How long do you let old pets linger ?

toomuchglassAugust 24, 2010

I wrote a post before about grooming my dear 16 year old Anna -

Now it's become clear to me - she can hardly see , she is almost deaf - I think she is confused most of the time. She trips over things that she should see.... stares at walls ... I use sign language to get her to eat . I'm up 3 to 4 times a night ....because she walks near the door to go out .... when I open it -- she has a blank stare & just stands there. If you pet her - you can feel every bone in her back & her hip bones.

I KNOW she is close to the end ..... but she has a strong heart and a strong personality .She survived parvo as a puppy that's why the neighbor gave her to me --- they didn't want any more medical bills.

My heart wants me to let her pass in her sleep. I'm just second guessing myself . Is there an absolute sign of pain that should bring eternal relief ? I'm so torn .........

( My heart thanks you )

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Those kinds of decisions are often the kind really good pet owners face, because the excellent care they have given tends to let their companions live into advanced years.

Hindsight is so much better than foresight and we all anguish over jumping the gun versus waiting too long.

The answer, I'm afraid, lays in the heart of the owner because you know them better than anyone else. We all just wish that when the time comes our pets will just go to sleep and pass from this world into their next. It doesn't usually happen that way, however.

Death, even one where there isn't a lot of pain, isn't an easy thing to be a bystander at. It can be a protracted and long process, or come on quickly and be over in a mercifully short time. We never know beforehand whicd it will be. I do not have a problem with euthanasia when death is imminent. I do have struggles when it isn't or there is no timeframe.

To me, it's about how much quality the animal has in its life. There are happy but infirm pets. There are also miserable pets who are kept alive more for their owner's sake than their own. The one reason I won't euthanise a pet for is my own convenience. My vet and I used to joke about me running a retirement home for animals when I had so many geriatric pets before they all passed away last year. The day was filled with health care routines and numerous nightly potty breaks. But, there came a time for each of them when to have let them go on was almost cruel. It usually falls on us to know when that time has come, using the best judgment we can. And it should always be done out of love and compassion. Then don't second guess the decision. My heart goes out to you. It's a hard decision to make.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2010 at 11:08PM
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Calliope put it so well.

Toomuchglass: ((((())))) for you and scratches for your dear old girl. Her long, happy life is a testimony to your love and care.

What did she enjoy when younger? How much of that is still there for her? Does she enjoy her contact with you? Does she soil herself?

If she is indeed wasting away, then organ failure will occur. You don't want to "have" to euthanize in a race to the vet because she is suffering.

I was very fortunate with my old cat Franny. She'd been in kidney failure for years, but pain-free and controlled by diet. But one day she didn't want to get up or eat. I put her in her litterbox and then set her on my bed on a heating pad under the blanket set on low, and I thought about it for the day. I realized that it was time, and if I kept her alive it would be for me, as opposed to her needs.

She wasn't in pain. I waited for the next day and asked my friend, a vet tech, to come to my house to euthanize her that evening. And I spent a sweet, leisurely day in bed with Franny, cuddling, giving love and of course, getting love from her. Thank God she wasn't so far gone that the day was torture for her! It was a wonderful last day for both of us.

So, I was lucky. I had the luxury to make a decision that was timely. I knew it was only a matter of days, so I chose the day for her.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2010 at 6:51AM
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I hope you and Anna are having a good day today :)

This past May I was in your shoes, and I know how hard it is. I had to put down my old Lab Willie- my best buddy ever. You will know when. Trust your heart. Nobody knows your dog better than you. Sometimes it is just a look in their eyes. In my heart I knew it was coming for about a month- made 2 appointments in early May, and cancelled both. Memorial day weekend we let him go. I was with him, and if it helps I can say it was totally painless and peaceful for him.
Give Anna lots of love, and follow your heart. It will tell you what is right.

Hugs from Florida

    Bookmark   August 25, 2010 at 8:33AM
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I just wanted to say your in my thoughts and I've said a prayer for you and precious Anna.
Wishing you a good day also.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2010 at 8:45AM
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We went through your same situation with our long time companion several years ago. She was 16 yrs. also and although her normal weight was 60#, she was down to 35#. She was deaf and having at least two seizures a day as well as incontinence. That, I know was extremely embarrassing to her. Finally, we realized we were being selfish prolonging her life.

