In 2017 Kassey turned thirteen. Where did all the time go. We were seeing the same changes with Kassey as we did with her Mom, Koko. Stiffness, difficulty doing stairs and getting into vehicles. Old dog hair, fading out to blonde in patches. Eyes getting blue with cataracts. Fear of thunder. Just because we have been down this road before, it does not make it any easier.
In 2019, Kassey made it through the winter. We promised her if she made it until spring, we would ensure she makes it until her 15th birthday in June. Mobility-wise she can still walk a slow mile, but she is forgetful, and there are more poos in the house than outside. So long as we stay on schedule, we can get the pees outside, but it is a challenge. We often call her Koko these days. The long stares into space. The watery eyes.
With Kassey we are giving her Gabapentin to help with that back pain thought to be due to the arthritis in her spine. Her Meloxin (similar to Metacam) is at 20 kg, with yearly blood testing to ensure her kidneys are functioning normal. We were doing green mussel supplements but as diarrhea is a common side-effect have switched her to Flexadin. Her poos are more solid, so even though they are inside, it is easier to deal with them.
Kassey at twelve
Koko at fifteen
In June of 2010, we started giving Koko glucosamine supplements. This made a great difference in her gait and backend mobility. But by 2011 at age 12, Koko started slowing down anyway. We noticed she had problems getting up the stairs and into the van. We got her a ramp, but she hated using it. When we had her X-rayed in the fall of 2011 she was full of arthritis. We started to give her Metacam once a day at a 10 kg level. As this is an antiflamatory it does help with the pain of degenerating bones, although it is hard on the stomach so the limited dosing.
Koko developed a chronic skin infection in 2010. We tried antibiotics, that got the staph infection under control, but as soon as we quit giving them to her it came back. We thought it might just be allergic reaction to something at the lake (from rolling in dead fish from a serious die off early in the summer, or from bee/wasp bites), but it continued long after the snow had come. So we changed her diet. The change was great. Her skin rash cleared up. She lost weight because she no longer got to eat Kassey's food too. (And going into her pregnancy, Kassey was able to gain some weight.)
However, as Koko went though 2011, she continued to have problems. In August of 2011, she developed pancreatitis that required another food change. She had her skin problem back, and she continually required help getting into the van. In October of 2011 we thought we were going to have to put her down. She could no longer negotiate the stairs, she was vomiting, she was not eating, and she was defecatingin the house. We were prepared when we took her into the vet, and yet once again Dr. Cindy Nowles saved her life. Koko was suffering from "old dog disease". Yes our old girl had vestibular disease. Two weeks of Gravol and pureed food and she was back to her old self.
In her thirteenth year, Koko was hard of hearing and did not see as well as she used to do. She still had a spring in her step, although more and more she walked at my side. It was hard not to get irritated with her when she did not move out of the way. It was hard not to shed a tear when you knew it might be the last time she walked this way with you.
Well into her fourteen year, Koko had another major set-back. She pulled her ACL on her right rear leg. Now for her, with major arthritic changes in her left hock, this was a a double blow. She required lifting up and down the stairs. She tumbled a few times and hurt herself further. We added Tramadol to her pain medication. But at her age we said no to any further surgery. We kept her comfortable and let her have the occasional walk on leash. The tears were constantly in our eyes.
Koko made it to Fifteen. We put her to sleep to ease her pain. To ease our hearts. When we look back at her last few months, with the bandaged legs, watery staring eyes, stumbles, and only being able to poo while asleep, we know we were keeping her with us because she had been such a good dog, and we did not want to let her go.