Having The Talk with my dad about his dog

Ugh. My dad has had his dog for, I think, 12 years now. They’re pretty tight, esp. since my mom died. The dog is about 15.

For the last two years, it’s been a slow decline. The dog is now blind and deaf and basically senile (though how much of that is due to being blind and deaf is a good question, I guess). Pees everywhere, too. Carpets have to be cleaned constantly and his house still reeks. I keep hoping the dog will just pass away in his sleep, but . . . yesterday, the dog had a seizure in which he threw up, then, Dad said, threw himself over backwards, hit the floor, and started to convulse. I was outside feeding the horse and I could hear the dog yelping clear at the barn. I made Dad take the dog to the vet, where bloodwork found that he’s at the cusp of renal failure.

#1 - I only know about renal failure in cats, so maybe there’s more you can do with dogs? I don’t know. But I tried to have The Talk with him last night. It went about as well as the Schlieffen Plan went for the Germans in World War I. Dad keeps insisting that he doesn’t want the dog put to sleep. I don’t have a lot of patience for that stuff, honestly, and flat-out told him that in my experience of losing - what’s it been, 12 animals in the past 10 years? No, 13 - that I understand, but it’s not about me, it’s about them and what’s best for them. He said he knew that, but he wasn’t ready to let him go yet. So I told him what he needs to look for in terms of the dog actually sliding into renal failure, and told him I’d take the dog when it was time. I know he just doesn’t want to see it happen - he can’t even be there when I have had to have my horses put down. I know it’s rough. I know. But it’s coming.

Any words of advice on how to handle this going forward, and especially on what to look for in canine renal failure? Is there anything, besides a renal diet, that could help? Dad and I have never been able to communicate well, and he’s that ‘I know everything, and you’re the kid, so you know nothing’ type, so having to put my foot down is difficult for him to deal with, too. It’s hard for him to acknowledge that I know more about something than he does. (I mean, he hates that I’m comfortable driving in big cities!)

Sorry for the novel! Advice appreciated.

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The only thing I know is that subQ fluids can be given to dogs too. When I was researching products and information (when Dewey was diagnosed with kidney failure) I saw some comments about dogs being given fluids. I don’t know if you would want to go there since the dog has other issues too. Best of luck! Sounds like a very tough situation. :cry:

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Thanks - the dog was given subQ’s yesterday, along with Cerenia (which was for his stomach issues, I think).

I was trying to remember what my vet had told me last year when we were trying to deal with Rascal’s renal issues - I think he said that cats can go into remission, but nothing else can? I know Mick had a total turnaround; she was definitely in renal failure, but with diet (and getting rid of the histoplasmosis) she came out of it and here were are 8 years later.

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I’d let the vet lead the conversation regarding euthanasia. That way it’s not coming from you. This is a very difficult time for your dad and after the dog goes, he will be all alone. The dog may also be seen as the last link to his wife, which would make it even harder to let go.


This is very true (about my mom).

The problem is that he doesn’t trust vets, for some reason. Not sure why. At least, not my vet. I told him to take the dog to another vet if he wanted, but he didn’t.

Ah. That makes it more difficult. In all likelihood then, without treatment the dog will just pass on his own. Not ideal, but what can you do. I have a similar problem with my mom and her 20yr old cat.


Is the remission for acute kidney failure? I think when it’s caused by illness, eating something toxic, etc. it can be reversed if it’s treated correctly. I don’t think it’s the same for chronic kidney failure but if this is wrong, someone please correct me.

Stay out of it. He sounds like he is already in denial; he knows what is happening but does not yet comprehend that the animal is suffering. The behavior is very common in people of all ages who have never put down a pet before - or dealt with the overwhelming guilt of waiting to long.

Don’t judge the reeking house. Your dad, like the dog, may have reduced senses. He may even view the pet as a mirror. It’s awful, I know. Bring low protein treats for the dog and hope for a peaceful end.


