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Just because we can, it doesn't mean that we should. And that goes for human medicine as well.

 

I declined diagnosis and treatment for 2 dogs strongly suspected of having cancer. In my opinion, the dogs were not candidates for treatment. The dogs were brought home for a short time and then euthanized. In a different situation and with different dogs, I may have opted to treat.

 

I work in cancer research and this is currently a very hot topic in human oncology. The newer, targeted anti-cancer drugs are extremely expensive and often have a very modest benefit on survival. Are a couple of additional months of life (potentially, this is all based on survival curves and statistics) worth 6-figures?

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don't think dogs understand getting to live 6 months longer, but they do understand being happy and pain free in the moment.

 

Like others, this sums up my feelings. I read this article this morning before work and was going to link to the boards later so I am glad Mr McCaig has raised the subject. My husband and I have long talked about this and we have both felt with a younger dog, with a great prognosis that it could be worth the dog being put through uncomfortable procedures, but you can not explain to a dog that they will feel better soon and it will be worth it. Sometimes we have had the budget, sometimes not but I just hate the idea of the dog being miserable and in pain, even though it is supposed to make them better

 

Our late Bandit was diagnosed with kidney failure, the associate vet told us to feed him the horrid Rx food so we did, and he thought it was horrid, and give him fluids. He was a wimp around needles so we were not sure about the fluids, but most evenings we would sit on the floor with a bag of fluids and the three of us would watch tv, some nights he would not let us put the needle in and we let him be. The owner of the practice and our regular vet agreed that Rx food was horrid, we went for the hospice approach, great food, no more rules, spoiled rotten, when I have told the story of Bandit to people, there have been comments about why did not the vet try this or that, but we all made the decision he was not young and he should die with dignity. He passed in his sleep, in the same place he slept his entire 10 years with us. We woke in the morning and he was curled in a sled dog ball just like normal, just not moving. Both of us feel that we were lucky that we got to spend 2 months saying good bye to a very good friend and are proud that on the day he died he went for a walk in his favorite place and raided bird seed from the next doors lawn.

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Dear Fellow Mourners,

 

It is important that you and your loved one(s) agree. Anne and I have seen many animals die and were of one mind about June. Our niece, who loved June and once won a novice/novice trial with her made reservations to fly here to say goodbye. Alas, June couldn't wait.

 

Donald McCaig

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When I was young, about 19, Old Pop and I were training a horse together. His name was Stoat. It was the very last horse we would train together. Old Pop sitting on the fence rail and me going through the beautiful dance that is the good partnership. Stoat was two when we started him. Old Pop died that year. And we lost everything. Stoat was not mine, but a horse we had been training for money. Mom and I scraped up enough money to buy him.

 

I rode that horse competivety in eventing and he was who started me down that road that teaches. Brave and kind, calm and fast he brought me to where I never would have gone.

 

I was offered alot of money for him, never sold him. Couldn't...I'd see old Pop sitting on that rail telling me things that live in a horseman's dreams.

When Stoat was 33...yes I had him for 31 years he developed cancer.

 

And one day I knew...I needed to let him go. Before it got worse. Pete and Mark and I led him down to the start of the trails. And I kissed him, and thanked him my good partner for all thiose years.

 

Then I went back to the house to wait for the shot that would send my Horse and Old Pop finally to the other side of my youth forever.

 

 

 

And my only comfort, was one day

 

I will follow him.

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For over 2 years of his life (~17-19 years old), my cat loved the goat milk he got morning, noon and night. He ate a normal, high-quality cat food (I would not feed him that awful corn-based Rx food the vet wanted to sell me), he had no 'accidents' - although he peed buckets and litter usage tripled, he was normally mobile and slept up on our bed every night.

This sounds like my Chili Pepper, who just turned 18. She was diagnosed in renal failure two years ago when I took her for a dentistry. She is the first CRF cat that I did not put on a veterinary diet and who I chose not to do all the "usual things" (fluids, etc.) with. She eats exclusively baby food (the liquid ground first-stage stuff). Nothing but human-quality protein. She loves it, it's easy to warm, and is liquid enough for her to eat easily. I'm probably spending more on baby food than I ever would on an Rx diet, but it's worth it if she eats it and likes it. She still drinks plenty and has a small dish of fresh water next to her at all times. She, too, goes through some kitty litter, and I did have to make a concession to putting the cat pan where she chose to go potty. She's not perfect, but she still walks around, seeks attention, likes to sit in my lap while I work (and interfere with my typing). I expect she'll let me know when it's time, and I fully expect to help her with her passing. I've had one animal die at home, and it was absolutely awful (it was Chili's littermate, and I suspect he died of insulin shock, on New Year's Eve no less). I never, ever want to see another animal go through what he did. Maybe he wasn't conscious or even aware of the seizures, etc., but it was horrible to witness and I felt so helpless, and there was no time to get him to an emergency clinic, there nearest of which was 40 minutes away).

