Dealing with guilt over not noticing dog’s illness sooner

I may just be overtired and overly emotional from spending all night at the ER vet with my 11 year old lab, but I’m absolutely wracked with guilt for not noticing that something was seriously wrong sooner. She’s home now, but was diagnosed with a suspected bulging or ruptured disc in her neck and is still not comfortable. I apologize for the forthcoming novel, but I just really need to vent.

About two week ago, my dog went really lame on her right front. It was entirely out of nowhere, so I took her to her regular vet. They couldn’t replicate the lameness, since she’s an absolute sweetheart and loves going to the vet and was super excited to be there. Vet said it was likely just arthritis flaring up. We were sent home with carprofen.

This week, poor dog was still very lame and getting worse, so I took her back to the vet on Thursday. They did X-rays of her right front, which showed some bony arthritis in the shoulder but was otherwise unremarkable. We started her on Adequan and were planning on switching her to galliprant.

Then, dog was again very lame yesterday and somewhat lethargic. I called her regular vet, and they said she might be sore from the injection and to keep an eye on her. Last night after dinner, she was very lethargic, could barely walk, and was breathing really shallowly and heavily and her heart was racing, so I rushed her to the ER vet, who took chest X-rays, which were normal, and found she had significant neck pain on exam. ER vet suspected a problem in the cervical spine, maybe a ruptured or bulging disc or a nerve compression, sent us home with gabapentin, and we are waiting until the office opens to schedule a visit to the veterinary neurologist for further diagnostics.

Now, I’m trying to keep her as quiet as possible until I can find her old crate, but she keeps trying her hardest to follow me around, and it absolutely breaks my heart seeing her trying to gimp around after me. I feel awful for not suspecting it was more severe than just arthritis, as it was a serious lameness that came out of nowhere. I feel like I should have known better and should have questioned the arthritis diagnosis, if not at the first visit then at least at the second.

Thanks for letting me vent, it feels a little better to write it out. I just really feel like I’ve failed her.

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You haven’t failed her. You got her treatment and kept following through when she wasn’t improving. I think we all feel that way when it comes to our critters.

It’s hard when they can’t tell us what’s going on and we rely on the physical symptoms.

Jingles for your dog! I hope she feels better soon!


You did everything a reasonable person would do. You kept seeking help, there is no way you could have known what was up.

You are good owner. Best wishes for your dog!


I don’t see where you failed her at all. You took her promptly to the vets twice and they diagnosed what they thought it was. You then rushed her to the ER when she showed signs of obvious discomfort. I don’t know what else you could have done?

They can’t tell us where it hurts and we and the vets can only guess. I hope she responds to her meds and behaves herself until she feels better.


You did not fail her. I totally get where you are coming from though.

My girl beagle (13yo) was slowing down, so I thought. She was older, it was summer so we didn’t do many walks due to the heat (August). I just let them (her and brother) play in the yard. Of course, being a beagle, she readily ate. When it finally cooled off in October and we tried to resume our walks, OMG, poor thing could not even make it past the neighbor’s house to make it to the corner without balking and panting very heavily. Very unlike her.

I got her to the vet and then we chased our tails. Started out with that vet as suspected liver cancer (she had a bloody belly tap but I am thinking that was mostly procedural contamination).
Took her to another vet for a second opinion and able to ultrasound and no…it’s her heart. Sent her echo and EKG to a cardiologist and she had right sided heart failure. We tried several drugs but she responded to none of them and was euthanized when she kept developing recurrent ascites and was having difficulty breathing. Poor thing looked like a football with legs. I mean, when did that happen? I imagine my scaling way back on walks would have showed the exercise intolerance much sooner. Whether she would have been any more treatable…who knows. Right sided heart failure is hard to treat, even in people. But man, I kicked myself for a long time.

We do the best we can. They can’t tell us what is wrong and they so try to continue pleasing us as long as they can.

Jingles for your pup.



Thank you everyone for the replies and the jingles, and thank you for listening to my venting. It’s been a long weekend and I’m just now reading replies.

Managing her pain has been difficult, she seemed better Saturday morning, still very lame but wanting to move and sniff around the yard (on leash). Saturday night was rough, she couldn’t really control her hind end, I called the vet and they said that lack of coordination is a side effect of the meds.

She was better again yesterday morning and afternoon, and I was feeling really hopeful, but she took a turn last night and was crying on and off. She really tried to get up this morning but she just couldn’t. We’re waiting at the regular vet’s office right now for her to get images of her cervical spine and hopefully get more information on whether surgery is the right choice for her.

The ups and downs really make it hard to decide. She seemed reasonably comfortable yesterday afternoon and I felt certain then that surgery would be the best option, but last night makes me really doubt that now and I feel like a complete basket case. She’s my “heart dog” and I just want to make the best choice possible for her.


Thank you, and I’m sorry about your pup. You hit the nail on the head, the hardest part for me is that she’s still being an absolute sweetheart about everything and is still trying so hard to please me.

Thank you, I guess I know intellectually that feeling guilty is illogical and we’re doing all we can, but emotionally I feel like I should have known somehow. I know that’s silly, but there it is.

