DEAR DR. FOX: We first wrote to you about our dog Loki in 2008 after we had rescued him from the Animal Care & Control of NYC shelter. He was described as a 5-year-old collie mix. He was actually more like an 8-year-old Lab/pit bull mix, according to our vet. He was very anxious and seemed to be longing for a lost owner. Your response to us helped immensely.
Our reason for writing now is to ask how we can determine Loki's current quality of life. From our vantage point, he seems happy -- but he is blind, often confused and has been diagnosed with Cushing's disease. He is now probably about 13 years old. He weighs 90 pounds, but should weigh 80 pounds.
In 2010, Loki had a benign mast cell tumor removed. In February 2011, he was diagnosed with Cushing's. The next August, he went blind. After a thorough exam by our vet and a canine ophthalmologist, no cause could be found, but the condition -- bilateral optic neuritis and chorioretinitis -- was deemed irreversible and not treatable. It was surmised the pituitary tumor may have grown to impact the retinal nerves.
We do not want to give up on Loki. He responds to us with vigorous tail wags and eats your recipe for homemade food well. He knows his way around the house, but is totally disoriented outside. He is loved and pampered by the entire extended family.
Our vet prescribed tramadol tablets if it seems he has pain, but we really don't know. We have been mildly criticized for keeping Loki alive this long.
What is your opinion? Our vet is noncommittal. We value your suggestions and always appreciate your compassion for animals. -- J. & M.H., Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
DEAR J. & M.H.: Yes, I remember your earlier letter concerning Loki because that happens to be the name of an elephant with whom my wife, Deanna Krantz, became involved in India, resulting in an international controversy.
I regret that your veterinarian is behaving in a noncommittal way. I have had some bad experiences with dogs on tramadol, which can make them more anxious/agitated. Three or four drops of lavender oil on a bandanna may relieve some of your dog's anxiety. A daily full-body massage, like in my book "The Healing Touch for Dogs," an occasional buffered aspirin (with food) and a daily teaspoon of fish oil in his food may help alleviate inflammation-associated pain.
As long as he enjoys life, continues to cope with his loss of vision, feels secure and responds to all the TLC you can give him, I feel euthanasia may be premature. In some communities, there are veterinarians who do in-home hospice care supervision. Perhaps you can find one.
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Customers who purchased the recalled dog treats should discontinue use immediately, and return the items to the purchase location.
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