Our Dog is Dying

I am posting this to my Tok blog just in case someone else in Tok has seen these symptoms in their dog.

Our Black Lab Ebb is dying. Suddenly. Rapidly.

In the 10 days that I was traveling, he went from normal weight to skeletal. Now he is practically dragging his hind quarters and seems to be starting to experience incontinence.

My husband took him to the vet in Fairbanks. They discovered two things:

1. Astronomically high liver enzyme counts;

2. A white area (necrotic area) in his liver visible via sonogram. The vet said this could be a tumor or something else non-cancerous.

3. Sludge in his gallbladder.

Clearly, his liver is messed up which could mean:

Poison – he could have eaten something that was laced with poison;

Liver disease – although the rapid onset and deterioration is puzzling;

Liver cancer – not sure if this comes on so quickly but it is a possibility.

Ebb in better days

He has been eating and drinking fairly regularly although no longer touches his dog food. My husband has been cooking for him – macaroni, rice, caribou meat.

He was eating on his own until last night when my husband had to feed him out of his hand.

He has been eating a lot of snow.

The loss of control of his hind quarters is progressing – when the vet saw him, it wasn’t very pronounced so they didn’t look into it. Now his backside is wobbly and collapsing although he still stoically walks down the snowy driveway to look out on the neighborhood, his usual habit. He can’t walk up or down steps now.

Based on what I’ve seen, I’m afraid he will be dead before the week is out. I’m planning to take him back to the vet in Fairbanks this week to see if there is anything else we can do.

Do any of these symptoms sound familiar? Anyone in Tok have a dog experiencing this? Any ideas how to reverse this deterioration or at least make him more comfortable?

Leave a comment


  1. When our dog Benny had cancer, one of his symptoms was his back legs giving out. The vet was able to do a very quick diagnostic test to determine that the leg issue was neurological, not muscular, which is how we knew the cancer had spread to his brain.

  2. I’m so sorry for what Ebb and your family must be going through – I’m not a vet, but the eating snow thing is probably because he’s trying to drink as much water as he can – dogs suddenly drinking tons more water usually means problems – make sure to mention it to your vet. Good vibes for Ebb.

  3. Aliza – I’m so sorry to hear it. A sick dog, a dying dog is heartbreaking, especially when it’s so sudden. I’m sure your vet will bring answers and hopefully solutions – for the near or long term.

    We lost our healthy 4-yo Vizsla, named Trout, just 4 months ago. He was perfectly healthy and then overnight was quite sick. He was diagnosed with Stage 5 lymphoma and despite a 3 month outlook, he lived well with treatment for 11 whole months. But while it’s been 4 months, I miss him deeply every single day.

    Thoughts, prayers for you, the family and your terrific pup Ebb. Jenny

  4. GIndy51

     /  March 22, 2010

    Not an Tok neighbor as I am in Indiana, but when our mixed breed female 12 year old dog had these symptoms it was due to acute liver failure caused by a rapidly growing tumor. By rapid I mean in 2 weeks she lost 20 pounds! We took her in and was told by the doc it was cancerous and she would have a few weeks to live. Her back end was already bad due to age, but once it got to the point where she could no longer stay up to pee, we took her in for her last vet visit.
    Another thing to check is his dog food. Has it been recalled? You can do a search for pet food recalls using the brand name. Also there are several websites that have up to date lists of recalled foods.

    • I’ll check into the food recall. I think it sounds like rapid decline isn’t as uncommon as I was thinking. Plus dogs are so stoic it is often hard to tell when they are sick in the first place so this may have been brewing for a while. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Diane

     /  March 22, 2010

    I will pray for you and Ebb.

  6. sparkle4th

     /  March 22, 2010

    How sad ….Hope you can do something soon!

  7. When our dog, who just died, began to fail, he too collapsed. We rushed to the critical care vet who found on ultrasound that he had tons of fluid around his heart. They drained it but the relief didn’t last long because he had a bleeding tumor inside his heart. Somehow the loss of control of the hindquarters goes with these tough outcomes. It is so so hard and I send you all my love and wishes for your family. When you know you have given a dog a happy and loving life, it helps. A little.
    I’m just so sorry Aliza!