Thank you, I needed to hear that.

Thank you. I agree, I really wish they could just tell us exactly where they hurt.

More hugs and jingles!

Let us know how the vet visit goes. I hope the news is good.

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The good news is that her blood work was normal. The ER vet and her regular vet consulted during her exam today and decided that additional X-rays probably wouldn’t do anything except tell us that she needs an exam from a neurologist, so they gave us a referral. She has an appointment for Wednesday, hopefully we will get some encouraging news then.


@OneDayMore Please don’t feel guilty. You did the best you could following your vet’s advice.

I feel horrible about my now gone yellow lab because I didn’t recognize that his coughing was a symptom of Valley Fever. I thought he was being a lab and scarfing things down too quickly. It wasn’t til he started fall over after exertion that I brought him to the vet. The Valley Fever, which is indigenous to Arizona, had gone to his lungs and heart. He was having synecoptic episodes, essentially fainting due to not enough oxygen. He lasted a couple of more years, but died at a young five years old. It was really sad.

Now my standard poodle has Valley Fever, too. I caught it early, when she was just nine months old, but it’s steadily gotten worse. Now she is very skinny and is having neurological side effects. We went to the vet today, and they pulled blood for another titer. We’ll see where she stands. There is another drug besides fluconazole, but the vet said it’s very expensive, about $100/month. I’m really depressed about poor Adele.

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I’m so sorry about your lab. I love all breeds but labs have a special place in my heart. I had another lab before Karma, my current dog, and she was also a wonderful dog.

Jingles for your poodle, I hope you get good news with the blood work!

An update;
The neuro visit was a mixed bag. She had a mild placing deficit on her right front, but her other front and her hind end were all completely normal. They think poor dog likely has intervertebral disc disease or a tumor on the nerve. They’re recommending an MRI and either surgery or a spinal tap depending on what the MRI shows. The second best option is to treat medically as if it were a disc issue and see if the inflammation subsides with rest and meds.

We got a second opinion as well, and that vet recommended 1-2 months of conservative treatment (strict rest, anti-inflammatories, and pain medications) before going to an MRI and surgery. That’s the plan we’re going with for now, as long as we can keep her comfortable with meds.

It’s been a really rough week, poor dog has had ups and downs as we try to figure out a good medication regimen, but today seems like a good day for her so far.

Of course, that meant that my horse picked this morning to have his own vet emergency and get himself cast. I guess he was feeling neglected. He’s got a great sense of timing, his vet was out for a lameness exam yesterday and the barn vet is coming for spring shots tomorrow morning. He’s fine, he was just a little tight and sore on exam. I love my vets, but I really hope I can stop seeing them this frequently.

My late cat’s neuro almost always recommends more conservative treatment for a time before jumping into the MRI route. It rarely hurts to put all the high intervention strategies off for a bit, and many cases resolve with the conservative strategy alone. I’m also a big fan of laser therapy and acupuncture for spinal stuff. I was skeptical, but willing to try, and saw amazing results. Jingles for your heart dog!

Seriously, don’t beat yourself up. You went to the vet, treated what was thought to be the problem, etc. Your dog doesn’t blame you. :heart: You did the best you could with the information you had.

I empathize with the guilt. Earlier this year, my oldest cat started going downhill precipitously. She’d been fighting off a new chronic respiratory infection for a solid 8 months, with multiple rounds of different antibiotics, supplements, breathing treatments, the works. She got SO bad so fast (trouble breathing, massive facial swelling) that the mobile vet didn’t even make it in time to euth her (she was extremely vet and car phobic). She died in my arms a couple hours before the mobile vet would have arrived. Her death was expected, though not that fast, and her illness was known.

What I didn’t expect was that later that very same day, we would be rushing my 6 year old daughter’s young (medically complicated, paraplegic) cat to the emergency vet, where she would die a few hours later. A nasty pressure sore wound that we had been working with the vet to resolve had gone septic, but I’d been so wrapped up in the senior cat’s woes that I didn’t realize she wasn’t eating well and running a temp. I’d made a vet appt for the following week, the earliest available appt, since her sore was looking necrotic AGAIN, but maybe could have saved her had I rushed her to the emergency vet at the first sign of going off her food/running a temp. :sob: So yeah, I get the guilt.

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I hope she does well on the conservative treatment plan and is feeling better soon!

I’m sorry your horse felt so neglected and had the need to be a copycat. Lol

I feel like I’ve funded a couple of kids college fund the past couple of weeks too.

@Falconfree I’m so sorry for your losses! How sad.

Jingles for healing vibes for you! You did all the right things too.

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Another update:
Unfortunately not a particularly happy one.

She took a hard turn for the worse. She can’t walk unaided or relieve herself on her own, and we can’t seem to keep her comfortable. We have decided not to put her through more treatment. We have an appointment for an in-home euthanasia in the morning.

I am absolutely devastated and can’t stop crying. She is the absolute sweetest dog and I don’t know what I’m going to do without her.

I’m so sorry. Hugs.

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I’m so sorry. It’s so hard to lose them.

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