Sunday, October 5, 2008

An Endless Thirst

My 12-year-old yellow Labrador, Simba, has been acting strange lately. He slurps down the majority of the water in the bowl in the kitchen and then pesters me to let him outside. Once I let him out, he pees and pees as if his bladder were the size of the Hindenburg. If I shut the door, he woofs loudly in a way that shocks my system, because he wants back in so that he can slurp down another bowl of water. There is water outside, but for some reason he will only drink the water in the house. It's an endless cycle. He has also been panting even when it is cold, and staring at me nervously. He chases me around the house and tries to lead me or herd me toward the back door, so that I can let him out. He used to sleep the majority of the day, but now he is so hyper and needy. I can hear his claws clacking on the tile floor as he paces all day and night.

My husband and I took him to the vet, and we left him there for the weekend so that he could run some tests. Everyone's first thought was that the dog had diabetes. However, the blood tests came back clean. The vet had them double check the results, because he couldn't believe that the dog didn't have diabetes. He ran x-rays to look for internal tumors, but there was nothing. Next he considered Cushing's and Addison's. The problem was that not all of his symptoms fit either of those diseases. We spent a small fortune on all the tests without coming to a conclusive diagnosis.

The vet said that Simba's urine was pure water, and we had to start regulating his water intake in order to get his kidneys working so that they are processing the water. We started serving Simba water at reasonable intervals so as not to dehydrate him, but to allow his body time to absorb the water rather than just pushing it straight through to make room for the next massive liquid intake. There is such a thing as water poisoning. Too much of anything is not good.

Once we did that, Simba returned to his normal behavior of sleeping most of the day and only going outside when the other dogs go outside. Just when we thought everything was back to normal, we started leaving the water bowl on the floor all day and Simba returned to his cycle of drinking and peeing, drinking and peeing. We are now entertaining the idea that perhaps he is senile. He gets bored and doesn't remember that he just had a drink, and so he keeps on drinking until his bladder is bursting.

Obviously, I feel bad for Simba, but this behavior has really turned my life upside down in a bad way. Because I work from my home office, I have to somehow work and deal with this obnoxious, never-ending behavior from my dog. I can't sit through a phone conference without having to excuse myself a dozen times to put the dog out and bring him in. I can't concentrate on my tasks, because he's always sticking those big brown eyes in my face begging to go outside even though he was just outside five minutes before. As soon as I try to sit down and relax by reading a book, he's on me pestering me. I get up and let him out, but before I can read into my book more than a couple of sentences, he's barking to be let in. I haven't been able to see one segment of a TV show between commercials in weeks. I keep burning meals, because I can't concentrate on cooking with his constant pee pee emergencies. Sleep is getting harder and harder to come by.

This morning he was pestering me relentlessly as usual, and I decided to ignore him and let him piss on the carpet, if need be. I needed to take a shower without feeling rushed, I needed to get the horses' blankets off, get the horses out of their stalls and fed, I needed to feed myself. For once, I wanted to be able to give my full attention to something other than this dog. When I got out of the shower I was greeted with the world's longest trail of I don't know what! I think it was dog vomit, but I'm not really sure. It traveled the distance of about 25-feet and was quite thick in places.

Why can't dogs hold still when they barf? Why must they run around the entire house leaving a trail that fouls every square inch of floorspace? I spent 2-hours mopping the tile and scrubbing the carpet trying to get the stink and stain out. That's another thing: I just cleaned house yesterday. There seems to be a correlation between me cleaning house and the dogs getting sick. I don't think that it is that they are inhaling cleaning fluids, because all I have to do is vacuum the carpet and they instantly have an accident on it. It's like they can't stand having a clean floor. If I don't mop or vacuum for several weeks, there are no accidents.

I'm actually not even sure if Simba is the one who did this. All the dogs tattle on each other when another one had an accident or is about to have an accident, so maybe Simba was just trying to tell me that Midge or Monty needed to go outside. At any rate, I'm about to go nuts. I'm not willing to install a doggie door, because I live in a lower income neighborhood where burglaries take place on regular basis. I can't just leave the dogs outside and ignore the barking, because my neighbor will call to complain. And, as proven this morning, I can't ignore the dogs when they ask to go outside. Obviously, we have returned to regulating the dogs' water intake.

