Sunday, November 11, 2007

When is it too much?

My sister-in-law and her husband have been battling with some really tough decisions about the "next steps" in the care of their aging Bichon Frise dogs. The pups are eleven years old and have been the family's boys since they were just a few weeks old. Each dog's health has been failing in different ways and they require quite a bit of medication and attention. They also have 2 girls (of the human kind) ages 7 and 2, who of course need plenty of attention too.

They have been taking these pups to a great veterinarian who is up to date on all sorts of fancy procedures. When one pup got cataracts he referred them to an animal eye specialist. When the other was no longer able to control his hind legs, they referred them to an animal ortho specialist to do an MRI and possible surgery on his spine.

This past year, my parent's have been dealing with their own vet issues. They have one cat who was a stray that is in end renal failure who requires injections every other day and she takes him to the vet for most of them at $12 plus the cost of the fluid each time. I do it when I can, but it has been 2 years now and I basically only do it when the vet is closed. They also lost the last 2 cats I had when I lived there, one was also in end renal failure but wouldn't allow us to inject him and the other had her own issues and had gone blind. They were both at least 17 years old and I begged them to put the 2 they lost down, but my father just couldn't do it (at least that is what my mother said). I think neither of them had the strength to do it, and I had already lost my connection with them so it was easier for me to suggest. Both of them died within a month of each other, but the stray gets stronger and stronger (and meaner and meaner) each time I see him.

With all of these decisions being talked about it got Eric and I talking about how much would we do for out boys (of the feline persuasion). Eric says he has a hard time stomaching the thought of spending money on pets but knows that I would go to much further means to care for my boys (I've had them since they were 6 weeks old). They are now 10 years old and have been my companions and babies through some tough times. Thankfully (knock on LOTS OF WOOD) they are in good health.

I don't know how I would make the decisions my Sister-in-Law and her husband have been having to make. How can you put a price tag on the life of a family member, but at the same time keeping a level head that they are pets. It is legal to euthanize an animal and in some cases this seems more humane. You can't explain to your pet why you have decided to put them under the knife and why they are enduring the pain of recovery and that yes someday it will improve their quality of life... maybe.

When it comes down to it, I hope I will be able to reasonably judge whether or not an expensive surgery will improve their quality of life or will extend their life and make it better, not just extend their suffering because I can't do what may be more humane. Who can say if 6-12 more good months is worth the money or if a 50/50 chance of a surgery's success is worth it. You'd never think twice if it was your child, right?

Have you every been faced with such a decision? If so, what did you do? If not, what would you do?


MrsGrumpy said...

We have a 6 year old Sheltie and a 15 year old domestic mutt-like cat. My husband and I always said we would spend tons of dollars on surgeries, medicine etc... when it came to the animals. When Jessie was 2, and on my son's birthday no less, she started bleeding really badly and hid under the porch. We were finally able to coax her out and I took her to the emergency vet. Both of us thought we were losing her. I called my husband from the vet and asked how much would be too much to spend on her health. His answer, to my relief, was,"Whatever it takes..." $2000 and 38 bladder stones removed later, she is fine. I really think I would spend whatever it took on my fur children, as long as it would relieve them from pain. If they are in pain or there is no hope (i.e. cancer) I would rethink that position. I fear the day that happens because I agreed to animal ownership on the basis that my husband had promised to take care of them when the day came. I especially worry about Merlin (our black cat). He is older, arthritic and this is the second Daddy he has lost. He was my father in law's cat and we took him in just before my father in law died. It just sucks that their lives are so much shorter than ours.

J at said...

Not yet...when my dog Samantha went, there was nothing the vet could do for her. She was 16, and the discs in her back had slipped so far out of whack that she couldn't stand. Maybe nowadays (this was almost 20 years ago), maybe with a younger dog, but at that point, it truly made no sense. None of which made it any easier, and my heart was completely broken by her loss.

With Gen, I would say anything within reason, and when they start getting older, that's a factor. My grandma said she didn't want any more surgeries, and she's in her early 80s. I respect that desire for her, and I would tend to think the same way about an animal...think about what you're doing, and why.

I think if I were in your parents shoes, I would not have the giving hearts that they do.

I don't think that was really an answer, though.

~Donna~ said...

The decision to put down my older cat was difficult, but in the end I couldn't make any other. She had diabetes really bad, and the more we tried to treat it, the meaner she got. GUess she was trying to tell us to leave her alone. When she was constantly growling and attacked anyone who came near, I had no choice. My son was just 4, and my other cat was on the receiving end of most of the attacks. Without the meds she suffered with lots of nasty things I won't go into...and she wouldn't let us give them. She was old and suffering, I couldn't do anything else. Still cry when I think about it, and my son remembers it still. There were other things, more expensive things the vet could do, but I didn't have the money to do it. I almost had to borrow money to put her down. In the end, I did the right thing, there was no guarantee the other procedures would work and I didn't have the money to take that gamble.

Starshine said...

Oh, that's so hard! I haven't been in that situation, but I know it would be a very difficult decision.

Gina said...

I don't have any fur babies, and never really have. We only have a fish for now. But spending a lot of money, if I couldn't really spare it and it was very iffy spending the money would help them, I probably wouldn't.