Heavy Heart

When I woke up yesterday, my beloved chocolate lab, Mocha, did not greet me.

She did not run to my side, as she usually does, filled with joy to see me.

She lay on the ground not moving.

I approached her.

She gave me a sad, pitiful, look without so much as raising her head from the ground.


I sat down next to her.

"Thump," her tail wagged one time, weakly.

I knew, instantly, something was very wrong.

Mocha tried, eventually, to stand.

She staggered as if she were drunk and paced in wavy circles.

She lay down again; the effort to move was too much for her.

Mocha is eight years old.

Labs can live 12 years, sometimes more.

The night before she had been fine, but now she was not.

I called Briefcase at work.

I'd like to say I stayed nice and calm, but I didn't.

If you've ever truly loved an animal, you understand.

I can't lift Mocha.  I probably wouldn't be able to lift her even if both my arms worked.

Briefcase came home from work and rushed her to our vet.  She stayed with the vet all day, and then we received a call explaining her diagnosis, informing us of a vet bill for $700, and notifying us we could come pick her up.

(Seven hundred dollars?  I should have been a vet!  Also?  See, holiday expenses and bad timing.)

Apparently, the vertebrae in Mocha's neck is deteriorating causing bone to rub on bone.  Although she seemed perfectly fine 48 hours ago, now she is in pain.  Severe pain.

The thing is?

I'm not entirely convinced we have an accurate diagnosis.

Mocha's balance seems completely off.  She staggers when she walks.  It doesn't seem to add up to neck pain.  Or can pain make a dog pace in circles and stagger like a drunken sailor?

Our vet gave her steroids and pain killers to reduce inflammation and hopefully make her feel better.  We have to watch her closely now and hope the medication can keep her comfortable.

If it doesn't, or if there is further deterioration, our vet suggested we take her to a dog neurosurgeon for major spinal surgery.  I won't do that.  Not because of the cost, although I'm sure it would be astronomical.  I won't do it because a positive outcome is questionable.  Also, I couldn't bear to subject her to such a traumatic surgery and the pain it would cause.

If the medication can't help Mocha, we will have to put her down.

My heart is hurting …

Really, really, hurting.

© Twenty Four At Heart

53 Responses to “Heavy Heart”

  1. ShaBean

    It almost sounds like an inner infection or blown eardrum. Labs have such problems with their ears. When my friends lab had a baaad ear infection, you woulda thought the dog was drunk. She stumbled around and kept walking in circles and she threw up a lot. Her balance was off and she actually got motion sickness from being dizzy. Mocha sounds the same except for the not wanting to lift her head or get up. Angel was fine getting up, she shook her head alot. I hope I hope I hope so much for you that it turns out to be something that simple. I lost my beloved cat/ dog 2 years ago from cancer and he went down hill over a weekend and it almost killed me. I know what you’re going through. Go ahead and grab a big comfy blanket and curl up with her tonight. Your presence will calm her and you’ll feel better being able to monitor her that closely. And talk to her. My thoughts and heart are with you tonight.

  2. Deidre

    Oh 24, I am so sorry. These are such horrible decisions we have to make.
    While it’s not the best time…and least now she is surrounded with all her favourite people who can dote on her.
    I hurt just reading this.

  3. karen

    Hmmm… I don’t know that I believe the diagnosis either.. pain from a degenerating neck doesn’t happen in an instant…atleast not quite so dibilitating in a day. Was bloodwork run? Sounds like it could also be something either neurological or viral. Good luck to Mocha in the coming days – the worst part of loving a pet so much is losing them, I know this all too well.

  4. di

    I’m so sad for Mocha, and for you, Suzanne. Hope it’s the right diagnosis considering that Mocha, given a proper diagnosis could have another 4 years to give you and your family. So heartbreaking to even have to consider letting her go. :-((((

  5. Joanne

    In the end, you will miss the dog much more than you will miss the money. I once spent 6000 for surgery on one of my dogs, and that particular reasoning is why is chose surgery vs euthanasia. If you dont agree, make some calls and talk to some vets. In the meantime, I hope the meds work. That is a standard treatment for sudden, unexplained pain, especially spinal

  6. Sheppitsgal

    Hugs to both of you. I lost my cat in June and watching him fade was the absolute worst. In the end, we decided to put him out of his misery rather than put him through further surgeries. Makes me cry just remembering it. Hope she does ok, plenty of petting and treats will help both of you x

  7. Chris

    Geeze, I’m so so sorry. I know how you feel. For some our pets are our children. I will pray for you and your dog.

