I'll get back to my 'Treating People Like Dogs' theory soon but today I wanted to talk about choices where our dogs are concerned.
Yesterday, Ginny who is 12 years old, had surgery to remove a mass from her chest. The mass was involved in a mammary gland and was causing the nipple to leak a clear, brownish fluid. That was the reason I chose to have the mass removed. What I did not choose to do was have the mass sent to pathology to determine what it was. While it would have been nice to know, definitively, what we were dealing with it also wouldn't have changed anything for me. If it was cancer, I wasn't going to put Gin through chemo (assuming that might have helped) because she is 12 years old and, honestly, I can't afford it. If it wasn't cancer, there's no guarantee she won't get cancer. It's a non-issue - I'm going to continue to treat Ginny just as I always have; doing the best I can to maintain her health and quality of life.
Sam has gotten a lot of extra meds in recent months. I'm choosing to give him these because, overall, he's still doing very well and his quality of life is really good. However, in choosing to give him these meds I also had to weigh potential long term side effects; increased risk of bleeding, potential liver damage, etc. He's 13 years old. At the absolute outside limit, he might live another 3 years. I don't think the meds he is taking are going to shave years off his life. If giving him the cocktail of meds helps him have more good days than bad in the time he has left, then I choose to do that.
Today we have the most incredible things available to us to improve and lengthen our dogs' lives. With all those improvements we also have a responsibility to make hard choices. Those choices aren't always about the dog though. Several months ago, I read a book called "Merle's Door." It's a true story about a rescued dog and the long, happy life he lived with his rescuer. Toward the end of Merle's life he starts having the kinds of health issues that a lot of old dogs do and the question of euthanasia came up. His owner asked himself a series of 9 questions from the book Active Years for Your Aging Dog by Bernard S. Hershorn, DVM. In addition to these questions, Dr. Hershorn also emphasizes that the dog's chronological age should never be a factor in the decision. That means young or old, you need to ask and answer these questions honestly and make a decision based on them. The 9 questions are:
1) Is the condition prolonged, recurring or getting worse?
2) Is the condition no longer responding to therapy?
3) Is your dog in pain or otherwise physically suffering?
4) Is it no longer possible to relieve that pain or suffering?
5) If your dog should recover, is he likely to be chronically ill, an invalid, or unable to care for himself as a healthy dog?
6) If your dog recovers, is he likely no longer to be able to enjoy life, or will he have severe personality changes?
7) Can you provide the necessary care?
8) Will such care interfere with your own life as to create serious problems with your or your family?
9) Will the cost involved become unbearably expensive?
I think it's a great list of questions because it addresses both the dog's well being and the owners'. In one way or another I ask myself these questions, or a version of them, every time I have to make a choice about my dogs' health. They don't take the emotional element completely out of the picture but they do help mitigate it somewhat and allow me to make decisions based on what really is best for the dog - not just what will make me feel better.
5 days ago