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?