  8. Margie

    24, has there been any way that Mocha could have ingested anti-freeze? I had a lab/rott mix and she somehow got into some and she did what you describe Mocha as doing, walking like she was drunk, couldn’t walk straight and was basically listless. Antifreeze will kill them as it destroys their kidneys ( I think). If your car has a leak or something she might have lapped it. Just a suggestion. I hope she will be ok.

  9. Missy

    Well, this is just heartbreaking news. I really hope you have a proper diagnosis and that she feels better soon. Hugs to you and Mocha.

  10. Tara

    24 I am so sad to hear about your Mocha! My Boo ,an adopted pitt mix, suffers from a congenital spine deformation. It took us 3 trips to the vet for that diagnoses. First it was an injured neck, then hip dysplasia and finally the spinal problem. The vet informed us that we could do the spine surgery that would cost thousands and only have a small chance of being successful or just keep her comfortable for as long as possible. We chose to keep her comfortable. She is doing great and only suffers from pain occasionally. She is my baby and I totally understand what you are going through. I can’t stand the thought that one day I will have to put her down. Hugs to you!

  11. Jenny in MN (now AZ)

    Hugs to you and your family! My heart is hurting for all of you. Losing a pet is so very difficult. Making the decision you may have to make regarding Mocha’s future is heart wrenching! I’ve been there too. I’m so sorry!
    I really hope the vet checked all possibilities. I have 2 labs and both of them are almost fully supporting our local vet. Do what your gut reaction tells you to do. Some dogs deal with surgery and recovery with minimal pain and others don’t. If you want a 2nd opinion – then go for it.
    Best of luck with the doggy and all the rain you are enduring.

  12. Jeanne

    So sorry to hear of Mocha’s trouble. We can’t help but love these amazing creatures, can we? Big hugs to you all.

  13. Abby Smith

    I am really sorry to hear about Mocha. But I too don’t know about the diagnosis, and please don’t think that there is only one option (surgery) you might be surprised that with the right treatment Mocha may totally recover. Not trying to question your Vet (but $700….whoa it shows me how charges are so different from one end of the country to the other) but I would seek at least one more opinion. But sending lots of healing to Mocha and hope that the medication does help her…and you.

  14. Kristan

    Oh, Suzanne… (I’m crying.) I really hope things work out for Mocha, either with the meds or another diagnosis or something. If not, you have to make the right decision for you and Mocha. You know her better than anyone else. She trusts you, so trust yourself. (It sounds like you do, I’m just giving my encouragement!)

  15. Kay

    I hope she will be okay. It is so hard to have to put a pet down. Sending good thoughts your way.

  16. linda

    Doesn’t sound right to me either. I’d get a second opinion. And ask them to call you before it costs another $700 bucks!

  17. Judi

    Sending lots of good thoughts your way, hoping that Mocha feels better soon. I still miss my Tuesdae kitty every day, and it’s been 16 months since we lost her.

  18. dogmother

    I am so, so sorry. I hope things improve. I support your decision. Sending hugs to you and Mocha.

  19. Amy Miller

    I agree with the first comment. We once had a dog that developed an inner ear problem that caused her to walk in circles and hold her neck extremely rigid, I would think however that the vertebrae problem should have been easily visible by xray. I will say the treatment for that mirrored the treatment they have prescribed for Mocha, I’ll be praying that she bounces back.

  20. Christine

    As a former vet asst., that doesn’t sound quite right. Granted, I’m NOT a vet and don’t know the type workup that Mocha got, but…ouch $700! Amazing to see how costs differ around the country. I would assume the vet’s diagnosis is from X-ray? I HOPE they did some lab work (I would hope with that cost!). I would get a second opinion. If there’s a regional referral vet around, one that specializes in orthopedics, I’d check with them first, EVEN IF it’s just to see what they would do and an idea of what it would cost. Whatever you decide I know will be in Mocha’s best interest. It’s SO hard when it comes time, even though we know what we do will be least painful for our beloved pets. I hope the meds are able to ease her pain.
    I’m so sorry, Suzanne. Thinking of you.