 

As hard as it is to let them go, I believe what my friend Debbie Crowder told me: We do this for them because we love them that much.

 

J.

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I can't imagine and hope to never have to make a decision but at the hospital where I work we have seen some great results with chemo. A good friend brought her working border collie to us that had bone cancer. After amputation, she started chemo therapy and had treatments every other week. About 10 weeks post op and during the course of her treatment, she entered her in a small AHBA trial and won the class and high in trial among 60 or so other runs. People watching her run were misty eyed. While she'll never be the Open dog that she was, she is still working and happy as ever. Her initial chemo treatment was over about 3 months ago and she looks great and is a happy dog. Fingers crossed she has a few more years.

 

We also do a very unique treatment for cancer at our hospital. Currently, I believe we are the only veterinary facility performing this treatment in the US, but it is very promising. The cancer tumor is surgically removed from the dog and the tumor antigens are isolated. Then we take a blood draw from the pet and isolate the dentritic cells. These cells are loaded with the tumor antigen and are "educated" to attack the cancer. Then we "vaccinate" the pet with these cells. Using the pet's own tumor, blood and dendritic cells, the treatment is totally autogenous to the pet. Not being a scientist, my explanation leaves a lot to be desired. Here's the website with more info if anyone is interested.

 

http://lifevax.com/

 

This treatment is in phase 3 clinic trials in humans with various types of cancer. Results are especially impressive with deadly glioblastoma's.

 

One anecdotal case we have had is with a dog that had reoccuring skin cancer. She would come in to have the tumor removed and then be back within months with another one. She was one of our first cases and after treatment, it's been 3 years and still no more tumors. We are just beginning to treat some lymphoma cases.

 

While this science is new and might not be the be all, end all answer, I do believe it is where we are headed. It's exciting that it's being done in the hospital where I work and there is a long and funny story how we got this going with the company.

 

Michelle

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Oh, Donald, I feel your grief in the spaces where lie all the words you do not say.

 

As Kipling wrote:

 

"We've sorrow enough in the natural way,

When it comes to burying Christian clay.

Our loves are not given, but only lent,

At compound interest of cent per cent.

Though it is not always the case, I believe,

That the longer we've kept 'em, the more do we grieve:

For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,

A short-term loan is as bad as a long--

So why in--Heaven (before we are there)

Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear? "

 

But we do, and we owe it to them to give our hearts fully and without let. My husband and I have met the monster named Lymphoma not once but three times. Three good dogs, only two related, and all died within 36 months' time. Fate was cruelly brisk in taking the old dogs from us and paving the way for new dogs to come.

 

What we have learned of this bitter journey is what Liz said: Dogs don't understand getting to live 6 months longer, but they do understand being happy and pain free in the moment.

 

My first old girl to go, my wee, woolly, hard-minded, sweet-hearted Rose, we probably let go too long. The vet did not recommend chemo or radiation: she managed my dog's symptoms and helped us maintain her comfort as long as we could. It was so, so hard to let Rose go. I think I was perhaps selfish.

 

Dolly took sick next. She was our stoic, always, and it was hard to tell how sick she really was, but she dropped weight, lost appetite ... Again, the vet simply helped us manage her quality of life. I think we made the right call of when to let her go.

 

Then Dolly's sister Della became ill later ... and we braced our hearts to face the demon again. The vet prescribed the same treatments, nothing invasive, just medications to maintain her comfort. One warm spring night, sweet, clingy little Della who wanted nothing more than to be at our feet, at our side, in our hearts ... walked feebly outside and down the stairs to sleep under the juniper tree beside the gate. It was the first time in her entire life she did not sleep beside our bed. It was time to let her go. It felt too soon, too much ... but it was time, for her if not for us.

 

A month ago, we lost another of our oldsters, Scruffy the corgi-mix. He went from our little rascal who would eat ANYthing - sometimes things we really didn't want to know about - to the funny old man who would only eat certain things, and then only for a while. The vet diagnosed him with a raging bladder infection and he bounced back wonderfully with IV fluids and aggressive antibiotics.

