Which would you choose? Quality of life or quantity of life? What if you could live an extra few years but you would be in pain or misery for the entire time? I know that different religions and philosophies look upon sanctity of life in different ways but if you had the ability to make the choice, which would you choose? Some of you may say that there are drugs to manage pain so you could have at least some quality to the extra time but what if that wasn’t an option either?
Pain in animals is hard to gauge. They instinctively hide their pain so as not to become prey. So by the time we see the signs of illness, they are pretty sick or the injury is worse than first thought. We often get in older animals that are in very poor condition and when we ask if they are under veterinary care, the answer is inevitably, “well, she’s 18 (or 19….) so that’s why she looks that way.” That’s not a good enough answer! Older animals need more veterinary care, not less! The bottom line is even if you choose not to treat the underlying condition that is making the animal look this way, at least make sure she is not in pain.
I recently saw my friend’s dog that I haven’t seen in a while. Reno (names have been changed to protect identities) had always had a slight occasional limp but was an active dog and didn’t seem much affected by it. I was surprised to see how much worse the limp had become now that the dog was older – of course arthritis probably added to it – and how much of the leg muscle had atrophied. Still I couldn’t convince her that the dog was in pain, since he still got around just fine. You see animals all around favoring limbs or having a hard time getting up and laying down. Older animals get arthritis just like we do and that is also very painful. Yet not everyone thinks to treat that pain. Is that fair?
I recently took a call from someone wanting to discuss surrendering their dog. Not only was the animal a senior, over 11 years old, with some chronic health issues and extreme anxiety, he had bitten more than once so was a temperament challenge. Now I know the “no-kill” mentality would say “so what, save him anyway!” But this is where I disagree. Looking at it from the animal’s point of view, here is a dog that doesn’t do well with change, is nervous around new people and situations, and we’re going to take him from the only home and people he knows and ask him to adapt to a shelter environment while we look for another home which would be another major change. All while dealing with his health and temperament issues not to mention his grief and confusion over the loss he’s suffering. Why? So he can live unhappily for a few more months? What do you think about this?
Here’s an even more difficult situation that I know people will take differing sides on. An older man dealing with his own illness decides that he can’t deal with life anymore and wants to end it. He has an old dog as a companion and thinks the kindest thing is for the two of them to cross the bridge together, so he shares the drugs he is overdosing on with the dog. Fate intervenes and they both survive. Should he get his dog back? What if he didn’t do that and only ended his own life. Then what would have happened to the old dog? Was he wrong to try and do a home euthanasia on his pet?
Is it ever wrong to say goodbye to a pet that is in chronic pain? We are allowed to make that choice for our pet and I think of it as a gift. A peaceful exit surrounded by those who loved the animal. What is wrong with that?
Kidz ‘n’ Critters Summer Camp – registration is now open for our camp program. 4 sessions for different age levels from 2nd grade to 7th grade. Educational and interactive – perfect for all young animal lovers! For details and registration forms go to www.rpanimalshelter.org or stop by the shelter.
“Get Them Back Home” Campaign – Every lost pet should have a way to get back home. FREE pet ID tag and a back-up microchip are available to all residents of Rohnert Park and Cotati. No appointment necessary, just come by the shelter during our regular open hours: Wed. 1-6:30; Thurs.-Fri.-Sat. 1-5:30; Sun. 1-4:30.
Fix-it Clinics – Free spay and neuters for cats; and $60 dog surgeries (up to 80 lbs.) for low-income Rohnert Park and Cotati residents. Call 588-3531 for an appointment.
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at email@example.com.