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How will I know when it is time?


Today a very good client of mine brought her sixteen year old Jack Russel Terrier into the Clinic for a check up. The dog is deaf and her eye sight is limited due to cataracts. She is on very potent pain killers for a crippling arthritis that is kept under control by progressively increasing the dose of the medication.{{more}}

This little pooche recently suffered severe dog bites on her side which eventually healed perfectly. Actually, on examination, I could scarcely recognise the mangled area that existed just a few months ago.

Just so you can understand how much this pooch means to the owners. When she was bitten up, during the climax of the Bequia blues festival, the owner secured a speed boat from a friend and brought the animal to the clinic from Bequia, about 9:00 pm that night.

With the dog having a history of intolerance to anesthesia, partly because of her age, the prospect of administering general anesthesia to such an injured patient is very challenging. But we successfully overcame that hurdle and patched her up.

So when the owner asked me today “When will she know when it is time?” I thought about it for a few seconds and told her that she will know when it is time to put her beloved pooch to sleep.

As a veterinarian, I can only give advice to clients on that very sensitive issue. In this specific case, the owner will eventually know when it is time to make that fatal decision.

When a dog becomes deaf, the other senses are shapened to compensate for the deafness. Likewise, if they become blind, the other senses are sharpened accordingly.

In these cases, the animal can still live a relatively normal life. As in the above mentioned case, more than likely, some day the arthritis and nerve damage will be so great that the patient will be unable to use the affected hind legs, even though she is being treated with elevated doses of the best and most potent anti inflammatory and pain medication. That is when the quality of life deteriorates to such an extent the owner will eventually realize that the time has come to be parted from their beloved companion. Certainly, quality of life is a personal judgement; you know your companion animal better than anyone else. While your veterinarian can guide you with objective information about diseases, and even provide a personal perspective of the disease condition, the final decision about euthanasia rests with you.

Some of the more common cases that I encounter and have to advise the clients on the benefits of euthanasia are:

1. When it is confirmed that the animal has a broken back with irreversible damage to the spinal cord.

2. In cases of severe injuries, generally caused by automobile accidents where there is no hope of recovery.

3. If a dog has become uncontrollable and has become a threat to its owners, usually having bitten one or more members of their houshold.

4. In the case of senility, where the animal is unaware of its sorroundings, loses control of bowel movenents and bladder functions.

5. Young animals that are born with genetic abnormalities that will prevent the animal from living a normal life.

6. When an amimal is diagnosed with a terminal illness such as cancer. Though some clients will prefer to keep the animal alive for as long as possible.

7. In cases of Gramoxone poisoning, in which case the animal will die a very painful death in about four to seven days after ingesting the poison. Most cases of gramoxone poisonings in St. Vincent and the Grenadines are done maliciously by people who are intent on killing the animals for some twisted or perverted reason.

What ailing pets should be able to do:

If you are considering euthanasia, here are some of the guidelines to help you decide whether or not your pet would benefit. Pets with chronic or incurable diseases that are given proper medication and care should be able to :

1. Eat, drink and sleep comfortably without shortness of breath.

2. Act interested in what is going on around them.

3. Do mild exercise.

4. Have control of their urine and bowel movements.

5. Appear comfortable and free of moderate to severe pain.

For further information, contact: Dr. Collin Boyle Unique Animal Care Co. Ltd. Tel: 456 4981