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Possible brain tumor.

Species: Dog
Breed: Cross
Age: More than 15 ye
We would like your opinion on whether we were right in putting Barney to sleep.

On Thursday we took a very quick decision to have our lovely Barney put to sleep.

He was at least 15 years old and had been with us for 11 years after we adopted him from Manchester Dogs home.

About 2 years ago, I came down one morning and he was leaning against the wall in our through lounge with his head bent in to one side of his body, he was stumbling around and kept himself against the wall as he moved. This carried on for about 10 minutes, he then gradually seemed to calm down and by the time we got him to the vets about 2-3 hours later he seemed absolutely fine. The vets did not know what to make of it, my husband thought it might have been some sort of stroke. As far as we were aware this did not happen again till I think earlier this year.

Probably sometime last year we noticed that his hearing was going and either later that year or earlier this year he was more of less totally deaf, just on the odd occasion it looked like me may have heard something. When I realised he was doing deaf we started to also beckon him with our hands as well as shouting him and after going deaf he responded to this very well.

He had another episode of head in to his side and walking very funny I think earlier this year which he recovered from very quickly.

This year he started really slowing down and his walks became 15 minutes maximum very easy walks. He started to struggle to get up with his back legs and we got him some Yumove around May which seemed to help him. Around end of June he struggled to get up one day and we heard him yelp, so we took him to the vets. They advised that he had due to his age had muscle loss in his back and legs and we put him on Metacam which again seemed to help him and whilst he was old he seemed ok in himself with no other symptoms to cause concern.

He also started to pant in a fashion different to his normal panting more intense

Around now but it might have been a bit earlier he got a mania for food. It did seem that food was now all he was interested in.

After this he became very restless more so at night but also in the day, pacing, panting and my husband slept downstairs with him so we could leave the door open and he could go in and out as he pleased. When he went for walks or in the house if sounded like on many occasions one of his feet would be dragged it sounded like he had not made a clear step.

He had another episode of the head in to his side and walking very funny at the end of last month (Aug) Following this we thought he may have had a cold as we thought we heard him sneeze and following this he had a nose bleed whilst on the park and was very wobbly. He had a further nose bleed something he has never had. We took him to the vets who examined his head thoroughly and advised that they can sometimes have nosebleeds that there may have been something stuck up it he did question us about the episodes with the nose bleeds I advised the vet that I did not want him to suffer and asked did he appear ok for now, he did not say no so we took him home.

Last week 2 or 3 times whilst on the park with my husband he seemed to have moments when he did not recognise my husband and backed away from him both times he left the park by himself and went home with my husband following him (there are no roads to cross) by the time he got home or just after they got in the house he seemed to recognise my husband again. He was also more wobbly on his feet and was struggling more. We ready some articles and saw that some of his ssymptoms could be due to dementia pacing, panting, licking us (he does not lick people). I took him to the park on Monday of this week and the same thing happened with me.

During the past maybe month his eyes much of the time have seemed like they were bulging and quite glazed the vet did see this too but did not comment on the visit above.

During the past 2 weeks he has many times got up and then just gone and stood in various parts of the room just staring I put this down to dementia. He has also when on the lead seemed to be looking back behind him on quite a few occasions.

On Tuesday I tried to play the game we used to of hunt the treats, this was very voice driven before but we thought it might boost him a little to focus on something so we would point to areas where the treats were and he would be stood with his nose practically on them but it seemed he could not see them. His tail has hardly wagged at all when I think about it over the past 2 weeks, he has just looked sad and only interested in food, he has been eating leaves and other things on the park. He has also come to sit near us more as he has always liked his own space.

On Wednesday when I returned from work I noticed that when he got up, he seemed to be limping on his front legs which was clearly making him very wobbly. I rang my husband to see if maybe he’d taken him out and he’d fell over. He had not so this seemed to have just come on. My husband came home and he was still lying down and he noticed a wasp near one of Barney’s feet. We wondered if his limp could be because of a sting. He continued that day to move very slowly and with what appeared to be great difficulty. Later that day he spent most of his time just stood in various places but panting very heavily much worse than the heavier panting he had started to do, he just stood staring we thought at us panting for a long period of time. He would stand at the open back door but look like he did not know what to do next. We got him outside and as he walked toward the grass he seemed to lose the wobble and go a little faster, he seemed to settle in the garden a little. When he came in he was again wobbly and walking with difficulty but not as bad as earlier. Later he settled on his bed and we could hear him breathing or what I said was snoring but my husband said he had never sounded like that before.

We had made an appointment at the vets for the following day as I had read about tablets for dementia that had helped in 75% of cases although it was only us that thought it was dementia from reading things. We then had the conversation that no one wants to have. We said that if we took him and the vet said that the tablets would help and that if his walking was better that we would give the tablets a go, but that if not we both agreed that we could not let him continue to go through what he had that day, panting, staring, and not being able to walk properly.