  21. Darlene

    Second opinion, Second opinion, Second opinion. My co-workers dog jumped off the bed, which it does a million times a day, and was almost instantly paralyzed. Diagnosed with some back issue, told the only option was surgery and it was going to be outlandishly expensive and may or may not work. They tried a chiropracter and the dog is 90%, no pain, it’s amazing. You always have “the other story” but if nothing else you’ll have confirmation you’re doing the right thing. And if the right thing is to let her go, I’m so sorry – it’s like loosing a piece of your heart.

  22. Suzy

    I had pet insurance for my Yorkie. My dog ended up with diabetes and Cushing’s Disease and I saved about 3 grand w insurance.
    When I put him down, eventually, I lost a big piece of my heart. I will never get another dog. I’m not the kind of person who bounces back from the death of something that loves you unconditionally and doesn’t care if you hang up your clothes.
    Sending strength and hugs. To you and Mocha.

  23. Karin

    I’m so sorry. My Geary hurts for you and for Mocha. I would get a second opinion. Something doesn’t sound quite right. I hope she has a positive outcome.

  24. John

    I know exactly how you feel, last month our Shepard mix, Mazzie, had the same sudden onset symptoms and was given a similar diagnosis ( and the same bill! ) and made the same decision not to go for surgery. She successfully treated with steroids and is now back home on a steroid regimen (prednizone … she is always hungry now…hmmm I guess you know how that works 🙂 )
    Anyway she is not in pain right now, but we worry about how long the steroids will keep her that way and how long the rest of her body can take the steroids….
    Good luck!

  25. Nancy P

    I do think a second opinion is in order. I would hate to think it is something not that serious and just misdiagnosed.
    My heart goes out to you Suzanne. I pray for a good outcome.
    Hugs to you and Mocha.

  26. Jason

    Suzanne, I’m so sorry. So young! I’m crossing my fingers that the medication works.
    Having been through this a few times, I understand.
    I’ll be checking back soon to see if there are any further developments.

  27. goodfather

    So sorry to hear this! We are a dog family here, so I keenly feel your pain – I hope Mocha feels better.

  28. Lisa

    God, I’m sorry. I know how terrible the decision to stop the suffering feels and my heart goes out to you. I would also get a second opinion. I have heard of dogs having spinal strokes and the symptoms sound similar. I don’t know if the outcome would be better with a stroke, but at least you would feel like you did what you could to get an accurate diagnosis and make the best decision possible if you had anoter opinion. Love to you and your family during this difficult time.

  29. DuchessOmnium

    I am with those suggesting a second opinion, if you can afford it. Your Vet sounds expensive! I can’t see why a diagnosis + some steroids would add up to £700, even with an Xray thrown in. But of course I don’t really know about that.
    But I do know how you feel having been faced with similar dilemmas with loved pets. Good luck to you and Mocha.

  30. Pam

    Oh I am so sorry. I’m sitting here with my 10 1/2 year old chocolate lab right by my side, so believe me, I understand the love we have for our animals. I hope you are able to get her pain under control. I am truly sorry!

  31. Steve

    Suzanne, this is a major bummer. Our pets are such a major part of our families. I’m sending doggie healing thoughts your way.

  32. sandi

    oh my heart is breaking for you. Our dogs are a huge part of this family. I know how awful this is…. There just isn’t much else I can say. I am here, just a few miles down the road if you need a friend or a drink… TEARS are trickling out of my eyes as I type. I am not ready to do this. My dogs are both ten. Charlie is a lab. His years are numbered.
    Please know I am thinking of you!

  33. Sandra

    Suzanne, I’m so sorry. Having our pet, another family member, hurt and not knowing the outcome is heart wrenching. I truly hope Mocha will be okay. 8 years old is too young to go. 🙁

  34. steph

    oh, 24. it is heartbreaking to see our four-legged lovies in pain and suffering. i’m thinking of you and your family, your sweet mocha, and mocha’s pal (your other puppy) whose-name-i-can’t-remember-right-now.

