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When to let go of an aging pet? (1 Viewer)

Steve Schaffer

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My ex, Sharon, who's also my best friend, has a 15 year old Lab mix and is facing the possibility of having her put to sleep.

She has raised Nabs from a pup and they have been constant companions through good times and some pretty bad ones.

The dog is now partially blind, and has trouble getting on her feet sometimes but is not in any pain nor is she sick.
She does pant a lot with very little exercise. She recognizes people just fine and wags her tail in greeting. She's got a tumor on one of her back legs that is getting bigger, not causing any pain but interfering a lot with her mobility.

I've had to have a few of my pets euthanized over the years, but they all had severe short-term illnesses, were suffering a lot and not likely to get better. This is not the case with Nabs--she's not likely to get better but does not appear to be suffering though her quality of life is obviously not what it should be.

Sharon is very concerned about the fast growing tumor, and is considering having it removed which a vet has told her might be very difficult if not impossible. The operation, even if it's possible may be very expensive and not buy Nabs much more time anyway even if she does survive it.

I tend to think that euthanization can wait until Nabs is obviously suffering, but since dogs can't talk there's no way of really knowing whether that's already the case. Sharon will be a wreck when she does have to let go, but is already a wreck worrying over what's the right thing to do now.

Has anyone had an animal euthanized when it wasn't in lots of obvious pain or suffering, but had a significantly diminished quality of life? At what point do you let go?
 

Carl Johnson

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About a year ago my family had to get our dog put to sleep but we waited till she was within a couple of days of passing on her own. It was a similar situation where we chose not to do expensive surgery as a longshot at extending the life of a 16+ year old beloved family pet. Your ex knows the animal better than anyone and should be able to reasonably tell when the animal's quality of life has deteriorated beyond hope. It doesn't sound like that's the case yet, so I would keep the dog around for as long as naturally possible.
 

LDfan

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It's a hard thing to do. A few years ago I had to have my Husky put to sleep. She was about 14 years old, completely deaf and could hardly stand up on her own. One day I helped her stand up and she just fell over and laid on her side and at that moment I knew the time had come.
As far as Nabs is concerned I would do this. As long as she has a decent quality of life and isn't in any pain I wouldn't see the need to have her put under. It's a hard thing to see a pet get sick.


Jeff
 

Paul D Young

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Dear Steve,
I think Carl said it best:
Sharon
knows the animal better than anyone and should be able to reasonably tell when the animal's quality of life has deteriorated beyond hope. It doesn't sound like that's the case yet.
It will be terrible for her to have the dog put to sleep but probably just as bad if Nabs dies alone. Sharon must remember to be strong and do what she thinks is best for Nabs. It sounds like Nabs is just winding down.

I wish the best for all three of you.
Paul
 

Henry Carmona

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Pick 3 things that the pet used to/loves to do.

Eventually, the animal wont be able to do those things which it got such joy from and then its time to be humane and end its suffering.
 

Carl Johnson

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The only two things on my family's checklist were the ability to walk and eat. For anything much more intense than that we would have had to put her down a year or two earlier. Those are the standards I'd put in my own will so there was no shame in using them for Mollie:)
 

Steve Schaffer

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Thanks for the kind words and advice. I've had to babysit Nabs for a couple of weekends in the last month or so, and she really is just winding down and not in any sort of acute situation.

She is still a very much loved and very loving animal. The last thing I said to Sharon when I called her a bit ago was that it was not an urgent decision at this time, and that for the time being it's probably best to "let go and let God".

I am sure that Sharon will know when the time has come, it's just that knowing that the time will be fairly soon is breaking her heart. I am not a religious man by any means, but I do pray that God will help her through this.

Thanks again, you're the greatest.
 

Frank Anderson

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Monday we got the news that our 6-year-old bullmastiff has "months" to live. Of course months could mean anything. Four years ago we were told he had 2 years so maybe he has double months left. He has liver failure. With good diet we have been able to extend his time.

Right now he is on Alu-Cap so he does not throw up as often. Still waiting on the weekly injection stuff to come into the pharmacy. Bottom line, we will make him comfortable, happy and love him. The vet told us it will be time to put him down when he has not eaten in three days and still continues to vomit.
 

