Columbia Dog Talk: Helping Riley, my golden-ager dog

Riley, our 13-year-old Havanese, has been through quite a month. We're learning how to keep our canine senior citizen happy and comfortable.

Riley, my Havanese, has been through quite a month. Long story short, he was diagnosed with acute pancreatitis and spent a night in the emergency clinic on Jan 19. He seemed to be doing well afterwards, but his bloodwork showed liver problems and he began to show signs of jaundice. We followed up with a specialist visit and an ultrasound, which showed a “biliary mucocele” and very high liver enzyme levels. Surgery was recommended.

We are opting to not do the surgery for several reasons. One, surgery and anesthesia are risky at Riley’s age (13 years), especially with his high bloodwork numbers right now. And, from what I read, although the results of the surgery are excellent, it has a very high mortality rate—like 1 in 5 to 1 in 3. But, mainly, when we look at Riley now, he is feeling good, eating well, and has no pain, vomiting or diarrhea, or any symptoms really—other than the signs of jaundice. So we are choosing to keep him happy and comfortable, come what may. And we are also doing a trial of antibiotics, along with a low-fat diet and some Denamarin. This “medical management” has been shown to sometimes help with his condition, but I’m being very careful to manage our expectations.

So, we are focusing now on the “happy and comfortable” part and the extra care that we can give a senior dog or one with a serious health condition. And, I’d like to share some observations here as we spend time with our senior dogs—and maybe some tips that I learn along the way. Our other dog Cody is 9 years old—still middle-aged in dog years—but maybe what I Iearn from Riley’s experience will help him too.

In the Columbia Dog Talk blog, we’ll talk more about caring for senior dogs, and continue to cover dog events, dog-friendly restaurants, and great places to walk—all with a local focus on people, places and dogs in the Columbia and Howard County area. We'll share a little too about the many great dogs in our community. (Whooza good dog?!)

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Beverly S. February 11, 2013 at 07:49 PM
Thanks for these comments. I have a 16-year-old Peke-a-Poo who is dear to me. He has weak knees that sometimes slip out of the joint, is almost blind, and can't hear well, but he's a happy and considerate little companion. I am trying to prepare myself for end of life decisions that will have to be made in the near future. reading about the experiences of others is helpful.
Mary Love February 11, 2013 at 08:43 PM
Thanks. And I agree--it is helpful to hear about others' experience--a little support group, as it were! Glad your little guy is feeling happy. He's obviously in a safe and very loving home!


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