  35. Angie

    I have a healthy 13 year old lab and we went through something similar a couple of months ago. We thought he was having a stroke. It turns out it was something called ‘old dog vestibular disease’. It’s a real bad inner ear infection. He was on a strong course of antibiotics and pain medication for 30 days and still continues to improve. Our vet was ready to put him down, but we just couldn’t do it without trying something first. We’re so glad we didn’t make any decisions that first day. I hope she gets better soon 🙂

  36. Amy_in_Stl

    If you are at all concerned about the diagnosis being correct, please pursue a second opinion. Another big vet bill will suck, but then you’ll feel more certain that you’re doing the right thing. I’m often glad my dog can’t talk – but when my Sheltie got older, I wanted him to tell me what hurt so I could fix it.

  37. LisaK

    I read you every day and have never commented, but I wanted you to know that I am so sorry to hear this and I hope she is feeling better soon.

  38. stacy grossman

    Hi Suzanne: So sorry to hear about your Mocha pup. We use Ladera Ranch animal hospital. It is up the hill by Swirls. I am pretty sure that they will see a new patient for free for the 1st visit. I really like the woman dr. there, Dr. Sumptner or something like that. She is nice and understanding and knows her stuff. Perhaps, you can take him for a 2nd opinion for free. My Skylar, chihuhua woke up the other day bleeding from his bottom and I freaked out. I rushed him there and he had a ruptured anal gland, (yuck). Anyways, I had imagined the worst but it was not as bad as it could have been 320 dollars later he is healing and wearing a cone on his head. My sisters dog had the same problem and they immmediatly recommended surgery. She goes to some place in Laguna. This vet is more conservative and said she thought he would heal okay without surgery. So far, so good. Anyways, just a thought and i hope that helps.

  39. Kristen

    Poor sweet Mocha. That is so heartbreaking. I would definitely take her to a neurologist to get a second opinion. Many hugs!

  40. Kgray

    Does she have other symptoms such as head tilting, rhythmic eye movement, vomiting or falling to one side? The comment above may be on target with vestibular disease. Please google it before making any decisions since many dogs have been euthanized because of a misdiagnosis of this illness. In the meantime, my thoughts are with you. We have an 11 year old Golden that is the heart of our family and we can see her aging more every day in ways that breaks our hearts.

  41. nuckingfutsmama

    I am so incredibly sorry to hear that you’re going through this. There is nothing worse than seeing a beloved pet in pain. If it gives you any comfort at all, I wanted to tell you about my friend’s 7 yr old black lab who had VERY similar symptoms to your lab’s. They never determined exactly what had happened to her, but they suspected a stroke. The prognosis was very grim, and they weren’t sure if she would even live for another 2-3 weeks. Miraculously, 2 months later, she is completely normal and back to her old self. I pray that this same thing will be the case for your sweet dog. Hugs to you!

  42. Amy

    One of my died dogs 2 months ago, I feel your pain. Hoping it is a misdiagnosis and your Mocha is on the mend very soon.

  43. rachael

    I know exactly what you are going through and no matter how you look at it, it really sucks. At the end of July I had to make the decision to put my dog of almost 15 years to sleep because the back pain and problems she had were preventing her from being able to walk on her own. I don’t care if this makes me sound crazy, but I lost a child that i didnt give birth to back in July and it hurts every bit as much. 15 years is a long time to have ANYTHING by your side and its like a hole that doesn’t heal. I SO hope your baby responds to treatment and I would be seeking a second opinion, as the whole wobbly thing doesn’t add up to spinal problems in my book. Love to you and Mocha.

  44. Jill

    From one Lab owner to another … I feel your pain. I couldn’t even imagine …

  45. jenn in tenn

    Awww…Poor Mocha. Poor 24! I totally understand the love you have for your animals. To our household, they are family just as much as our daughter! They can be a major expense, but so worth it. Sending you and your puppy hugs!!

  46. Denise

    I too think it is inner ear. When was mocha last in the pool? I’d go to a second vet and mention her affinity for swimming.
    I am so sorry about the rain………..I’ll keep all of you in Southern California in my prayers.


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