My husband left for work the following morning and Barney was still asleep but he had moved in the night to a different part of the room. He continued to sleep for quite some time and when he did wake and sit up but still lying on the floor he was clearly very tired and when I stroked the side of his face he rested his head against my hand. Barney has never been affectionate or craved any attention. He lay back down and when he did get up later he was again very wobbly and walking with difficulty, he also just stood staring and did not seem to be able to either see or react to my hand gestures to call him to the kitchen for his breakfast. I brought it to him whilst he was stood in the living room, I put it down but he did not go to eat it, I held the dish up to him and he wolfed it down. I had to do the same with his water and again with his water a little later whilst he had stayed in the same spot.

After watching this my instinct told me that it was time to let him go to sleep. My husband came home and we wanted to get him in the garden for a wee as I don’t think he’d had one that morning at all, we had to lift the front of him down the steps as he just stood at the door, he then walked a little better to the grass

I think on the way to the vets my husband questioned our decision saying maybe we should try the tablets but we both agreed that we could not risk him suffering and not being able to tell us about it. Dave had had to pick Barney up and struggled to get him in the back seat of the car, although he did walk to the car a little easier, but my husband had to pull him gently by his collar as he did not seem very with it.

He poohed in the car whilst we with him something he has never done. I pulled him gently out as I thought he may be distressed in the car, he continued to pooh on the ground some of it then very sloppy. He got him to walk in which he did with a lot of effort he clearly did not want to walk he kept looking to his side my husband said he was not with it, as we got to the ramp though he seemed to change and walk quite normal in to the vets.

We went in the room and I just said we thinks its time. He asked why and we explained recent events. He looked at this eyes and remembered they had been like that the last time, he said he may be blind but we knew he wasn’t as we had seen him see things and focus on them he then threw a ball of paper on the floor and kept thrusting his hand at Barney’s face with no reaction. He explained that this was called Menses?? When they don’t react and he asked has he had his head to the side again and we explained he had I did not associate him looking backwards whilst walking with this. He then said he thought it was a brain tumour from the symptoms and that he had thought it might be the case last time. We were very upset and he broke the silence by saying there were some tablets that may release fluid or something on his brain but I think he said it won’t cure him( but this could have been from a previous visit) and he also followed this up straight away with it would be purely palliative and you would be back here. I advised we did not want him to suffer and we said we would go ahead and put him to sleep.

Should we have tried the tablets? Would they have alleviated his symptoms described above. Would they have extended his life but with quality?

If so would they have eventually stopped working and the symptoms returned bringing us back to that point again. Or would the tablets have relieved the symptoms and kept bBarney going until he just went to sleep one night and did not wake up?

What success rate do they have on dogs over 15.

We forgot to mention the wasp, what if all the walking problems and increased panting on Wed were because of that and could have been corrected.

We did not ask the vets opinion as to whether we were doing the right thing as we were too upset.

I tell myself and Dave that the vet would not have put Barney to sleep if he felt he could still have a good quality of life is that correct?

We would appreciate your expert view on this

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Cases like this are so difficult. The hardest part in making a decision for euthanasia in a case like this is not knowing 100% for sure what the problem is.

As I was reading the detailed history that you left, I was fairly certain that what you were seeing was the progression of a brain tumor. These symptoms do not sound like dementia to me. Any time I see a nosebleed in an older dog I get worried that perhaps there is a tumor that is causing it - either in the nose or up closer to the brain. The bulging eyes could have been from swelling from the tumor as well. In fact, if the tumor was swelling off and on then this could cause blindness that comes and goes.

The episodes of wobbliness fit with a tumor as well. The fact that you heard scuffing sounds occasionally means that something was affecting the nervous pathway that goes from the brain to the front legs. This is something that would not happen with dementia.

Also, these symptoms do not sound at all like they were related to the wasp.

The problem with brain tumors is that they are really difficult to diagnose. You could do a CT scan or MRI but you're looking at an anesthetic and a very large bill and that is just to get a diagnosis - it wouldn't cure anything. But, with the symptoms that you have described, a brain tumor sounds extremely likely.

So, was it treatable? Most likely what the vet was offering you was to put him on some steroids which might help to temporarily reduce the swelling caused by the tumor and temporarily relieve the symptoms. It's hard to say whether it would help and if it did help it could be only for a few weeks or even days. However, as this really appeared to be a tumor that was actively growing (as the symptoms were getting more and more pronounced), then it would still continue to grow and not only would you be back at this bad place soon, you would probably find that things are worse.

I am always an advocate for euthanasia when we are fairly certain that a dog has a fatal condition. If you had kept him alive there's no telling how the end would be. I think that we all have this wish that our pets would pass away quietly in their sleep, but this rarely happens. Most likely, if you had prolonged things, these symptoms would progress to seizures and other really unpleasant things. I think that you definitely made the right decision even though it was quite difficult.

It sounds like you did absolutely everything you could for your dog. Please don't feel guilty. You and your vets made the same decision that I would have.

So sorry for your loss.

Dr. Marie

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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

Dear Dr Marie

Thank you for your very thorough response to all our questions we found your information very reassuring and helpful to us at this time.

kind regards

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.