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I have a cousin who has two 16+year old Whippets (boy/girl littermates) who are showing their age, but are still relatively healthy. She and I started discussing the dogs who lived to a ripe old age (17-20+), and trying to figure out what eventually got them - cancer? organ failure? general old age?

For those of you who've had dogs that were blessed to live 17+ years, can you share how you kept their extreme senior years as happy and healthy as possible, and if you don't mind, from what cause(s) did they eventually cross the rainbow bridge?

Kevin
 

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I had a shih tzu who lived to be 17. She developed CHF, was put on meds for it but they really didn't help but she was comfortable, eating and eliminating as normal. Then she developed pancreatitis, treated that but she did not recover from it and basically stopped eating and could nearly move, and it was like she lost control of all bodily function. At that point we had to take her to be pst. She was one of my best dogs ever. Her sister lived to be 14+, same breeder but 7 years later. She had a stroke and lost all control of her body, again a visit to the vet. I still have a chihuahua who is 17. He is still healthy though his teeth are mostly gone, and he won't let me hold him anymore to do his nails. So right now they are way too long. Going to give it a try again today when I have some help, he will bite even though his teeth are mostly gone he leaves a nice bruise on you. If I don't get it done he will go to the vet just for his nails. He still eats, will gum a milk bone to death and will run around the backyard occasionally tripping over himself. He does breathe heavier and several times I thought he was on his way but he just seems to regenerate. This dog was given to us when he was about 18 months old. Hadn't been socialized much and came from a BYB. A neighbor had bought him for her mom as a companion but she kept him to housebreak him but the mom returned him to her as she wanted a big dog. Neighbor had Mastiffs at that time and one was aggressive and so when she heard our rotate has passed she gave him to us. Our rotate was only 9 when we lost her. She had hip dysplasia could no longer walk and could no longer get up to eliminate. I just couldn't stand to see her like that and again a vet visit.
 

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Bob lived to be almost 17. He had bad hips his whole life. (He was probably a puppy mill dog -- I got him when he was 4 years old.) Finally, his hips got so bad that he couldn't even stand to go to the bathroom. So I had him euthanized.

I think most old dogs die because they are euthanized. Reasons for making the euthanasia decision vary, but often include a combination of doggie dementia, blindness, deafness, depression, and/or evidence of pain. Some people say that the dog will let you know when it is time, and sometimes they do. But I think that the needs of the people in the dog's life are also important. I slept downstairs with Bob for 2 years after his hips got so bad that he could not go upstairs anymore and I am glad that I did. Managing his needs became quite demanding. Fortunately, I work from home, and I could take care of him until he got to the point where he literally could not stand to poop. Or he would stand and then fall in it. I think that we are fortunate to have euthanasia as an option, and people should feel free to take their own needs into account in making this decision. Taking care of an elderly dog can be a depressing and demanding job, and euthanasia is a painless (painless for the dog) way to end it.

The first photo below was taken just hours before Bob was euthanized. He was totally alert, even barking to demand his supper on his last day (as he usually did). The other photos show some of the things we did to manage his mobility problems. Barriers were set up to prevent him from slipping under chairs, sofas and tables when he tried to move. When he was old, he became more sensitive to cold, hence the red sweater.
 

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We had a wonderful English Bulldog, Bonnie, and she lived until she was 15-16 years old. She was a wonderful dog and would do anything for cheese. We had to put her down due to her condition. She could walk, but clearly was getting tired (very slow pace). Her brown spots on her face faded to white. She became partially blind but it did not effect her much since she knew the layout of the house. Her bladder sopped working and we had to keep a diaper on her. Poor baby girl was just holding on as long as she could. Slowly, her organs just started to fail, stopped eating as much, started to lose weight, and couldn't control bowels. She let us know it was time to go in her own way.

We actually sort of regret making her live as long as she did, the vet called her an "ancient" EBD since he had never seen one so old before. But we were selfish and couldn't let go of our girl.

I do not want to imagine how her life would have ended if we did not put her down. I think that dogs will hold on as long as they can for us if they think we are not ready for them to go. I think it is unfair (to an extent) to keep a dog alive too long when they are clearly miserable or sick. Some dogs, like Bonnie, hold on and don't show the pain they are in.

We do not deserve the pure, unconditional love dogs give us!
 

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I've never had one make it to 15, but most of my dogs just had so much arthritis that they could no longer stand up after lying down. My last elderly dog developed a pneumonia that took her in a few hours despite two vet visits. I've only had to put down one dog for cancer.
 

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I have a cousin who has two 16+year old Whippets (boy/girl littermates) who are showing their age, but are still relatively healthy. She and I started discussing the dogs who lived to a ripe old age (17-20+), and trying to figure out what eventually got them - cancer? organ failure? general old age?

