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I feel like I am posting this more as a cathartic activity for myself, and I am not necessarily looking for advice or responses from others, but any replies are welcome.
We had to put our dog, Toby, to sleep yesterday after a short injury-induced illness, and while I am “OK” with the decision to put him down based on where he was at medically at the time of his euthanasia, I am really struggling to come to terms with the factors that got him there in the first place, and I am placing a lot of blame on myself.
Toby was about 11 years old, and we had him in our family since he was about 3 having taking him in from a rescue shelter where he had been surrendered by his first family. His first family obviously must have cared a lot about him, as he had been born with hip dysplasia, and prior to surrendering him the family had paid many thousands of dollars for him to have hip surgery.
We knew throughout his time with us that the history of these significant surgeries meant he was prone to arthritis and injury, and as much as he loved (obsessively) to play fetch, we were advised several years back (after some reoccuring issues of his hip popping out during play) to not play fetch with him any more as it had a high risk of aggravating or dislocating his hips.
So with that context established comes the guilt I feel towards his sudden illness. The Sunday before last, we were at the park with Toby and our daughter, and while my husband played with our daughter on the equipment, I found a tennis ball that someone had left behind. I innocently thought that it would be OK to toss the ball a few times to Toby, and he seemed to be having a great time. Shortly after finishing playing fetch, he had a noticeable limp. On other occasions my husband had been able to successfully pop the hip back in, but in this case he couldn’t, and we ended up carrying him home.
We took him that night to the emergency vet, who took xrays and gave him pain relief but was unable to diagnose the issue. The vet’s recommendation was to take him back to an orthopaedic surgeon, however instead of doing this I booked him in to see his regular vet in the first instance, and this appointment we had on the Tuesday (2 days after the injruy). By the time we had this appointment, he was becoming quite unlike himself, but I put this down to him being in discomfort due to his hip. This vet recommended we take him to the orthopaedic surgeon, and gave us a referral which would mean that the consult itself would be free of charge. I called to book an appointment but could not get Toby in until the following Monday (8 days after the initial injury).
By the Friday of that week (5 days after the injury) Toby was showing very obvious signs of being unwell. He was barely eating or drinking, had an episode of vomitting, and was very lethargic and “not himself”. I did call the specialist vet at that point to ask for advice on what to do. They suggested that as long as he was eating and drinking that this was the main thing, and that if we did bring him in earlier he would need to go through the emergency department which did involve consultation fees. I chose to wait and he continued to show these symptoms throughout the weekend.
By the time of the specialist appointment on Monday morning, he was very unwell. The first sign that something had started to go very wrong was that the vet mentioned Toby had a significant heart murmer, something that hadn’t been picked up by the vet even 6 days earlier. They admitted him for further scans, with the intent to address the hip issue. Within an hour I had been called to say that their routine blood tests indicated that Toby’s kidney, liver, and white cell counts were concerning. By the afternoon it had become clear that he was in sepsis, and a domino effect of organ failures occurred over the next 12 hours until the decision was made the next morning to euthanise.
As I said at the beginning, this process of writing this out is more for my own healing. I know that with the state that he had been in by the time he saw the specialist vet, it was already too late to reverse the rapidly progressing sepsis, and in the end euthanasia was the most humane thing to do. I just cannot stop going over the different decision points in the week prior that led to him getting so sick, and I cannot stop myself from feeling extremely guilty for not being able to identify the signs earlier, and for letting it get to that point.
Thanks to anyone who took the time to read this – and I am sorry if you are also going through your own experience of grief and loss that has brought you to this forum.
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