 

But a month later, he began slipping again, and this time the vet diagnosed him with kidney failure. Again, we didn't go to extremes. We did what we could to keep him comfortable, fed him whatever silly thing he wanted to eat ... but he faded fast. The last day, I took all the dogs out to play around the property, and Scruffy toddled all the way down to the mailbox. Took him about 5 minutes to make the 70 feet back to the house, but he seemed content.

 

And yet so very, very tired. We let him go the next day.

 

Now I look at my old Jesse, the last of the old things. He's 13 years old and his rear end is going out, but he feels great. Jesse is still loving life, having fun - heck, yesterday I let the deaf old thing move some sheep around. Made him feel great. But one of these days ... that old body is going to hit the 300,000 mile mark and what then? It's hard to imagine letting him go, when his spirit is still so vibrant and bright. I almost hope that when the time comes, he, like Scruffy, will be clearly ready to let go.

 

The one cold comfort we may have is that dogs don't fear death the same way we do. They can't anticipate or look for that sudden darkness or lights at the end of a cosmic tunnel. We are their God, and all they know is life with us.

 

So, I guess the moral of my story is, my dogs' quality of life is everything. If there is a good prognosis for quality of life after some treatment or other, if the vet can tell me, "Yes, s/he will have years of happy, healthy living after we do this," then I would consider a certain financial extravagance. I expect that, at some point, I will again face the prospect of back surgery for my Nick.

 

But if it is merely my weak heart crying out against the silence to come, that bids me keep a beloved dog beside me ... I hope I will have the conscience and strength to let their suffering cease, if there is no joy remaining in my dog's eyes.

 

We give our hearts to a dog to tear ... but there is such joy in the giving.

 

~ Gloria

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Gloria, Such wise words!

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As a sort of aside to this discussion I personally it's important to be supportive of friends who might have to make a decision to let a dog (or other pet go) and not make them second guess their decisions by pointing out additional treatment options (unless they are truly seeking such options), or that thus and such isn't *that* expensive, and so on. I know of people who do this, and it's very distressing. For many of us, making such a decision is agony itself. Being made to feel that we didn't do enough, or were chintzy with the expense is just adding to the pain. So if you know someone contemplating the death of their beloved partner, companion, lifelong pet, consider carefully the advice you offer. (This is not directed at anyone in particular; just an observation I've made over the years when making these decisions myself and watching others have to make them too--and the discussion in the Coffee Break section some months ago about the horse that needed to be PTS and the barn owner who made that decision even more difficult for the horse's owner.)

 

J.

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Such a timely discussion...as I struggle with my Zachary's life. Although the vet indicated he was in renal failure and had limited time left, once again my little ironman has surprised me. But, is he happy? I wish I could tell for sure. He stands outside in the sunlight and seems happy. He sleeps quietly for a lot of the day and night and I do all I can to make sure he's comfortable. He eats his food with gusto and stands at my feet to make sure I put him beside me on the couch in the evening.

 

It's Easter and 2 years ago, I lost my Jazz to hemangiosacroma. He wasn't quite 11 and was the picture of health. It hurts even now. Perhaps that is why I'm struggling right now. I don't want to lose my Zachary at the same time. Maybe Zachary knows this....and has decided to give me a little more of his time.

 

I hope that the decisions I make when it comes to my dogs will be the right one for them, and ultimately for me as well.

 

In Zachary's case, even if offered by my vet, I would only do what is necessary to keep him comfortable. what I would do with a much younger dog, I can't say for sure. So much would be dependent on THAT dog, at that time.

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I guess I am the only one who still struggles so much. I posted how my little heart dog died after some kind event...I let him be PTS because he was disoriented and then struggling so hard to breathe, but then second guessed my choice because what if he had a seizure and was post ictal and if given a few hours could have improved?

 

I don't like having that choice weigh on me. How am I to decide what makes life worth living for my dog?

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I guess I am the only one who still struggles so much.

Seriously? You really believe the rest of us don't struggle with our decisons? Life is full of what ifs. Your dog can't tell you what he's feeling. So yes, you have to make such a decision not really knowing if it's *really* the time. But that's the covenant you make with that pet when you first bring him home. No pet is going to blame you for letting him go too early. And we all make that final decision based on the best information we have in front of us.

 

J.

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Dear Fellow Mourners,

 

Ms Rushdoggie wonders, "How am I to decide what makes life worth living for my dog?"

 

He will tell you.

 

Donald McCaig

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Seriously? You really believe the rest of us don't struggle with our decisons?

J.

 

Based on so many of the replies in this thread I saw so many people who seem confident and at peace that they did the right thing, that they had the wisdom and grace to know and feel that they made the right call, that they could look back with clarity after the event and see that it was the best thing. I honestly have had such a hard time reading this thread because I want so badly to have that feeling and I don't. People have always told me: you will know when its time. Even Donald just posted something along that line.

