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stroke prognosis for a 16-year old husky-retriever

February 3rd, 2012, 01:34 PM
Hi all,

My partner and I had a 16 year-old husky-retriever mix, Travis, who passed last week. On his last night he was 100% himself: anxious to get out for a walk, hungry for his dinner (and the sausage I was eating), affectionate. When I woke the next morning he was in his sleeping position, on his bed, breathing, eyes closed, and totally unresponsive to calls, claps, shaking, the sound of the door opening, etc. When I physically lifted his head he did not respond and when I lifted him up bodily and set him on his feet he immediately started to collapse: each foot started to slide out from under him and he sank back down. The whole time his eyes were half open.

I set him on the couch and we lifted his head up to give him some water. When the water touched his muzzle he took a couple of sips, but after that he would not take or express interest in water or food. My partner would open his lips and squirt water in with a syringe from time to time, which he would swallow, but that was all that he would do. He always detested us touching his feet, but now if we touched them they would only move away slightly. His breath oscillated between quiet and loud, as it would when he panted, but none of the other panting features were present (the opening of the mouth, slight lifting of head, extending his tongue). From time to time he would arch his back and stretch out his legs, but aside from this and the response of his feet to touch he remained motionless. My partner is certain she saw his ears move in response to our voices, but beyond that his eyes remained half-closed and we observed no other responses; this remained so until he passed.

Our vet told us over the phone that there was a slim chance it was vestibular syndrome, but that based on our description of his symptoms it sounded like a vascular event, in which case Travis would not be recovering. He told us he would need to do an examination to confirm the diagnosis and that if his hunch was correct, it could take anywhere from a day to the better part of a week for Travis to pass. When we got to the vets office, he listened to Travis breathing and heartbeat. These were the only tests he performed. He told us the heartbeat was strong, but that there was no chance of recovery and his recommendation was to put Travis to sleep. We agreed, and Travis was given a massive dose of sedative.

I am writing now because we have since learned that many dogs recover from strokes, and we are wondering if we did the right thing. As I mentioned before, Travis appeared exceptionally healthy right up to his last night, and if there was a chance that he might have recovered we would have waited it out. We are hoping that one of the vets here could give us their opinion.

Thanks very much,

Dog Dancer
February 3rd, 2012, 02:53 PM
Matt, I am so sorry for your loss of Travis. I am not a vet, but would like to tell you that you need not second guess your actions. I recently had to make the choice to put my 14 year old Akita cross to sleep. She was so healthy other than severe arthritis. It was such a hard decision to pick a day to put her down, but I had promised not to let her suffer. At the time you took Travis to the vet he was suffering. Can they improve, maybe, maybe briefly, but eventually they will end up in the same place again and maybe next time it won't be nice. Trust in your heart that you did a kindness for Travis in not letting or making him suffer in order to have a few more days or weeks with him. My heart still breaks to this day, but I have (finally) stopped questioning whether I did the right thing. Anything done out of love and loyalty to your pet is the right thing. Bless you for taking such good care of Travis. When the time is right Travis may show you another pup that he wants you to love, leave your heart open to that thought. RIP sweet Travis you will always be loved.

February 3rd, 2012, 03:02 PM
Matt I have a strong feeling I just went through this same experience with Rookie. There is a thread. My dog had a pee on the floor, not out of character really, so I scolded him (gently) and sent him off. He was hunched up and his feet didn't work well and he become unresponsive like yours. Slept on his chair for 24 hrs, finally had some hand fed canned food and water. Took him to the vet and she found nothing physical. Didn't talk about stroke. Another 24 hrs passed and he was his complete self again. Didn't think anything more knowing that dogs could in fact recover from strokes. Exactly 7 days later, I tucked my dog in to bed on his chair with absolutely no symptoms, later to be found by my daughter, he had died in his sleep. I suspect he had another stroke? Still haven't resolved it with my vet. He was 8 yrs old. I had a golden with vestiblular disease and he acted more like he was drunk for a few days, this happened several times, until finally he was put to sleep at 15. I am sorry for your loss. :candle:

February 3rd, 2012, 03:05 PM
I'm so sorry for your loss of Travis, MattinToronto. :grouphug:

I'm not a vet, but honestly, this sounds like something more than stroke. The first thing that came to mind was the possibility of internal bleeding. There is a common tumor in older animals called hemangioma if it's benign and hemangiosarcoma if it's cancerous--as it grows it's pretty much asymptomatic until it bursts and causes a bleed-out. The first indication that many owners see is the final collapse of their companion. :(

Even if it had been a stroke, it sounds like it was a massive one. Chances of recovery, especially in an elderly dog, are not very good.

Objectively, though I wasn't there to see what Travis was going through, it does sound as if you made the right decision. I know it doesn't feel right--it never does, even when you fully accept the necessity of it. :grouphug: But if it had been my dog, from what you're describing, I think my decision would have been the same.

Try not to second-guess yourself, Matt. You made your decision out of love for Travis with the information you had at hand. You eased his passing when it was time for him to go. You were his angel, in both life and death.

I hope your happy memories of Travis quickly ease your heart. :grouphug:

My condolences to both you and your partner.

:candle: Travis

February 5th, 2012, 02:03 PM
Hi again,

We read all of your responses carefully and were moved and relieved by your words. It has been a great help to hear from others who have had similar experiences with their companions, and although the loss of Travis is still sharp for us we are comforted to know that we were not hasty in our decision.

We thank you all and wish you all much happiness with your companions.


February 5th, 2012, 06:10 PM
Travis was a beautiful boy, Matt! Thank you for sharing his picture with us.

February 5th, 2012, 06:30 PM
Matt, I had a cattle dog that had a stroke. She could not get up, just sat and kept moving in circles, always to the right I think it was. She slept well but in the morning, though she couldn't get up, indicated she needed to go out to toilet, so we carried her out in a blanket and held her while she relieved herself. By that stage she was like yours though, unable to stand and quite out of it, so I lay her down in the sunshine on the grass and rang the vet to come out and put her down. He did say that she was nearly gone, so I have no doubt at all that you did the right thing for your beautiful dog. My girl was 15 and 4 months btw. You have our deepest sympathy.

February 5th, 2012, 07:48 PM
Matt he's beautiful!!!! :rip:

February 6th, 2012, 07:56 AM
Sorry for your loss Matt. :candle:

Reading through your post I also have no doubt that you did the right thing. It is a tough decision you had to make, and many of us on these forums have had the make the same decision at one time or another. It is especially disconcerting when "everything was fine yesterday". Take comfort knowing that Travis lived a long life and it sounds like he was loved very much.

Dog Dancer
February 6th, 2012, 10:36 AM
Matt thank you for sharing Travis' picture, he was a very handsome and happy looking fellow. I hope the days are getting easier for you and your partner.

February 6th, 2012, 05:27 PM
Hi Matt, I am sure you did the right thing. No reason to doubt yourself. Rest in Peace Travis. Please accept my condolences.

February 6th, 2012, 05:53 PM
You did do the right thing. The most difficult decision but full of thought and love as well.
My sincere condolences.
Peace and Strength to you and your partner.
RIP beautiful boy.:candle:. Safe and Gentle Journey.:angel: