Our Toughest Responsibility: “The End Of Life Conversation”
As a pet owner we get to experience the joys of raising our pets and having them as a part of our lives. The toughest part of being an owner comes when our pets get old or sick, and we have to make the unfortunate decision of when to let them go. As a veterinarian this is one of the hardest parts of our job as well. But sometimes it can be a blessing or a kindness. In a situation where an animal’s quality of life is poor with little to no chance of recovery, we as owners can choose to spare them from any additional pain. We take care of them their entire lives, and sometimes our last act of kindness is to give them a peaceful passing. The number one question veterinarians hear about this is, “How do I know?” If you are facing this difficult question, here are a few things to consider when assessing your pet’s quality of life:
- Are they still interacting with you and your family?
- Can they get up on their own?
- Do they still enjoy all of their favorite toys, treats and activities?
- Can the dog go outside to use the bathroom? Can the cat make it into the litter box?
- Are they still eating?
- Do the medications still seem effective?
- Does giving the medications affect your bond with your pet?
If you answered no to a majority of these questions then it may be time for a quality of life conversation with your veterinarian.
Often cats or dogs with cancer need complex surgery later in life. The question here is always; “Is it worth putting them through the pain of the procedure?” Many of these patients can have a successful outcome after surgery despite their age. Each situation is unique, and it is always a hard decision to make. Rely on your family, friends, and veterinarian to help you make the decision. Always remember that you are not alone. We have a support group at Westside Veterinary Clinic and would be happy to put you in contact with people who have recently experienced the same difficulty.
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