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Tough decision

  1. Apr 25, 2010 #1


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    We're faced with a tough decision.

    It's about Maxwell, the dog featured in https://www.physicsforums.com/showpost.php?p=1632392&postcount=30".

    He has bladder cancer and we took him to the vet today for a check up. He recently started dripping urine and blood. The ultrasound shows that the tumor fills nearly his whole bladder. Just a few months ago, it was tiny, maybe 1/10th that size. The vet suggested we try an anti inflammatory, which might reduce the tumor a bit. I don't put much faith in that but it's worth a try.

    He doesn't seem to be in any discomfort, though.

    So now what? Well it seems that we will have to euthanize him. For PFers who have had to do this, how did you deal with it? Specifically, what criteria did you use for deciding when?

    It feels wrong to make this decision based on what's convenient for me.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 25, 2017
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  3. Apr 25, 2010 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    That's so sad, Lisa. It's never easy.

    I would ask your vet's advice about how late you can go before he's in discomfort. Not letting it drag on until the bitter end is the last kindness you can provide Maxwell.
  4. Apr 25, 2010 #3
    I would just let him go into the wild... but thats probably why I don't own pets.
  5. Apr 25, 2010 #4
    Even though he shows no signs of discomfort, animals instinctively try to hide injury so as not to encourage predators. I believe that dogs live in the NOW with a very limited sense of past or future.

    It is easier to give advice in these situations than to follow it. You took Maxwell from a bad situation to a good one and gave him many wonderful NOW's. He needs you to help him now.

    Best wishes, Skippy

    PS The only thing that ever helped me was to go and get a new puppy.
  6. Apr 25, 2010 #5
    That's a tough one. To most animal lovers their pets are part of the family.
    We had to euthanize our dog(severe kidney failure)
    In our case we waited and kept it alive until we could tell it was experiencing constant pain and couldn't get up.
    Getting a new dog afterwards really helped.
  7. Apr 25, 2010 #6


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    I am so sad to hear that lisab. I don't know what to say.
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  8. Apr 25, 2010 #7
    Oh heavens, Lisa, I'm sorry. I've had to make that decision a bunch of times during this lifetime, and it'll happen again, at least once, anyway. (I dread that day more than just about anything.) I recently went through this with my best friend whose dog had a cancerous tumour in her abdomen that had spread to her liver. The dog was really, really sick, and terminal. The question was how long, not if.

    She lives out on the coast and she and her wife weren't handling things very well. I flew out and spent a few days with them to try and get them organised and feeling steady on their feet so they could feel capable about making decisions. This turns into a long, messy story.

    Anyway, everyone says that animals "hide" pain, and I don't think that's quite accurate. And I had someone else say to me that animals have a higher pain threshold than we do, and I don't believe that either. What I've noticed with animals is that they have a different presentation of pain than we do. And we don't always recognise what that looks like.

    From the speed of growth of the tumour, Lisa, it sounds like a fast moving cancer. There's only one outcome, here, so it's just a question of time. I'm not sure what you use as a personal criteria. I know that my best friend was anthropomorphising like mad and seemed to think that the dog was looking forward to certain events, or appreciating every day that she had, or regretting things she hadn't done. There was no amount of telling my friend that dogs aren't aware of their mortality that made any difference to her. That they don't have regrets. They don't anticipate upcoming events. They live in the moment and if they are well-loved in the moment, everything's perfect.

    I had to face the very real possibility of this being a decision on my plate with my little cat just over a year ago. Her ultrasound results suggested that she might have small cell lymphoma in her intestines. I sat with that distinct possibility (I would have needed exploratory surgery to confirm it) for an entire evening while researching the disease. And while the whole idea had my stomach in knots and my heart breaking, I made the decision that, if it turned out that's what it was, then I'd arrange that day for the vet to come to my house. I'd call my ex and let him know what was going on and ask him to come, because she's his little girl too, and we'd say goodbye then. There'd be nothing to gain for her by prolonging things and waiting for the disease to progress. Things would not improve, only deteriorate.

    That's just what I'd do. That's what I've done in the past when confronted with terminal illness in an animal I love and care for. I couldn't hold them to decline.

    For my best friend's dog, we got her on pain maintenance therapy because my friend couldn't entirely wrap her mind around what was going on. And the dog rebounded and lived, seemingly well, for an extra few weeks. When the inevitable downhill slide returned, though, it was quick. But it was so difficult to determine the scale of pain the dog was in until we got her on some super strong pain meds. Then I was aghast at what bad shape that dog was in.

    I know it's one of the roughest decisions ever, Lisa, and everyone has to make their own choice about what they're comfortable doing and when. Personally, when the die is cast, I don't see the percentage in waiting. That's me, though. And trust me when I tell you I don't take that decision lightly or make it easily. And I've held and petted and kept calm and quiet and helped the animals I've had to make the decision for feel secure until they took their last breath. And that's hard.

    I'm really sorry, Lisa. You'll find a decision that works for your heart.
  9. Apr 25, 2010 #8
    We let our first dog linger for too long. In the end it hurts you and the dog. It is better to put them down early, than to put them down too late, and cause unnecessary suffering.
  10. Apr 25, 2010 #9


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    Thanks everyone. Yes, it's a bad situation, and there is no easy answer.

