constantly fixated on food. We have 2 different beds for her & the couch pillows are lined up along it so she has a soft place to land when she falls off. She has a heart murmur that she’s had all her life but now she has these attacks about every 6 weeks that are cardiac related, she comes out of them after a few minutes but I’m constantly on edge waiting for the next one. I love her, but I’m losing patience fast so then I feel guilty. On top of all this, she’s essentially my husband’s dog, I’ve only been in her life for the past 10 years, he’s a truck driver so he’s gone 5 of 7 days a week. He never validates how hard this is so it’s creating resentment. Oh, just the guilt of it all is so, so hard. I identified with so much of what you wrote, thank you for validating me!
Oh, Julie, what an impossible position to be in. End of life care is always difficult – physically and emotionally – on the primary caretaker. It’s very hard for one to understand if they haven’t been in your position. I assume you have sat down with your Husband and had a hard conversation about Mia’s condition and how difficult it can be for you at times? Perhaps you two should visit the veterinarian together and discuss quality of life for Mia and when it might be time to say goodbye? The information would be coming from a neutral party so he may be more open to hearing it. I wish you luck. Be sure to take care of yourself too.