Jack Briggs

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Look, tears are almost welling as I write: Life is precious. The wagging tail is a sign of happiness. Let that continue. When the tail ceases to wag, bring this matter to your many friends here once again, and we shall talk some more. The faithful companinion and friend is filled with love and life for now. Treasure the moments and experience each day together to the fullest. Let's watch over this on a month-by-month basis. That wagging tail. ...
 

Dean DeMass

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Very good post Jack. I also agree with it very much.

I wish you guys all the best with your dogs and your friends dogs. Please keep us posted on what is happening.

My dogs are 3 and 4 years old. I worry about them all the time because I don't want nothing to happen to them. I hope they can live a 14+ year life.


-Dean-
 

Julian Reville

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Well,
As a veterinarian, I have had to euthanize many pets, including some of my own. It is always the owner's decision; however, my own personal criteria includes: not being able to stand, not being able to eat or chronic vomiting, terminal neoplasia.
Sometimes it depends a lot on the dog: my three Huskies, who lived to be 15, 13, and 14, were very active dogs. When they were young and even middle aged they would race around the yard at full speed, just for the hell of it. As they became older they walked more sedately. :)
(Watching 14 year old Husky "chase" 15 year old cat, both moving at about 2 miles per hour was hilarious).
Eventually they got to where standing was more and more difficult, and then one night I would hear a THUMP and then whimpering. They just didn't understand why they couldn't do what they had always done. It was time.
 

BrianW

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I tend to think that euthanization can wait until Nabs is obviously suffering
I tend to agree. My parents had a toy poodle who eventually became blind and very slow on his feet. He was in no pain, and even is his final year in that condition, he was very happy, and he was certainly loved. I don't believe quality of life means the same thing to a dog as it does to a human. Dogs just want to belong to a family, no matter the circumstances. As long as he's not in pain, and as long as his internal organs/digestive system are functioning properly, it sounds to me like Nabs still has everything it takes to make him happy and appreciative of what life has to offer.
Dang. I thought I'd make it through typing this, but I'm just as big a softie as Jack.
And if you think an old husky chasing an old cat is funny, you should see a blind, arthritic toy poodle chase a bounding kitten around the house. :)
 

ChadM

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I completely agree with Julian, standing and eating are the tops on my list. Too much falling down and it is time to let the dog go.

That being said my Dad had a Ridgeback when we were younger. Towards the end the dog would not eat....except from his hand. He kept telling my Mom " but see she'll eat"...saddest damn thing I have ever seen. That dog loved him so much and vice versa. She quietly passed on within a week.
 

Ryan Wright

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Has anyone had an animal euthanized when it wasn't in lots of obvious pain or suffering, but had a significantly diminished quality of life?
Yes, but it was against my will. When I was 17, my folks decided my Chihuahua was too old to go on. My dad put him in a box and routed a hose from the tailpipe of his car to the box. Buried him in the backyard and I was told he died naturally. Finally found out a few months ago what really happened.

I've been upset with them since. It's been so many years, and they just had to fess up. They should have kept their mouths shut about it; I could have gone on with the rest of my life believing my best childhood friend died naturally, but no, they had to go and feel guilty about it. Taco was old. He could no longer jump on or off of my bed like he used to, but he could still climb up and down the stairs. He still ate. He still licked, and wagged his tail. Still chased balls. He didn't have a tumor, wasn't suffering from any disease. He was just OLD. Nearly 15 years old, I believe, but he wasn't near death. Nevermind the fact that I was 17, more than old enough to make the decision on my own. But they didn't give me that choice.

I'm with Jack on the tail wagging. If the dog still wags it's tail, there's nothing wrong with it. Continue to love it; it's just a senior citizen, and is not suffering any more than an 80 year old human is suffering simply because he's 80 and can't golf anymore. The dog may not be able to do the things it used to do, but if that tail still wags, if that tongue still licks, then it's a happy dog. Maybe it can't play ball anymore, but if it's wagging and licking and eating on it's own, it's just fine.
 

Steve Schaffer

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Jack, Julian, Ryan, and everyone else--thanks for the help. There have been a couple of thumps, but only when she tries to get up on a slippery surface--not really a biggie, I think.

I know whenever I go to visit Sharon Nabs is right there at the door to greet me with her tail wagging, even though she sorta has to hobble to get there, and she still comes up to me to have her back scratched, and gives me a big wet sloppy kiss when I do.