Sorry you are in this spot.
However it’s not fair to the dog at all, to be left to suffer, because your dad doesn’t want to say goodbye.
Here are some articles that may be helpful.




Sherry L. Shivley, Journalist Award Winner

People have often asked me “When do you know it is time?” I always replied, your dog will let you know. I’ve been lying. They do not let you know. They hide their pain, their illness, their fear from you. They just want to be with you until their last breath, so they hide.

They may be riddled with tumors we cannot see, slowly leeching their lives away. Their hearts are no longer pumping at full capacity, so as they stand, their hind legs begin to fold downward from lack of strength but we think its arthritis.Their kidneys are shutting down, filling their bodies with toxins, mouths full of sores, making their breath smell horrible. Still they eat, drink, and hide their illness from you.

They beg to go on car rides, one more toss of a toy, a belly rub, a cuddle. They may begin sleeping behind a chair, or sofa. Under a table, somewhere they never did before. Somewhere quiet, and private. Preparing for death, but not telling you they are sick.

WE must look for the signs, and WE must make the decision for them. To relieve the suffering THEY refuse to show us. Because they do not want to leave. They are that loyal and loving. While we complain of arthritis pain, or a toothache, they hobble and do their best to keep up.

They may begin to lose weight or a dog who has never been a picky eater isn’t hungry. This is a Red Flag. Panting, drinking constantly, peeing, not able to hold urine in the house.
Sleeping in strange places. Bumps and lumps, especially if they bleed. Confusion, not keeping with a routine that they have followed for years. Poor coat, thin and dry or thick and greasy, possibly falling out.

It is a good idea to keep a notebook or checklist {1} to show your Vet of the changes you are seeing in your dog. Begin making the choices of what is to come, because your dog will not make the choice for you. They make it as hard as they can. We, being human, have feelings, and memories, and have issues with letting go. As humans, we can also think things through and see that logically, our good friend is in pain, will not survive, and we are not doing any favors by continuing to hold on to them.

One of my Boxers was a hale and hearty German-bred girl. She developed thyroid issues, but was a happy and active bitch throughout her life. Until she wasn’t. One day she stood with her head against the wall in the living room. I rushed her to the Vet, who told me her kidney levels were 10 times the normal values! I could not get my head around it. She ate, drank, maybe a bit more than usual, but I keep track of my dogs! Overnight she continued to stand in that corner, shaking. Hunched, vomiting.

I called my Vet and took her in to be released. She didn’t have the strength to stand to vomit in the car. She lay there and vomited. I vowed then that I would be more diligent with my dogs after that.

I set my 12-and-a-half-year-old Brindle free yesterday. He was my First Champion. He hated conformation but loved doing Rally Obedience. He was quirky, affectionate and silly. He developed arthritis and thyroid issues as old dogs do, then last March his blood tests revealed his kidneys were failing. I gave him rehydrated food, as well as 3 tums twice a day to settle his stomach from the acid produced by his kidney failure. He ate well, was perky, and still loved to go for rides in the car, French fries from any fast food joint, and squeaky toys.

Last week I noticed he was losing weight. I increased his food, then his hind legs seemed to be wonkier.

Monday night I could hear him stumbling around the room, and falling. He finally came to my side of the bed, nosed me, and fell on the floor for the night. I knew the decision was made.

Tuesday A.M. he could not get up without help. My husband placed a blanket under him to take him out to potty. I contacted my veterinarian and set up the time. He ate like his usual piggy self, almost falling the whole time. He struggled to stand on those wobbly hind legs.

I sat with him in the SUV so he could look outside one last time. With cataracts he couldn’t see much but his nose still worked well. He picked out the feedlots, corn fields, and ethanol plant on the way up. He wobbled his way in and greeted his vet as an old friend. With the tranquilizer, he was almost gone, his body so worn out. Finally, he was free from the pain, illness and fear he was hiding from us.

I made the human decision to not have him begging for meals, dancing on all 4s in excitement to go in the car, getting in my face so I could not ignore him.