You will get to that point and then the decision, although never easy, will be made.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2010 at 8:56AM
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It's never an easy decision, and it's one of those ones that you always second guess, because it is so important. I have found that you always "just know." Any good pet owner is tuned into their animals enough that they "just know" when the time is right.

In the past I have based my decision on the quality of life an animal is living. Are they still deriving pleasure from life? Are they in any pain? Things along those lines.

When my old cat was dying quickly of cancer, he was still enjoying drinking from the bathtub faucet, getting cuddled, and watching the birds in the backyard. The morning we woke up and he had no interest in those things, we knew it was time. It is never about quantity, it is strictly about quality.

I have an old cat right now with CRF, hyperthyroid, no teeth, she's deaf, I often suspect she is in the early stages of dementia, and she's very skinny.... but despite that she has a great deal of life in her. She still plays from time to time, always has loving and purring for everyone, still sticks her paw in my mouth at 4 am to wake me up for breakfast- that kind of thing. If she were disconnected from those kinds of interactive behavior I would probably be in the same spot as you as far as questioning what the best decision might be.

Relax a little, cuddle your girl, and watch her- you WILL know when the time is right. (((HUGS)))

    Bookmark   August 25, 2010 at 11:12AM
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Thank you all for your replies . You made me feel so much better. It's so hard to watch a failing pet. The only medicine I give her is meds for incontinence - she really doesn't have any medical problems. I guess as long as there's that least little spark in her - the time isn't right. (((((((((Everyone )))))))

    Bookmark   August 25, 2010 at 11:55AM
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Personally, I would just let her enjoy her time as long as she's not in pain.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2010 at 11:32PM
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I have a very hard time putting any animal down. Currently my 14 year old pitbull who was almost dead from parvo when brought to me 13 years ago is at the end of his life now. He has lost much of his eye sight and hearing but still has his spark. My 10 1/2 year old English Mastiff is also growing close now that she has outlived her life expectancy of 10 years. I make them comfortable and cater to them as needed. They have given me so much for many years it is the least I can do for them.

Unless they are in unbearable pain I let my pets pass away in their home where I know they would rather be than anywhere else. Even if it means keeping them cleaned up multiple times a day once they cannot get up to go potty anymore. I have a very hard time losing a pet. I have 6 large and giant breed dogs, 4 large parrots, 2 cats, a snake and 2 rats.

Over the years I have only had to have one dog put to sleep because she was in constant pain. I couldn't take her to the vet myself. My last pitbull died quickly in my arms from a heart attack while my Rottweiller passed over a matter of a few days once he could no longer stand. They passed away where they wanted to be.

One way that I deal with my loss is to have one coming in the door while one is leaving. It's not a replacement but it does help me deal with it. I also will do something to help other animals in some way. Despite the fact that I have such a hard time coping with the double loss that I will soon have we have done something very positive to help others in dealing with the loss of their pets. I will start another thread about it. If you are also on DG then you may have already seen it.


    Bookmark   August 26, 2010 at 9:15AM
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It is a personal decision. I've done hospice care with my previous two dogs...they were not in any pain and they were not ready to go so I did everything to keep them happy and comfortable until the end. I knew them well enough to know they were not ready to go.
I am glad I did it and I would do it again if a similar situation occurred.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 5:48PM
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My only advice is be aware of how much you are doing to keep your pet going. It is so easy to "just do a little more" if it is letting them be incontinent and cleaning it up; maybe just a little longer....up several times in the night; maybe the next night won't be so bad. Do you see what I mean? All of a sudden you are trying to keep this pet going and just maybe the pet is not having the "quality of life" that it once had or you thought it had? Lots of hugs to you and your Anna!

    Bookmark   September 1, 2010 at 11:12PM
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I know exactly what you mean twotogo . Thanks for your reply . I'll acccept your hugs ! I've had dogs all my married life . I've only had to put 2 down because of severe pain from cancer. I know I did the right thing.
It makes sense to me to do something when the quality of life is gone. Anna is becoming a handfull , but she still has that little spark of life left. It's a dillema for sure. I was just thinking of posting a new question about Anna & her quality of life . Thank you again . (((((((((hugs)))))))

    Bookmark   September 3, 2010 at 12:22AM
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