Of her 4 favorite activities (eating, sleeping, getting backscratches, and walkies) she still very much enjoys 3 of them.

She's had a liver operation (tumors) already, and that seems to still be under control.

She can still stand if she can get some traction, eats well,doesn't vomit often at all, and I don't know what neoplasia is, but I don't think she has it. And she very much still loves and is loved by us, so the time to consider euthanizing just isn't yet.

I'll be seeing her tomorrow and will give her extra pats and backscratches for y'all!!!
 

Inspector Hammer!

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It's one of the toughest decisions i've ever had to make, but 5 years ago my 16 year old cat Bigfoot started to get very thin, he was almost 20 lbs in his prime, and when you looked under his fur you could see his skin was all dark from the fleas biting him. My mother and I had a bad feeling that this was almost the end for our friend whom we've had since he was born, so we took him to the vet, and it was their that I had to make the toughest call of my life, "Do it." I said and left the room as I couldn't bare to witness it. I just walked out to the waiting room and started crying. My mother came out to join me and she too broke down. I remember thinking that I didn't want to hear him cry when the vet gave him the needles, he didn't make a sound thank God.

I mean it was me who told the vet to do this, to kill my friend, how could I have done such a thing. But sadly it was necessary, he was miserable and we could all sense it. The vet also told us that he was severly aneimic(sp), his gums instead of being a healthy pink color, were all white. After the deed was done we had the option of taking him home to do as we wish with his body, so he wrapped him up in plastic and laid him inside the pet carrier that we bought him in. Carrying it home was tearing me apart, when we were going there, the carrier was bobbing around and shifting as he walked around inside, going home, it was still.

We buried him in our backyard so he could still remain where he liked to roam and play.

It's never easy to put a pet to sleep, but it's better to do that than having him or her suffer. Sometimes we just have to let him/her go. Jack, now you understand why I wanted you to close that other horrible thread, I can't hear stories like those without thinking of Bigfoot and what if someone did those things to him. It hurts.
 

Robert_Gaither

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Maybe it's just me but I would recommend to have the tumor removed even if it doesn't extend the dog's life any as it will improve the quality of what's left. The only other thing I would also add to the list is if the dog becomes blind and it's ability to smell diminishes as well as my childhood dog ended up developing both latter in life and fell down some stairs and broke her hip (she pushed her way thru a child safety gate at the top of the stairs that we thought protected her) and her last moment was in agony because we all couldn't agree to put her to sleep sooner (it still haunts me to this day and it was about 15 years ago).
 

Steve Schaffer

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John,

I'm sorry for the loss of your buddy. You did not kill him, you removed his pain and suffering and gave him peace.
His disease was killing him painfully and unmercifully, you delivered him from his suffering which was the best and most loving thing you could have done for your lifelong companion.


I had to let my cat Weezer go last winter. She'd had a kidney problem and seemed to be recovering, but one day I came home from work and she was very much worse, could barely move, and cried pitifully when I picked her up.

The vet did some blood tests and told me her kidneys had shut down completely and there was no real hope for her recovery. I was just barely able to stay with her when the vet gave her the shot and she went so peacefully and quietly that I knew that I had made the right decision.

Robert,
Nabs difficulty getting up seems directly related to the tumor--it's on her left back thigh, just at the knee joint, and is about the size of a small grapefruit. She has a great deal of difficulty getting up if she's been lying on her left side, but much less if she's been on her right side, so we definitely think getting rid of the tumor will help. I saw her this evening and she's in very good spirits, can see pretty well if the light's good and things aren't too far away, and can still smell a cookie from 30 feet away!!

Sharon contacted her old trusted vet that had cared for Nabs before she moved down here last year from Sacramento. She got the name of a vet the old vet had worked with and trusted, who has also moved down here to Fresno. She has decided that if it's at all possible, she's going to have the tumor removed.

I told Sharon some of the things you guys advised. That and the prospect of seeing a vet she feels more confidence in has helped her tremendously and really cleared things up for her.
 

Inspector Hammer!

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Steve,
thanks for the kind words. I know we did the right thing, but you still have a period you go through when you doubt yourself and ask yourself "Did I do the right thing? Is their something, ANYTHING we could have done to save him?" But i'm fine with the decision I made, as the answer to those questions is ultimatly no, we couldn't have done anything.
 

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