I made the decision that is was better to have those memories, than the ones coming of him falling, vomiting, wracked in pain, yet still hiding it from me.

I apologize to all of you who I have lied to all these years, that THEY will let you know when they are ready. They rely on you to do that, because they know they can trust you to care for them in all ways.

No matter how much it hurts. Let them go with dignity and love. Stay with them until their last breath.

They deserve that much and more. See ya at the Rainbow, Glide - Good Dog.

Copyright © TheDogPlace.org


This is beautiful; poignant and heartbreaking. Crying as I read this. :disappointed_relieved:

The painful downside to all of the many upsides that is our life with dogs.

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Well, I’m the one who has to clean his house, because he doesn’t, so forgive me for being ‘judgy’ (though I’m not; I’m just stating a fact). He has asthma/COPD and finds it hard to do those things, and I cannot imagine that the ammonia from the dog pee is helping any with that.

I have no other advice to give you other than what has been given. I am so sorry he - and you - are going thru this. It might as well be another pet of yours, right? it’s hard when they either can’t or won’t accept what is happening. I feel bad for all of you. Jingles that dog does not suffer long and your dad sees the light.

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I’m so sorry for you and your Dad. If the dog is starting to have seizures, that means the kidneys are no longer working and the poisons are now getting to his brain. The seizures will keep coming with more frequency and each one will be worse. He’ll also likely stop eating before too long. The dog’s quality of life is already questionable and can only go down from there. He really needs to say goodbye as I’m sure he’s suffering.

I wish I had some words of wisdom, but I don’t. Dealing with aging parents and their pets can be really difficult. I’ve fought many battles with my mom and her cats. Some I won, some I lost. Hopefully your dad will begin to see that the dog is suffering and choose to do the right thing.

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Thanks - although the dog has had some small episodes prior to this (over the past year or so, maybe 1 every couple of weeks?) that are smaller, though, than this one.

I didn’t realize until reading last night that the upset stomach could be caused by the kidneys failing. That’s something I can bring up, too. The dog already doesn’t eat well - he’s always been picky, but lately more so, so I know the time is coming. I will try to keep more of an eye on him more.

Thanks - it’s a little worrying, because the dog is what kept Dad going after my mom died, and I have a feeling that once the dog goes, Dad may loose a lot of his energy and will to keep going himself.

I told him that I would take the dog in for that final visit, if he wanted - when you don’t know what to expect from the euthanasia itself, the process can be difficult, for sure. He said, “I don’t want make you do that - or I don’t want you to have to do that.” He said he’d seen how it affected me with my cats and the horses. I told him that it’s never about me; it’s about them, so I will be okay with doing the right thing, always, for my animals and if he needs me to do that, then I will. It’s funny; with the horses, he’s the one who takes the bodies away to bury in the pasture, and he’s fine with that, but he can’t be there to see the actual euthanasia itself, so I knew that if he had to have his dog put to sleep, it would be an issue. Should have been thinking about this before now, honestly.

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Naw, all you can do is what you can. You don’t have a crystal ball. I’m glad he understands - that doesn’t make it less hard though. I get what you are saying - when that person has something or someone they rely on, having them pass away is like kicking the supports out from under. I hope things don’t get difficult and go as well as possible. (((hugs))

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It sounds like you are making progress, OP. That he is facing facts and realizing he has options and help is huge. Paws crossed for a humane outcome.

I chuckle when I hear young mothers complain about their exhausting and challenging toddlers. Nowhere near the inner strength and patience you need to cope with the elderly.


This is probably controversial… but… can the vet come out and put ol’ pup to sleep at home while dad is out? If it can be made to look like he passed away in his sleep, dad might be less traumatised by the process.

Believe me, that thought has crossed my mind . . . but I can’t do that. If it came to a situation where Dad was going to be in long-term care in the hospital or something (given his health issues and the fact that he still wrangles cows at age 90, that’s not entirely out of the question) then I might not have a choice, as no one can be there with the dog all the time, and we have no long-term boarding close by that could take care of his issues.