    I was under the impression that if he was eating normally that he was not in much discomfort (his appetite is quite healthy!). The vet told me today that dogs will eat until they're at the very end...well isn't that just like a dog, haha!
  11. Apr 25, 2010 #10
    My deepest heart felt sympathy for the decision you must make. Maxwell is a beautiful animal, you will know in your heart, when it is time.
  12. Apr 25, 2010 #11


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    We've have a LOT of pets that have lived long and very spoiled and happy lives with us. We would almost always be able to see it in their eyes when they were ready to 'go'. One or both of us would be there while they got their 'love shot'. We would hold and love them as they left us. Not every one can do this, but it was the only way for us.
  13. Apr 26, 2010 #12

    Ivan Seeking

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    I'm sorry to hear about Maxwell. Yes, when the quality of life takes a big dive, that's when Tsu and I decide it's time. You will know if you look into his eyes and he looks miserable.

    It is tough because the vets will sometimes try to string things along. In the worst case that we've seen, they even offered false hope just to get more money. In one case, we did make an extended effort to save one cat that had gone into liver failure. There was a chance that he might bounce back with constant hydration [by injection] and whatnot. But in the end I wished we had let him go much sooner. My feeling was that it wasn't worth gaining the extra time at his expense.

    It's one day at a time with Isaac now as well.
  14. Apr 26, 2010 #13


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    I'm so sorry to hear about Maxwell.

    I've had to euthanize our pets, and perhaps we waited a bit too long. One cat, our calico Pumpkin, had a bladder tumor, and when she started to hemorrhage and getting a bit shocky, we took her to the vet. Her bladder was as hard as a nut according to the doc. Unfortuantely, a second cat was euthenized the following day. He had a tumor in his abdomen, and I guess the death of Pumpkin got to him. That was about a month before my brother died from leukemia.

    Another cat went into kindney failure. She just came to me one morning and stopped moving. I had pretty much waited until the last minute, and she probably suffered because I couldn't be with her 24/7. She died in my arms.

    We've euthenized a dog too.

    We still take in pets - mostly strays - as they pass.
  15. Apr 26, 2010 #14
    Handsome dog! So sad :frown::cry:

    I am so sorry for Maxwell. I just hope the vet's medicines give him some relief.
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  16. Apr 26, 2010 #15
    I had to take that decision twice and it's probably the main reason why there are no more dogs here in the house, to avoid it for a next time.

    Also, not sure if there is a best time for such a decision, especially when it is inevitable in the near future. What is the value of extended suffering but being alive still? And moreover, how important is that question? But then again who are we, thinking we know and can decide what is best for the dog.

    Maybe the most important thing is the feeling afterwards to have done the right thing.

    Wishing you all the wishdom and courage to do so, Lisa.
  17. Apr 26, 2010 #16


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    Don't know what to say other than to add my condolences as well. Best of luck.
  18. Apr 26, 2010 #17
    This may sound a bit strange, but I always try to think of what I would have preferred had I been in their shoes. I'd have myself put down if I lived in constant pain but that's the only time I'd really consider it...I don't think a bit of discomfort warrants euthanasia and I fully agree with you that your own convenience shouldn't feature in this decision.
  19. Apr 26, 2010 #18

    Chi Meson

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    Just a year ago, we had our dog euthanized when it became clear that she couldn't stand without pain. She was 17. That was the third dog in my life that had to be put down. I love dogs (and cats too) so I say this with empathy: The poor thing has cancer, and it's not going to get any better. If the anti-inflammatory reduced the tumor "a bit," that puts off the decision by what, a month? It's very sad, but the hardest part is to broach the subject. No, that's not the hardest part, but still, you need to make that decision and call the vet. A good vet will take it from there.

    The irony is, when we really love our pets and take extremely good care of them, we bring them to this point where they just don't die the "natural" way.
  20. Apr 26, 2010 #19


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    Echoing Chi Meson's observations, our sister and brother in law's pekinese, Sunny, who lived to be almost 16, about two months ago was having trouble getting his old little body around, mind you for the last two year's of his life he first went blind then lost his hearing, but thankfully not his sense of smell. Taking him to the vet that one last time was a very hard thing to do. They were with him till the end.

    That was a sad moment for all, yesterday we visited them and they acquired a 6 week pekinese puppy, Teddy, really cute, got him last week. The funny thing is his face reminds everyone of Sunny, so that is a form of comfort to all. We have Sunny's memories and reacalled some funny stories and that helped too.

    Last edited: Apr 26, 2010
  21. Apr 26, 2010 #20


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    I'm so sorry, lisab. :frown:

    We had to make a hard decision about our family dog when I was younger. We decided to relieve him of the pain in which he was living. It was very difficult, but we were glad that we'd made that decision after everyone's emotions had settled.

    Edit: I've no doubt that you are an exceptional owner; your compassion and consideration for your family member is moving.

    2nd Edit: I was too young to remember, or comprehend, the details of the decision making process. Our dog, Smokey (a black Weimaraner), had an eye disease that causes irritation and nerve damage. Although he did not constantly whimper, we were told that the symptoms of the disease were likely causing a significant amount of discomfort and irritation. My parents did not have enough money for surgery...

    I wish I could be of more help. :frown:
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2010
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