Sick Dog

Updated on January 03, 2010
S.K. asks from Pittsburgh, PA
7 answers

We took our 10 year old dog to the vet today & found out that he has a tumor in his lung. Not an easy thing to hear, but we know he is getting older & would most likely have to deal with something like this at some point. The vet told us he doesn't know the prognosis & could live for a few more years or a few more months. The dog is acting basically normal, so you wouldn't know that there is anything wrong with him. Anyway, my question is how & when should I tell my 5 year old son that his dog is very sick & may not live very long. I know it will break his heart, so I want to start preparing him for it.

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answers from Philadelphia on

S. sorry to hear about your dog. Did the vet say if the tumor was cancerous? I am asking because I had an elderly dog with tumors all over his body but they were not cancerous, they said it was more like a virus but they did not remove them because they were not harmful. My dog lived to be 18 and a half and had the tumors for a few years. So i was just wondering before you talk to your child, what was the vets prognosis?
Best wishes



answers from Pittsburgh on

Mr. Roger's had a GREAT book about the loss of a pet. You might want to read it and get some language to use with your son. When it gets closer to the time your doggie might be dying, you might want to share it with him (your son, not the dog,obviously).

Kids have a very different set of issues around death than adults do, and it is really good you are thinking about this a head of time. It is such a difficult time when a pet dies, and you will be grieving then, so you are smart to get your ducks in row now.

There is a wonderful little piece of writing called "Rainbow Bridge" that has a very pleasant way of imagining "the afterlife" for pets. Ok, it's pretty crappy writing, but a lovely sentiment. Depending on how you feel about the whole heaven, pets in heaven, etc. thing, it might be something positive to share with your son...

I'm hoping you don't have to deal with this any time soon.



answers from Scranton on

So sorry you learned of your dog's condition. Our dog just died a few weeks ago from lung cancer and, thankfully, we didn't know until a day before he died. Our dog was fine, until 4 days before when he refused to eat or drink anything. The only change we saw, about a month before, was that he wanted to spend more time in the yard by himself and was getting up slower. I have no idea how long his tumor was there and I am glad I didn't know so I was able to enjoy him without sorrow until the last few days. We told our boys he was sick when he wouldn't eat, and they were able to be sure to say good by to him before going to school, going to bed, etc for the last day or 2. Since you don't have a prognosis, I would not tell your children. I would try to get them involved with your dog's care, so they don't have any regrets when he does pass. Our boys sobbed when our dog died, and were sad for a few days, but they got over it much faster than my husband and I did. One thing that helped a great deal is that we've had a stuffed animal that looks just like our dog as a puppy, had it for years, and they've taken turns sleeping with it every night for the past 2 months and it's been a great comfort.

Cherish your time with your dog and make the most of the time you have left.



answers from Philadelphia on

Hi, I am a Licensed Veterinary Technician with about 20 years experience. In that time I've seen people work through this situation in different ways.
Often the parents fret and the child deals with it so differently than they expected that I think the parents think the child uncaring. Kids just work through things differently than we do and plus each child is ready to understand at different times.
Perhaps one of the smartest ways that I've seen a family work through this is watching my sister and her 2 kids with their 12 year old dog. He doesn't have cancer but has such bad athritis in all limbs that he sometimes can't get up. My sister has him on very good pain medication to make him comfortable and takes him on appropriate short walks but also has to watch that her now 6 and nearly 5 year old kids don't fall on him or knock him over or drop toys on him as kids sometimes do. What she decided to do was have them help her be his nurses. They each remind her to give him his medication and once she has it ready to give, under her supervision, the kids take turns making sure he eats his medication in the cheese or peanut butter. They also tell my sister when they think their dog is too tired for a walk or when he needs to turn around. They are involved in watching for him and caring for him. She has talked to them about how one day their dog may not be able to get up or the medication won't help him and that he may have to get euthanized (yes, she uses THAT word not those horrible "put to sleep" phrases!). They know as much as little kids can understand, that their time with their dog is precious.
I think that's a great way to deal with this situation.
Also when one of my dog and cat's died this year, she told her kids, who loved the dog and cat, that they were gone and the kids had my sister write letters to the animals and drew pictures and they talked about how much they loved them and will miss them and then they looked at photos of them.
Perhaps you could use some of these ideas.
I hope your dog is comfortable. Love him as long as you can.
Also, consider going to a specialist if you can afford to so you can get a 2nd opinion and know more about what is going on with your dog.
Good luck,



answers from Cincinnati on

it's a hard thing to tell a 5 year old that his dog wont be with him forever but he's going to have to learn about death eventually. my advice is just to give it to him straight. sit him down and tell him that not everything or everyone stays on this earth forever. Tell him that the dog is going to have to leave soon, that its a part a life and he's going to be in a better place or if he has ever suffered a family loss, tell him that the dog is going to be with the loved one. He will more than likely cry all you can do then is comfort him and let him know that you are there for him.



answers from Philadelphia on

i think I would wait to tell him until the dog starts acting like he's getting ready to pass away. Your son may surprise you.
We had 4 cats when my daughters were born, but two I had since i was 12, and 2 were from college... and I'm now 31... so they were getting on in the years. anyway, two were put down when the girls were still fairly young, the third was put down when my older one was almost 3. I really thought she'd have a hard time since he was her buddy... but she didn't even notice! I guess since we still had one more cat.
Almost two months ago, the 4th cat got hit by a car and died. Again, i really thought my daughters would have a hard time because this was the sweetest cat, and they really loved her. I sat them down, and told them "i have really bad news. Stella ran out in the street and was hit by a car and she was killed." I thought they would be really upset, but my 4.5 year old said "can we go to the pet store and get another cat?" I know that sounds uncaring, but I think that kids just don't quite understand, therefore they don't take it as hard as we do. I've heard from other moms who have lost a pet that their kids reacted the same way as well. I hope this helps!



answers from Philadelphia on

My cat was diagnosed with cancer a year a half ago. 2 weeks ago is when he first started showing signs of illness. It was then we started discussing and explaining that the cat was sick and would be going to heaven with my daughter. He died 2 nights ago but for 2 weeks my daughter was able to prepare. I think that is more than enough time for a child so young. SOrry to hear about your dog. My thoughts are with you and your family!

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