Old Grey Mare, She Ain’t What She Used to Be…When Dogs Get Old

Here’s a picture of Bacchus when he was 11 months old:

Here he is this morning, 10 years later:

Why does he look so glum? Probably because I’m making him lay around a lot and not run around.

He doesn’t realize that his ole ticker isn’t working so well these days.  After the vet heard a small heart murmur a few months ago, and then a louder one last month, she recommended we take him to a dog cardiologist for an echocardiogram.  We had the appointment yesterday, and the news isn’t so great.  He apparently has “moderate to severe” mitral valve prolapse, and a lot of blood is flowing the wrong way through the valve, so his heart isn’t pumping really efficiently.  Also, the cardiologist described what she called “cords” that connect the valves to the heart muscle, and it appeared one of them had “popped”. Evidently it wasn’t an important one, but if another one pops it could mean curtains for poor Bacchus.

I asked about the prognosis with regard to life span, and she said, of course, that it depends.  If he pops another cord, he could die instantly.  If he keeps his cords intact, he’s got maybe a couple of years. He’s not going to get any better, but we’re starting him on meds today in the hopes of slowing down the progression.

If he lasts a couple of years, that’ll put him at 13, which is a respectable age for a Vizsla and right in range with the average life span.  The real bummer is that he’s no longer allowed to exercise. No long walks, unless we can avoid hills (we can’t). No dog parks. Probably no swimming. The doc also said she’d prefer he avoided stairs, and jumping…including jumping up onto beds.  This is a big problem, because right now both dogs sleep with C, upstairs, and on his bed.  She said he could probably manage the stairs right now, but to make him walk. Normally he bounds up the stairs, skipping 3-4 at a time. I’m not sure how to make him walk, but I’m gonna try. And we’re buying something like this to help him get onto the beds:

update: he refused to use these so we’re letting him jump on the bed if he likes.

Yep, we’re gonna spoil the heck out of Bacchus and let him live his twilight years like a king.

He’s been sleeping more lately, but he’s always loved naps, and when he’s feeling frisky he still acts like a pup. Frank, until now, has wrestled the dog every night, and the two dogs run around playing all the time (well, in between naps). It’s sort of hard to convince him to slow down, and it breaks my heart a bit to have to, when he’s feeling good.  But the doctor said he’ll feel fine running around, until he suddenly doesn’t, and I’d like to avoid that for as long as possible.

My main concern now is explaining the severity of the problem to C without freaking him out too much. I don’t think this is possible, but we’re going to try.  My other big concern is that the doctor said that, down the road, when Bacchus starts having trouble breathing, it’ll likely be at night. I don’t know how much longer to let Bacchus sleep with C. It’s tough, because they all really like it, but I don’t want C to wake up in the middle of the night to a dog in respiratory distress.

We’re such dog people around here. Bacchus is definitely one of our ‘children’ and it’s hard to watch him get older. He was born on our wedding day, so he’s got an extra special spot in our hearts because of that, but he’s also just a really sweet, weird, quirky dog.

I guess the silver lining in all of this is the extra love and appreciation he’s getting from all of us these days. Here’s to hoping we’ll be hearing the thump-thump-thump of his tail wagging – from underneath our bed covers – when we walk into the room, for a long time yet.

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