 

Yet more than three weeks later I am still wracked with guilt and grief and feel like maybe I made the wrong choice. I have nightmares and insomnia. I still sneak off to the bathroom to cry because my poor husband hurts to see me cry. I still fear I did the wrong thing.

 

ETS (because I can't think or make sense when I am crying):

 

Liz P said:

I believe the euthanasia survey results showed that 95% of owners feel they waited too long, 5% said they chose the right time and no one felt they had done it too soon.

 

I am feeling that I did it too soon.

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Seriously? You really believe the rest of us don't struggle with our decisons? Life is full of what ifs. Your dog can't tell you what he's feeling. So yes, you have to make such a decision not really knowing if it's *really* the time. But that's the covenant you make with that pet when you first bring him home. No pet is going to blame you for letting him go too early. And we all make that final decision based on the best information we have in front of us.

 

J.

And it is still a struggle even when you know it's time, when the dog "tells you it's time". It's always a struggle. That is why studies show that the vast majority of people feel they waited too long, a much smaller percentage feel they chose the right time, and no one said they did it too soon (Liz P's quote above).

 

My daughter kept our elderly Border Collie for his last several years. One day, it was just patently obvious that life had lost its joy for him, he was failing and he was miserable. I stayed with him all day until she could get home from school to take him on that last trip. She stopped along the way and bought him a big chocolate bar, that he devoured with enthusiasm even though his appetite for real food was gone. She cried all the way, she cried for days, she cried for months.

 

It is always a struggle, even when we know it is obviously right and the right time. At least it is in my experience and opinion.

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Based on so many of the replies in this thread I saw so many people who seem confident and at peace that Yet more than three weeks later I am still wracked with guilt and grief and feel like maybe I made the wrong choice.

 

I don't think you are considering that your loss is very fresh - 3 weeks is not a long time to grieve the loss of a close friend. I would venture to guess that you are still experiencing the normal stages of grief. IME, it is normal to feel guilty - whether you chose to put the dog down or not. If you don't pts and the dog dies a painful natural death, you feel guilt over not preventing the pain; if you do pts, then you feel guilt over whether it was too soon or not soon enough. Most of us who sound so confident have had much longer to come to terms with our loss and maybe put things into more perspective. And sometimes we sound so confident to reassure ourselves we made the "right" decision. In my case, I've 3-1/2 yrs to come terms w/Sara's loss and 14 months since Katie's passing. I can only state my feelings - I didn't choose to end of the lives of my dogs, I chose to end or prevent their suffering.

 

Hopefully soon the memories of how your dog lived his life will supercede the memories of how he died - it's cliche, but time does help you to remember the joy of having the dog and not the sadness of losing him.

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No, Rushdoggie, you're not the only one who struggles. In the days leading up to each one's passing, I breathed every breath with them. I watched them, minute by minute, hoping that it was another false alarm, and that he or she would suddenly feel like eating, or be able to walk unaided, or whatever it was for that dog or cat.

 

The decisions for me are never made lightly. Sometimes it's a bit clearer than other times, but every single time, I struggle to do the right thing for them.

 

Ruth

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What I take from this very important discussion is - not whether to PTS or treat, not whether to manage pain or try to cure - but the soul searching pain (driven by love) that each and every dog owner here goes through in an attempt to do the right thing. How after they have left us, even for years, their memory can still bring tears to our eyes. How each dog gave so much to us to leave such a lasting impact on us after they are here no more. Then I think of the dogs that I see in the shelter that I volunteer at. Underweight, scarred,scared and unwanted. Wish more people were concerned to do the right thing.

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As a sort of aside to this discussion I personally it's important to be supportive of friends who might have to make a decision to let a dog (or other pet go) and not make them second guess their decisions by pointing out additional treatment options (unless they are truly seeking such options), or that thus and such isn't *that* expensive, and so on. I know of people who do this, and it's very distressing. For many of us, making such a decision is agony itself. Being made to feel that we didn't do enough, or were chintzy with the expense is just adding to the pain. So if you know someone contemplating the death of their beloved partner, companion, lifelong pet, consider carefully the advice you offer.

 

Yes, this.

 

On the flip side there are those people who think you should euth at the first sign of trouble and are very free with that advise too. When Missy was diagnosed last year my boss went on and on THREE DIFFERENT TIMES in the first week to make sure I didn't let her suffer. I was ready to scream.

