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Aging Farm dogs and aggression and when to let go

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  • Aging Farm dogs and aggression and when to let go

    I have a 15yo beagle/JRT who I found when he was about a year old and brought home. He has always been a typical Napoleonic JRT type--snarly, puffed up tough guy with other dogs--the bigger, the better. But he's never been outright aggressive.

    About a month ago he out of nowhere picked a fight with my two-year old Dobie. Dobie was lying quietly napping in the barnyard, and the little guy sat up, walked purposefully over to him, and grabbed him by the throat. Dobie leapt up and tried to get away, but the little guy wouldn't let up, and eventually the Dobie bit him twice, leaving some pretty good holes in him. (I was in the middle of teaching a lesson, and ran up as quick as I could when I saw the little guy stalking the big one, but couldn't move fast enough to stop it. In case you wonder why I didn't call off the little one, he's gone deaf, and I was to far away for hand signals). We had noticed he was becoming increasingly snarly and crabby about other animals over the past few weeks (to the point of growling at the cat when it wanted to drink water--they've been friends for years) and snarling and chasing the young Dobie, and our other dog, an elderly lab. As I say though, he's always been Napoleonic--he got his leg broke by a horse several years back, because he was trying to steal grain from under his feeder, and when the horse lunged at him, instead of running away, he stood his ground.

    Anyhoo, I whisked him off to the vet to get his various new apertures closed, and while in there they did pre-anesthesia blood work and discovered he is in end-stage kidney failure. He will die from this, and it can't be cured. However, we have a new diet (which he hates) and they are giving me anywhere from a few months to a year that he can survive. They also suggested some of his increased aggression may be due to the kidney function issues--sort of like being a mean drunk.

    We've had a few weeks of relative peace, but last night he got snarly again. Went after the lab when he was trying to drink, and this morning went after the Dobie again when he was lying in the barn yard. This time there's only a minor owie on his ear, because the Dobie took off running when he saw him coming. But it was still stressful and I'm a bit at my wits end.

    These are farm dogs. They've all had obediance training, and have done agility, but their "yard" is my 60 acre farm. I have a single level open floor plan house. Seperating the little monster is not a good or kind option--essentially I'd have to crate him, which he hates. So here I am, wondering if I should prematurely euthanize a terminal dog, rather than wait around for him to get himself killed.

    I feel terrible thinking about this, but I don't want him to suffer some horrible death after being grabbed by another dog, or stomped by a horse ('cuz he's been growling at them too). I don't want to have six more months of giant vet bills every few weeks because he's picking fights all the time. And mostly, perhaps selfishly, I don't want any of mine or anyone's else's animal being known for killing a dog when it won't be their fault.

    On the other hand, other than the snarly, grumpy things, and the fact he's terminal and deaf, you wouldn't really know he was sick. So I feel guilty taking a seemingly healthy guy for that final vet trip. I could do it, but it would still feel, well, weird.

    He's been a good, if trying dog (have to admit, I wouldn't go out of my way to have a JRT or Beagle ever again, LOL), and I want to make the right call here. Any words of wisdom?
    Phoenix Farm ~ Breeding-Training-Sales
    Eventing, Dressage, Young Horses
    www.phoenixsporthorses.com
    Check out my new blog: http://califcountrymom.blogspot.com

  • #2
    I type this with love and tender care..... I would put him down.

    You already know his prognosis is terminal. You already know he hurts. Then the added deafness and aggression. Let him go while he is still comfortable, with gentleness, much lovin and lotsa treats.

    It stinks and it hurts, but as the wise Coreene says: better a day too soon than a second too late.
    <>< Sorrow Looks Back. Worry Looks Around. Faith Looks Up! -- Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult. You may be given a cactus, but you don't have to sit on it.

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    • #3
      As hard as it is to type this. . . if he were mine I would most likely put him down also.

      It is never an easy decision, but I think the aggression is a sign of pain, and self knowledge that he is in a vulnerable stage of health.