For those of you who've had dogs that were blessed to live 17+ years, can you share how you kept their extreme senior years as happy and healthy as possible, and if you don't mind, from what cause(s) did they eventually cross the rainbow bridge?

Kevin
Ricky was relatively healthy until his 14th birthday. From there it was downhill. He started 'knuckling' on his front legs and the vet declared it neurological. At first I didn't want him to undergo an MRI and decided to see him to the end without undue intervention. It will be my lifelong guilt that I didn't. His back legs started to go out from under him, I ended up bringing him for the MRI and he had 3 compressed discs.

I went to a neurologist (Berg) at Guardian Specialty in Brewster, NY (don't go there), he never should have operated but did, and Ricky never recovered.

I will never forgive myself.
 

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We had a toy poodle we had to put to sleep when she was twenty. She had really bad arthritis and she was mostly sleeping. Had trouble getting up and her muscles were wasting away and she was losing weight, not eating. It was time as she was withdrawing from life.

Her had had several teeth pulled in the last few years. She had two bouts of pancreatitis when she was younger, the first was from supplementing her regular dog food with the cat kibble that we didn’t know was dangerous. And a second attack when I was too lazy to make her home cooked food and opened a can of her old dog food. After that she only ate her home cooked diet. The arthritis came on in her last year or two.
 

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Here are a few of the histories of our beloved family pets. All dogs received the exact same type of care--which in those days included yearly (!) shots, kibble, lots of love. All of the dogs who made it to 17-18 were small dogs. Two out of the three had an incredible amount of hybrid vigor.

You have control over your dog's exercise, nutrition, and veterinary care, but genetics play such a huge role.

Riley - 13 Golden retriever/yellow Lab - euth due to not being able to get up
Gillis - 13 Golden retriever/Irish setter - euth due to not being able to get up (had been run over by my grandmother and never fully recovered from that due to lack of surgeries available in those days)
Rags - 14 Heinz 57 mutt - euth due to becoming paralyzed in hind
Penny - 10 Heinz 57 mutt - euth due to hip dysplasia
Nicki - 17 Heinz 57 mutt - euth due to sudden stroke
Six - 16 Maltese/poodle/terrier? - euth due to old age complications
Dustin - 18 Silky terrier - euth due to old age complications incl. CHF
Paisley - 13 Old English Sheepdog - euth due to complications from many health issues
Maria - 13? Shih Tzu - euth due to sudden CHF attack
Jesse - 18 Heinz 57 mutt (euth due to severe stroke)
Cotton - 14 Bichon/poodle (euth due to sudden illness, may have been a stroke)
 

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Most of my dogs have been euthanized. When a dog can no longer get up on his/her feet or when they clearly indicate that they no longer enjoy life, I make that awful trip to the vet.

We did have one dog, an Italian greyhound, who died of a heart attack. She was 15 and deaf, but she still made her rounds every night checking on the property. We would flash the porch light to call her in since she was deaf. One night she did not come in. I found her lying on the driveway, dead. She was quite a character - very bold for an IG. She was the queen of the household and brooked no foolishness from the younger dogs.

The only other dogs who did not go gently were hit by cars. My son and his beloved German shepherd left together that way. One other dog, a beautiful whippet, jumped the fence while chasing a squirrel and ran out to the highway.

It's so terrible when they die, but I am willing to trade that pain for the love and joy they bring me.
 

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Tonka's coming up on 15 this January. I'm glad to see him hopping back up on the couch again. I haven't sat on it in 5 years.

But, maybe from age, he's REAL awkward getting down. Then heads down the hall marching like one of those silly looking GDS... with the frog legs. Knees way bent forward.

Down the hall and then back, and by that time it's gone.

I think he gets a crick in his back...
 

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Hmmm ? What do humans die of? I had an uncle just die today, so I am relating to all end of life.

This idea of euthanizing dogs makes me think long and hard.

And, as SamieNorman said: "We do not deserve the pure, unconditional love dogs give us! "
 

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I'm so sorry for your loss, kontiki :(

What does the idea of euthanizing dogs make you think about? Makes me think how much better we treat animals who are suffering vs. people. I'm glad my state enacted the Death with Dignity act a few years ago.
 

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Hamish lived to 16 1/2. Not quite what you are asking. He was a border collie. By 16 his eyesight was very compromised. I put a baby gate at the top of the stairs so he would not fall down them. His hearing went. When he had trouble standing, I knew it was time. I think a large percentage of old dogs die from the same thing- a needle in the arm. When a dog has advanced stage cancer, they are usually put down, but you could say they died of cancer. Hamish was relatively healthy and I suppose he would have eventually gone due to a heart attack.
 
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