 

I finally took her up to his place for a walk with his dog. She hopped out of my car with a ball in her mouth and he goes "Oh which dog is that?" "Umm, it's the one with terminal cancer" "wow, she looks quite peppy" I was thinking, "yes, she does, now will you just shut up about the whole thing?"

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Dear Fellow Mourners,

 

I've known people who lost a dog forty years ago and still grieve. Sometimes I'll see something - a flash, a dog's movement- that reminds me of my first sheepdog Pip, gone now eighteen years, and that memory brings a sudden scalding tear.

 

A long time ago, shepherd Geoff Billingham told me, "You can't be a dog handler until you have the regrets." He meant the failure to get a dog to a vet in time, letting a dog run where a car could hit him, simple human failures of attentiveness. I think the regrets are deeper - the regrets are for the life you had, the years you spent together, the dog's endearing/annoying habits, the foolishness, the times that together you were better than you would have been alone.

 

Like Ms Rushdoggie, my first response to June's death was regrets - all those things i should have done differently. That's what tears are for - to wash regrets.

 

When she was alive, June forgave my faults - "Oh, that's just old dopey Donald doing dumb things."

 

As she did when she lay her silky head on my hand and died.

 

As Ms. Rushdoggie's dog forgave her.

 

Because that's the last kindness they can give.

 

 

Donald McCaig

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As I said in my first post there is no right or wrong decision. And with my friends I will support them in what ever decision they make.

 

Rushdoggie..I don't think any of us are confident in our decisions..they are hard ones that must be made. That's why I said that I was glad that Donald came forth and told of his decision..It is one I have vowed to make when the time comes (and that time I know loooms near) with my 2 old guys. HOWEVER believe me as confident as I may sound I know when the times comes a little voice in my head will be questioning that perhaps I should do something to prolong their stay with me.

 

Also Rushdoggie what has always helped me is to remind myself of the fact that my dog/horse had a great life with me and I did the very best that I knew how to do for them.. When you think of all the animals with uncaring and abusive owners your dog was lucky to have had you. They only wrong decision you could of made was not to have bought your dog into your life in the first place. Be happy for you dog knowing that you gave him such a great life..and that you did the very best you knew how for him.

 

Your hurt is still fresh..grieve and cry..but never doubt that you did what was best for your dog.

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There is another scenario here. Some people simply cannot afford to foot a huge vet bill when a dog becomes seriously ill. They may want to. They may feel panic and guilt and dread at the idea of putting down their dog. But for some it isn't a choice between replacing the kitchen cabinets that are getting rather funky or treating the dog for cancer. It's a cold fact that there is not enough money to do either, and no way to get one's hands on it. Does this mean they don't love their dog as much as folk who can drop thousands on treating a dog? Does this mean they shouldn't own a dog if they can't or are unwilling to pay financially ruinous vet bills?

 

I was faced with this situation 3 years ago. My Lurcher bitch had a problem which was not at the moment life-threatening, but without intervention would only get worse, and undermine her health. I took her to the vet and when I got the estimate for fixing the problem it was far and away above my means. There was no one to borrow such a sum from, nor the means to pay it back.

 

My choice was difficult. I did not want to put her down, but what else to do?

 

I got very lucky. Friends of hers from the dog park - a couple with two other Lurchers - asked if they could take her. They did. They got her attended to right away, and now she is 10 years old and the picture of health and happiness. Was it hard to give her up? Yes. Did I feel blessed to have been provided with a solution to the problem. Absolutely! The dog is happy and healthy and that is what matters most.

 

I get pictures fairly regularly, and Sugarfoot sees her friend at the dog park fairly often. I got health insurance for Sugar, and feel like I'm better prepared to face a veterinary crisis should one arise.

 

Sometimes an impossible situation can be overcome. Sometimes it can't. post-10533-078595400 1333910951_thumb.jpg

post-10533-088885800 1333910982_thumb.jpg

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Yet more than three weeks later I am still wracked with guilt and grief and feel like maybe I made the wrong choice. I have nightmares and insomnia. I still sneak off to the bathroom to cry because my poor husband hurts to see me cry. I still fear I did the wrong thing.

 

I would bet we have all gone through the same thing. Weeks after I let Flyboy go I was still a mess, waking up suddenly in the middle of the night feeling like I had murdered by dog. That soon after his death I absolutely felt like I had let him go too soon. It wasn't until a full year after he had died that I happened upon his test results and started to make peace with my decision. That year to grieve had allowed me to look at the information with a more analytical mind and see how very sick he was. I can finally say with confidence that euthanasia was the right choice, and two years in I can admit I may have waited a few days too long.

 

Grieving is a long and painful process.

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