I've been meaning to write about Lotlot for awhile, as I've been aware of hardly mentioning her since she recovered from her near-death illness in January. Now she's sick again, though not quite as bad as then.
Since January (when she was 'urinating' dark red blood clots and went into kidney failure), she's had one other episode of 'red wine' urine - in April. That only lasted half a day - she was put on antibiotics and recovered pretty quickly. But the bloody urine started again the other day - Thursday. It wasn't till the next day that we got her to the vet and onto antibiotics again. The blood didn't clear from her urine until Saturday. She went without food for about 24 hours and lost weight - and as she hadn't much to spare, she was immediately skin and bones.
Even though the bloody urine disappeared yesterday, she's continued to look unwell - frail, thin, breathing heavily. It suddenly occured to me today that she was anaemic because of the blood loss - that would explain the heavy breathing. We've been giving her multivitamin gel and hand feeding her meat to try and get some strength back. She does look a bit better tonight.
She's finding this winter hard - she's been reluctant to get off the couch and go outside. She's been semi-incontinent - it's not true incontinence, as during the daytimes she's in control and will ask to go out if she needs to. But during the night she doesn't seem able to hold on - she'll come downstairs at 3am and wee on the floor - luckily we have floorboards, so it doesn't leave a stain or a smell. Talking to other owners of old dogs, it seems they all become incontinent to some extent in the last year or so.
She smells at times. It's an exaggerated doggy smell, nothing truly awful, but an unhealthy smell. It's probably a sign of poor kidney function. The best explanation the vet has of her condition is that poor muscle tone means she doesn't ever expel the last drops of urine from her bladder - so it pools there and she probably has a chronic infection which turns into a kidney infection, with her kidneys bleeding.
She didn't like our absence in Tasmania. She looked unwell when we came back, even though someone had been living with her to look after her.
Most of the time in the past six months she's been a healthy but old dog. It's hard to remember that she was ever a highly active young dog. Memories of her in the past now seem like ancient history. Lot the old dog is like a different entity in many ways, though the spirit - the stubborn, self-sufficient, joyous spirit - is still there and has been continuous. She's very dignified - not a word I'd usually use, but it's fitting. Sometimes she flinches when you reach out to touch her - she's about 80-90% deaf and doesn't have good sensory self-protection in place, so a hand coming towards her can be a shock. She tries to avoid Mr Barrell, the younger dog, as he's just too fast and heavy for her. She can still get up and down the stairs and also on and off the couch (and bed!) (though occasionally she fails to make it up onto the couch). But there have been times when she almost falls down the stairs - that's an awful thing to hear.
Occasionally in the park I see dogs who are her peers - dogs that she used to play with - or fight with - when she was young. I saw one today - the first dog she ever had a scrap with, when she was just two. (I was so shocked, as I'd had no idea until that moment that staffies were fighting dogs.) That dog must be at least 13 now - she looked pretty good in the park today. When I see other old dogs who are relatively okay, I realise that Lot's main problem is the kidney disease, rather than her age, though it's hard to disentangle the two.
The availability of euthanasia for animals is a blessing of course, but it has its cursed side for humans. It puts the onus on us to think about whether the animal is in pain, whether they'd be better of out of this. It's bad enough watching a slow deterioration without having the ability to bring it to an end. Most of the time I don't think about that but having watched Lot be weak and in discomfort in the past three days, it's been on my mind. Though the idea of not having her around is unbearable.
I've just realised how few photos we've taken off her in recent months - the best one I could find was taken in April at a friend's house. We need to take more. Of course I hope she gets through this bad patch but I know these kidney infections are going to keep on happening and it can only be a matter of months till it gets the better of her.