I've tried behavior modification to stop the barking, but nothing works without me monitoring it full time, which is impossible with my schedule and other responsibilities. If I leave the dogs outside, and I drive off, they bark the entire time I am gone. Then I return home to flashing answering machine and a message from an angry neighbor. Therefore, anytime that we go somewhere, we have to leave the dogs indoors and clean up the mess when we get home. Now with Simba's pee pee problem, that means that if we want to maintain a clean carpet, we can't leave the house for more than twenty minutes. I'm contemplating getting diapers for him, but don't want to humiliate the poor guy.

Simba is mostly deaf, partially blind due to cataracts, has arthritis, and we call him "Tumor Boy" because he has so many fatty tumors all over his body. Half of the vets at our animal hospital have urged us to have the tumors removed surgically, while the other half have urged us not to. Recovering from surgery is often more difficult and stressful on the body than the original condition that led to the surgery, so we have opted to leave the tumors alone. It would really just be cosmetic surgery -- not life or death surgery. The tumors don't bother him.

My mother had a fatty tumor removed from her dog, and she had to keep taking the dog back to the vet hospital because the incision wouldn't stop bleeding. It was a huge ordeal for a 73-year-old woman, because she had to keep the dog isolated in a part of the house that had a linolium floor where she could mop up the blood easily. The dog wouldn't eat for weeks. All that stress and worry over a cosmetic problem? I don't think so.

At any rate, Simba is a senior dog and his body is slowly failing him in different ways, yet when we take him to the vet we are often told that he is in amazingly good health for his age. I do worry that we will someday soon have to consider that long-dreaded decision that all pet owners have to make. As long as he's not in pain, I think we're okay.


dp said...

Is he eating?

This is very similar to what happened with our Reuben last summer except that he went off his food at the same time. There was no clinical evidence of diabetes or kidney failure, but he would drink and drink and drink and either vomit it up or pee and pee and pee. At night he would keep me awake pacing because he wanted water so we bought him a crate. When he was thirsty he would just turn circles in the crate. He would drink anything that he could find -- toilet water, water with cleaners in it, ocean water -- whatever. I know first hand how stressful and annoying it can be.

This was the beginning of the end for Reuben and, knowing what I know now, we would have had him euthanized much earlier than we did. We kept hoping that they would find something specifically wrong with him, but they never did. This went on for about 8 weeks.

Otherwise he was also in good condition -- tail wagging, still wanting to play some ball. But always loosing weight and drinking drinking drinking.

Good luck. I feel for you.

Andrea said...

My dog, Brodi, did this same thing. He will be 10 this year. I took him to the vet and I do not really remember what he said he had, but it wasn't diabities. It was some funky name for a dog that drinks way too much water. Brodi kept peeing in the house. He had never done that before, not even when potty training him. So, my vet ran some tests and Brodi came back normal. So, now I just watch his water intake. He doesn't have to pee as much, but he does act thirsty all the time. We used to have two dogs so it was kinds difficult to regulate that water intake. But now that Bear has is gone, it's easier to watch how much water he drinks.

I feel your pain!! I am sorry. I am all about the doggy door too, but I am sure I will never get one.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

dp - I was hoping someone might come forward who is familiar with these symptoms. I sounds like they don't have a good outcome. He is eating and has a normal appetite, but has had a hard time keeping on weight. We previously had all of our dogs on a weight loss formula of dry dog food, but switched Simba over to something else and are feeding him more now. We do have to keep the toilet lids down. If he can't find his water bowl, he makes a beeline for the toilet bowl.

dp said...

Before Reuben stopped eating he was also loosing weight on his regular diet. The vet prescribed these crazy expensive pills to help him get more nutrition from his food, but they only helped a little bit. Racking my brain now I remember they were hypothesizing that the problem was in his intestines rather than his kidneys, and that he was drinking drinking drinking because he was not getting nutrition from his food.