      And your other points of him being increasingly injured due to his aggression are very valid.
      There are friends and faces that may be forgotten, but there are horses that never will be. - Andy Adams

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      • #4
        I think I too would put him down. Better a week too early than a minute too late, IMO. I'm sorry. What a tough situation.
        Full-time bargain hunter.

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        • #5
          If he's attacking the dog, it could be a child next. I say spoil him rotten for a day and then let him go 'over the bridge'. Better to remember the old coot for being a curmudgeon than 'that dog that bit a child' or worse.
          R.I.P. my sweet boy Tristan
          36 years old, but I was hoping you'd live forever
          5/5/75-7/5/11

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          • #6
            I've lost three cats to kidney disease. It is a slow, painful death. They have good days and bad days....then there are more and more bad days.

            He's not happy. He has lived a full life. It is never easy but better now, before he hurts someone or something.

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            • #7
              Phoenix, I agree with the others.

              He's not going to get better, and he may get more aggressive. Do you really want to remember him as a vicious, unhandleable little monster after he's gone?

              If he were mine, I'd make the appointment.

              It hurts and it stinks, and I'm sorry as hell, but I think you know what needs to be done.
              Homeopathy claims water can cure you since it once held medicine. That's like saying you can get sustenance from an empty plate because it once held food.

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              • #8
                If it was me, I'd fence in an area outside so he can't get out and the other animals can't get in, do the same inside (it'd be very short-term anyway). If he just spends his time glaring and trying to get out, you could realize it wasn't helping and take him to the vet since there was no solution to the problem. But it might allow him to have a few last weeks of enjoyment, with some privacy.

                Dunno if that's possible for OP, but it seems like the only possible 'solution' to the problem. If that doesn't work, I agree that euthanizing him a little early is better than risking him biting someone and/or meeting a horrific death from another animal he attacks. In any case, my sympathies for the OP's dilemma.

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                • #9
                  If he's still going after the Dobie, then diet or no diet, he's still in pain. I would tell the vet that it's time. It's not premature just because he's not gasping out his last already. He's in pain, the treatment apparently isn't helping, isolating him is not an option or fair to him, you know the disease is terminal and he has months at best...let him go.
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                  • #10
                    If I were in your shoes I think I would call it a day for the old man. I myself have a 15 year old 3-legged boy that is now deaf, and getting cranky. He won't go after other animals though, but if the younger dogs keep getting in his business he tells them were to put it! I dread the day I have to make that final trip with him, but I will do whatever is in his best interest. It sounds like your guy is checking out a bit and perhaps doesn't have all his wits about him anymore, and he's terminal anyway so why prolong the inevitable when he seems to be changing his demeanor towards life. It will be worse if he ends up getting killed by one of your other dogs or a horse when he goes after them, its a much worse way to go.

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                    • #11
                      He sounds unhappy and in pain. My curmudgeonly dog turned really aggressive when he started having kidney problems as well. All of a sudden a little alpha is in chronic pain and is just pissed off at anybody within breathing distance, maybe he CAN live for a few more months but should he have to if he is miserable? I think it's a very reasonable call to spare him several months of erosion of his dignity.
                      If you believe everything you read, better not read. -- Japanese Proverb

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                      • #12
                        OP - I'd definitely consider putting him down. First reason being that JRTs are notoriously tough guys (as you describe yours to be) and if they are showing any indication of pain you know it has to actually be a great deal of pain they are feeling.

                        Second reason being, if you do decide to separate him from the rest of the dogs you will have to commit to doing that for as long as he is alive. In my experience, once we separated our dogs that weren't getting along they were actually worse with each other if they accidentally ended up in the same room. Much worse. And having gone through a year of keeping two dogs separated at all times, I can tell you it is not an easy task.

                        Best of luck to you with your decision and pats to the little guy.

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                        • #13
                          I think you already know the 'right' answer...

                          Don't leave it too late, or you'll end up hating yourself for making him suffer unnecessarily.
                          Eternal Earth-Bound Pets Independent Contractor.


                          All I want is to know WHAT HAPPENED TO THE CHICKEN???

