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Living with a dog that is experiencing liver failure is rough, both physically and emotionally. Physically, because you know they are going to die. That means the quality of life has become just that more important. More walks, more cuddles, and more play sessions. Emotionally, because now there’s a timeline on when they are going to die.
This is what I’ve been experiencing. My oldest dog, Jasmine, is a 12-year-old American Staffordshire Terrier. She’s one of the best dogs anyone could own. She has some anxiety problems, but otherwise, she’s kind, silly, selfless, gives some of the best kisses, and loves to roll around in the grass. When we adopted her, we heard “terrier” and thought she would be a little thing—this is why people tell you to research before you get a dog! She’s the perfect size of 60+ pounds.
She was diagnosed with a fatty lump on her liver in July of 2017. In November of that same year, she was diagnosed with liver failure. At this point, we’re just hoping she has a good quality of life. This means every few months she gets bloodwork done to make sure the pills she gets are working. Getting up at six every morning to give her necessary pills that help her stay comfortable. She gets walked every day, weather permitting, so she gets the necessary exercise she needs. She gets a special fan in the summer and a special heater in the winter. She gets blankets, an orthopedic bed, and special dog food for liver care.
All of this can be taxing on us financially, which causes us to stress out. Just looking at her sometimes I’m reminded that she is in fact dying, and all I want to do is cry. Crying would cause her to stress out and with her anxiety, it wouldn’t be hard. So I hold back the tears and instead I get on the floor to snuggle with her.
It was especially hard on us, emotionally, when her liver levels were starting to go down while on these meds, and then in November they suddenly triple again. We got her x-rayed and an ultrasound, her liver looked the exact same, with lump. So the vet diagnosed her with liver failure. That was so tough to hear. The vet said it could be six months, it could be a year. She couldn’t say for sure.
It’s not just about Jasmine, either. Sheila knows something is up, she’s doing things she normally wouldn’t do. Once, Jasmine laid in what Sheila considers her bed—for some reason she refuses to lay on the orthopedic bed—and instead of throwing a fit, she laid on the floor next to her. She’s been giving her kisses, not running near her or pushing into her like she normally would have done.
Nova, unfortunately, our little and youngest cat—of two!—is being just a bit more demanding on getting her cuddles. She likes to yell at you to do what she wants. Sukki, my male cat, has been sleeping on me more, trying to free me of my stress the best he can. It’s been stressful since her diagnosis, to say the least. It’s taken a toll on us all, but I can only imagine what’s going on with Jasmine. I’ve never lived with a living being going through liver failure, so I have no way of knowing what to expect.
For now, we’re just hoping she’s comfortable and happy. That’s all we can do for her now. Unfortunately, her death is a waiting game. Let’s just hope that it’s quick and painless.