  8. Jamie

     /  March 22, 2010

    I’m curious as to the age of your lab? We got a 9 week old black lab for Christmas and he was very sick for the first month and a half. One vet said he had some sort of blood disorder another said he had a growing disease.

    After a few weeks he seems to be back to normal but we’re not sure how long that will last.

    Hope Ebb pulls through!

  9. Marla

     /  March 22, 2010

    I’m so sorry to hear about Ebb. I do hope you can save him. I’ll send good thoughts his way. We lost our lab retriever last summer to cancer, and it is heartbreaking. They’re a member of the family, after all.

  10. Aliza, that sounds VERY similar to my sister’s cat, Ivan, who deteriorated FAST and had most of the same symptoms. He died of liver cancer, and there was no way he’d eaten anything other than cat food because he never went outside and there was nothing else for him to eat. My thoughts are with you. This is a very sad time for you and yours.

  11. Suddenness & unexpected: 1st impression – Chocolate poisoning. But this is longer, my second impression is antifreeze poisoning. There may still be time for dialysis (sp?).
    Acupuncture – probably too late to cure or balance, but will sure help the noble dog.
    Helped mine.

  12. Shari

     /  March 24, 2010

    I’m so sorry to read about Ebb. It sounds very much like what we went through last year; our 11-year-old dog had cancer last year and it was a very rapid decline. Roscoe had a particularly brutal cancer called Hemangiosarcoma; it tends to hit larger male dogs disproportionately. It is usually based in the liver or the spleen. We became aware of it when he couldn’t make it down the stairs; before he died he couldn’t walk at all. As fast as it all happened and as quickly as he left us, we were lucky in a small way: most cases of this cancer are not found until the dog has passed. We were able to spend a final month with him making sure he left us knowing how much we loved him.

    Make him as comfortable as you can. Feed by hand if you have to, to keep up his strength. It is devastating to watch. I am so sorry you have to go through this.

  13. I am so, so, so sorry to hear this. My heart goes out to you.

  14. Aliza and family- I’m so sorry. I don’t have any information or advice, unfortunately. I just wanted to let you know that I’m thinking of you. This must be really hard.

  15. Julie in Alaska

     /  March 27, 2010

    Aliza, this sounds distressing and heartbreaking. Everyone has given you great feedback…I have three dogs and I know how rotten it is when your buddy is very ill. I’ll be thinking of you…Julie P.

  16. Little Bird

     /  March 27, 2010

    How is Ebb doing now, Aliza? Any better? And how are you holding up? So sorry.

  17. Just one more day.
    Reliving my own experience, as the Noble Dog was my closest family. I’m sure Ebb feels your concern/love.
    You said stoic. They’re better at that than we are – perfect word selection.
    __Pls keep us posted, details not unwelcome, perhaps helpful later.

    __”I whistled but he did not come back.”

  18. Greg, Ebb's Master

     /  March 30, 2010

    Thank you to everyone for the wonderful thoughts and words.

  19. While doing a research for a project about dogs I found your blog. Thanks for the info

  20. Deb Mahon`

     /  April 26, 2010

    So sorry about your dog. I lost my “best friend” of 13 yrs a while back and I KNOW how you are feeling right now. i had a wonderful vet who helped me through Dallas’ last days and that was a plus to me. I held him in my arms and felt him take his very last breath. it was sssooooooooooooo hard, but he knew it was time and he knew i loved him with all my heart. He left me with many lasting memories of which I will never ever forget. He was my best friend. My prayers to you and your “friend”

  21. matozoa

     /  April 26, 2010

    _R.I.P. Ebb, the Noble Dog. This, your, saga, has had me thinking all month. The hardest thing people still ask me, is when are you going to get another dog? -Always planned to; still haven’t; am ready. Waiting..
    _I realize what makes that question so hard: Implied is how soon will you replace him, when that answer is never. Nobody asked me that at my Mother’s funeral, just his.
    _I still hope to have another relationship that is that connected. Not today.
    _Come ~fall, perhaps sooner is better for your daughter.
    All I can say is been there, bless you all, and, I’ve waited too long.