We also had x-rays etc. but nothing showed. Our vet (who is fantastic) said that intestinal tumors often won't come up on x-ray because they can be small and numerous, and hard to see in the intestinal tissue.

Anyhow, I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings but our experience with these symptoms did not end happily.

Katee said...

I don't know what to tell you. It sounds pretty miserable for everyone involved. I will say this: that is just an adorable dog picture! The look on his doggy face is priceless.

Jenn said...

My old lab has been slowly going insane for the past year. He also has the fatty tumors, and our vet nixed the idea of having them removed. He is 14, and the tumors don't bother him.

He drinks and drinks and drinks and then barks to go outside. He, fortunately, absolutely refuses to pee inside and when he's held it ALL DAY while we're gone, that dog can pee for 5 minutes straight. It's amazing how much he can hold! Then, after he's done peeing, he runs down to the pond and swims and drinks MORE. Crazy. And the mess he makes while drinking inside? Ugh. We have curbed the excessive drinking by taking his water away at night, giving it to him for a couple of hours in the morning, then taking it away again before we leave for work in the morning. He gets it back when we get home and it seems to have helped.

We have three dogs in the house, and the two younger ones spend the day in their crates. The old guy, Xanthe, wanders as he will around the house. He used to be kenneled during the day, but the older he got, the less he needed it.

More recently he's been barking and barking just to bark. No real reason for the barking. He'll stand in the middle of a room, stare off into space and just start barking. He's losing his mind. Physically he's okay, mentally, he's going downhill, like a doggie version of Alzheimer's Disease.

We are of the same mind as you regarding long as he COMFORTABLE, we can deal with the weird old dog habits he's developed. But as soon as life is no longer pleasurable for him, we'll have him euthanized. I just hope he decides to go on his own so we don't have to help him along.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Andrea - Thanks for your account with Brodi. I just knew there would be people out there who have had experience with this.

Katee - You said it. The dogs had been outdoor dogs for many years when they were younger and the neighbors said they were no problem. The barking started in recent years when the population increased in our community. Now the dogs bark a lot because of all the human activity. They really belong in the country, but my town is turning into a city. It would also help tremendously if my neighbors and strangers would stay off my property.

Jenn - I recall us needing to find crates for our dogs a while back, but the biggest crate we could find was only big enough for a puppy, so we had to quarrantine the dogs into small rooms. It seems I've spotted a few cage-like items around recently that would house a larger dog, but I'll have to wrack my brains to remember where I've seen them.

Train Wreck said...

Oh how sad for you and your boy! I hope it gets better for you. No one like the inevitable dreaded decision!

Strawberry Lane said...

So sorry for both Simba and you. Seems we always hope for an easy fix when going to the vet.

Senior pets are both a challenge and a heartache when things start not working right.

With all the senior dogs we've had, that particular problem has escaped us. I wish I had some words of wisdom for you.

Thank you for your kind comments about the horse I rescued. What an experience this is. Each day is a gift for him, but he is going to make it, I'm sure.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

I'm so sorry, NM. How's Simba doing today?


Callie said...

Oh, That's too bad, poor ole boy. My first thought was high output renal failure. Hope you can get him sorted. Poor baby!

Grey Horse Matters said...

I hope he feels better soon and you figure out what his problem is. Maybe restricting his water will help as you were doing before. Good Luck.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Update: Simba has been vomiting and having other types of accidents this week, so we are now not only restricting his water, but his food intake as well. We are feeding him little bits throughout the day instead of two large meals. That seems to have helped. If he were lethargic and acting like he were in pain, it would make the choice easy, but he actually has had the energy of a puppy lately.

Denise- LessIsMore17 said...

Awwww, Jingles for Simba... it is so hard when they get old:-( it's so stressful on everyone.
Hugs to you and Simba...

dp said...

Oh dear. The day we finally made the dreaded decision for Reuben he lost control of his bowels all down the stairs on the way to the door. The stool was bloody. After weeks of struggling to get him better we let him go. It's so hard.