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                          • #14
                            Big hugs to you as this is such a tough decision. You have to look at the quality of his life and the safety of others. I can't say what you should do as everyone comes to grip with this themselves, but I have had to put down dogs that were in terminal illness and share your pain as we would all so much prefer they just die in their sleep.

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                            • #15
                              This is Exactly the same as what happaned to my elderly JR bitch.
                              She had kidney problems too but we were not aware of it till much later.
                              She was always the alpha in the pack of her and a much smaller and younger JR bitch and would snarl at her but never acted upon it. One day in a seemingly random act she attacked the other bitch. Fortunately we were able to intercept. She put a few holes in the other bitches leg.
                              Then all was back to normal. No more fights.
                              UNTIL 6 months later we had gone out to the races for the day and left both dogs in our large fenced yard.
                              We came home to find the smaller bitch dead. The old dog had bit her jugular. We hoped it was a swift death but it was extremely distressing.
                              The old bitch was so happy with herself and as now the only dog got to be number one.
                              We took her to the vet who pronounced she was having kidney issues. Her health went downhill quite rapidly after that and we had her put to sleep about 5 months after the attack.
                              It was a terrible thing but we realised her crankiness and shorttempered behaviour was simply out of pain. Sad that her mate had to die because of it.

                              Would I have put the old girl down earlier and saved the attack and the death of the other girl. Probably not because I did not think it could ever happan.
                              I would certainly be far more alert now if faced with the same situation and would never leave the old sick dog in the company of others. I feel she just wanted to be left alone.

                              Your boy might just come off second best against a young doby. The decision is of course yours and only you can judge just how comfortable he is. I would definately keep the
                              dogs seperated until the time comes for the old one to cross over.

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                              • #16
                                In your shoes, I'd spoil the hell out of him for a day or two and then euthanize. It does sound like he's hurting - I know I'm grumpier than usual when I don't feel well/am in pain - and I bet that's the case with him.

                                It sucks, but ... anyway, hugs and sympathy to you and the old guy.
                                Delicious strawberry flavored death!

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                                • #17
                                  Add me to the send him over the bridge soon crowd.
                                  It's tough...but kidney failure as it progresses will be horrible over time. And his aggression means he's not content or happy now anyways.
                                  Aggression as they age and if they may/may not have a health issue is common. Because many times if the oldest or sick dog doesn't get aggressive the rest of the younger healthy dogs will get aggressive towards the weak dog. Genetic pack behavior...perfectly normal and often heart breaking. When an older dog gets aggressive, it's because they know they've become a target and are avoiding problems by being the aggressive one first. Means they're nervous.
                                  It would probably be kindest to the poor old boy to be euthanized after a good long day of one on one attention and treats.
                                  My sympathy on his issues.
                                  You jump in the saddle,
                                  Hold onto the bridle!
                                  Jump in the line!
                                  ...Belefonte

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                                  • #18
                                    I'm so sorry. I would put him to sleep now. {{hugs}}

                                    You have to think about what would happen if he crashed one weekend and you couldn't get him to the vets. Better he go peacefully now.
                                    Horse Show Names Free name website with over 6200 names. Want to add? PM me!

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                                    • #19
                                      My sister had a cat with kidney disease. She had good days and bad days, almost got put down a couple of times but rallied. My sister dragged it out too long, was too attached to put her down. When she finally crashed for good it was on a Friday night. The poor kitty had no muscle tone, was like a rag-doll all weekend, was miserable. The ER vet didn't want to put her down because the cat wasn't a "regular patient" and wasn't in "current pain" (I think he was a wimp). So the once-proud kitty had to endure 2 1/2 days of complete and total helplessness and absolute misery until we could get her to the regular vet on Monday. It was the worst weekend of both my sister's and that cat's life.

                                      Definitely in the "better a week early than a day late" camp.

                                      I just hope someone can be that kind to me when I get to that stage...

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        An old man animal-lover spent the night in the hospital last night because he was bitten ~for the third time in as many months~ by a dog in renal failure. Bite is infected. Blood poisoning in 24 hours.

                                        Owner is my well-intentioned sister, old man is my dad.

                                        Please don't let your situation come to this.

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