  22. Stephanie

     /  May 9, 2013

    I know this post is old, but hoping you’ll read this. I am going though the same thing with my dog right now. His hind legs are not working well and I was told he has a large mass on his liver. We have an ultrasound in the morning. Symptoms just started and are progressing fast. What did you find out?

    • I am so sorry to hear this. We never had any solid information, no course of action or treatment and had limited ability to get help for him in our area. I hope your experience is different. If you figure something out, please let us know. Good luck to you!

      • Laura

         /  May 24, 2013

        Well wasn’t going to post, but since I see very recent posts here, I will. I was googling liver cancer because we just lost our 11-year old black Lab, Lucy this week very suddenly! She looked almost exactly like your Ebb…right down to the purple collar. She started with the not eating, very weak…could only walk a few steps in the house before having to lie down. I could tell she was having a hard time eliminating because she looked unsteady as she did. This past Monday I took her into the vet, he gave penicillin and Vitamin B12 thinking she was just out of sorts…maybe an infection. By Tuesday she was bleeding out of her nose…when it didn’t stop we took her back in and they discovered a very large tumor on her liver. Her blood wasn’t clotting and she was likely bleeding internally as well. We were told she would be gone in a matter of days and that it could be somewhat traumatic. We opted to put her down on Wednesday. She seemed so happy though! Wagging her tail to the end. According to the doctor’s these kinds of cancers go unnoticed most of the time until it’s too late. Our family is devastated…we loved our girl. I know you miss your Ebb…

      • I am so so sorry for your loss. I’m just crying over this. I know how horrible it could be. With us, we were driving Ebb to Fairbanks (3.5 hours away) to see if they could help or to put him down and he died on the way. I remember kissing his nose before heading out on the road and that was the last I saw him alive. We buried him in a gorgeous spot along the Alaska Highway, right overlooking the Tanana River. I think of him every time I pass it en route to Fairbanks. We have 2 replacement dogs but just isn’t the same. I think I’m afraid to get too attached to either. So hard. Thoughts are with you.

  23. Donna Rae

     /  July 29, 2015

    Wow! I’m reading all of these posts in tears as we currently have a Black Lab Mix named Anna who is going through her final days with liver issues. God bless you all!

  24. Daisy

     /  January 19, 2017

    I’m not sure when you posted this, but my dog had the same symptoms, at the beginning she was drinking a lot of water eating snow always thirsty, and peeing a lot. We took her to the vet they did a blood test and her liver enzymes were high, the ALP over 3000, and the ALT over 400, everything else was normal. They did an ultrasound on the liver, it looked like swiss cheese appearance, the vet told us that might be cancer and gave us two options, a biopsy to find out what it is or make her comfortable at home, she looked so weak that she might’ve not made the biopsy, we did not want to take that risk so we took her home. The vet gave us Denamarin to help the liver. I started researching online hoping to find something to help my girl. I took her off the dry food right away, really bad for dogs with liver disease, I started cooking for her, it made a big difference once I made the switch, she on Milk Thistle and Cosequin DS joint supplement. We are trying to give her a better quality life, but she is not 100%. She has good appetite though, she doesn’t drink in excess anymore, no more accidents in the house.
    We love her so much, we are not giving up on her, she will let us know when it’s time, but not yet. I hope your dog is ok. I don’t know if this is going to help you but I just wanted to share with you what we are experiencing with our girl, she’s always been such a good dog, I can’t imagine life without her. Blessings.

  25. Kim

     /  July 28, 2018

    Yes! My Chesapeake died yesterday after rapid onset of liver disease and now her brother is declining. What did you learn? Who in Fbx did you see? We’re with Dr. May who is wondering if it’s algae poisoning.

    Please let me know!

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