DEAR PET LADY,
I have an 11-year-old golden retriever. In the last month, he has become less active and skinnier. Sunday, after walking upstairs, he collapsed and had what appeared to be a heart attack. I didn't hear a heartbeat and he wasn't breathing. After about 30 seconds, he kind of burped and came to, but since this incident he has been very weak. He eats and drinks but doesn't play and can only stand for about 20 seconds before he has to lie down. If he thinks someone's at the door, he stands and barks for about five seconds, but this tires him and he collapses on the floor. He is still eating, and holds his bladder and bowels until I let him outside. The average person would take him to a vet; however, he gets extremely stressed out when we take him in the car, and I'm afraid he will have another heart attack or even die on the way.
Does this just sound like a dog getting old and close to the end, or should I take him to the vet for blood work and tests? I also have been feeding him puppy food in hopes it would put on the weight, but it doesn't seem to be working yet. He doesn't seem to be in any pain and basically just sleeps all day. Thanks in advance for any thoughts you might have.
Oh dear, this is a sad tale (perhaps with the exception of your fur friend's continued ability to wait until he is out-of-doors to relieve himself—that is a happy, happy thing). The Pet Secretary's investigation into the general life expectancy of the dear golden retrievers revealed that your pet (whom you have mysteriously let remain nameless; shall we call him Retrievery?) is indeed grappling with issues of impending doggie mortality. Ten to 12 years is the life Retrievery can hope to span, and having hit, well, dead center of that range, a major slowdown is not at all out of order.
Considering the dramatic way that Retrievery returned from the other side after an apparent cardiac arrest, perhaps he just wanted to spend a little more time with such a thoughtful and loving owner as you, sweet Jessy. You should indulge him in his decrepitude by feeding him soft, tasty foods and providing him patches of sunlight or a blanket with a heating pad on which to snooze. Many light pettings are in order as well.
Given Retrievery's horror of automobile rides, the Pet Lady would recommend avoiding such voyages at all costs. Keep him comfortable and ready yourself psychologically for his imminent departure—our pet friends are precious, but they, like all things, are impermanent. Giving them a lovely life and much love is all that we can do, and the end of such giving should be peaceful for all involved.
The Pet Secretary wishes to add this tribute of sorts to Retrievery's full life and good kind, courtesy of the American Kennel Club: "A symmetrical, powerful, active dog, sound and well put together, not clumsy nor long in the leg, displaying a kindly expression and possessing a personality that is eager, alert, and self-confident."
Best to you and sweet dreams to Retrievery,
The Pet Lady
Sleepy or otherwise unusual pet? Send photos and letters to The Pet Lady, c/o Seattle Weekly, 1008 Western, Ste. 300, Seattle, WA 98104, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.