Dog ethics question: When do you call it quits?

Back ground… My big dog… Cancer… Almost 18 months ago she was feeling ill, we brought her in to the emergency clinic on a Sunday… They thought it was her spleen… It was a giant tumor that had pulled off of its blood vessel somewhere around her kidney or adrenal gland, wrapped around her aorta… Size of an avacado, blood clot the size of a honey dew melon, and bleeding out.

My vet on Monday morning told me I would be doing good if she made Tuesday, lucky to make the end of the week and really lucky to make the end of the month (10 days away at the time)… Turned out to be lymphoma.
Here we are… almost 18 months later… A few weeks ago my big dog started drinking and pissing like crazy. Gallons and gallons a day… Brought her in. Had to hold a jar under her ass while she peed, and she peed on my hand.

So, last Monday… lets go for an ultra sound since she had cancer probs earlier… before we run more tests… Daisy was good about it, hour and a half to get there, and she wasn’t allowed to pee. Shaved and rolled all over on a table for an hour… GIANT tumor on her liver… FUCK!!!

OK… Appointment with my vet (who is awesome BTW) on Friday to discuss things… We didn’t make it to Friday…

So Tuesday afternoon Daisy decided she is going to act “sluggish”… By Wednesday morning, I’m crying like a little girl thinking this is it… My little lady calls the vet… I didn’t want to bring her in, because I knew we weren’t bringing her home… We talk it over… All they can see is the tumor on her liver… All her
#'s are good… We even brought the little dog with us, for “moral” support and so she could smell her buddy when she was dead…

A banzai run to the animal hospital an hour south. Both dogs in tow… A vet surgeon with all kinds of letters after his name… real nice guy…

Slicing and dicing… Barely made it home and I get a call… The big ass tumor on Daisy’s liver had pulled off, and she was bleeding out internally, they sopped up over a liter.

However, in the middle of the liver there where 3 other tumors, and there was a tumor in the adrenal gland growing into the kidney…

I opted for sewing her up, though they gave me the option of going in in a few weeks to tackle the adrenal problem and the remaining liver tumors… They also gave me the options of taking all the liver tumors, and also the adrenal tumor… The adrenal deal being the sketchy one… Sew her up…

Daisy was up and eating in 3.5 hours, they thought they may have to keep her for up to 4 days for recovery… BS… She came home the next day, and the day after that she was able to extend herself enough that she could get up on the counter to steal a cat food can…

So… Daisy is a bit over 8 years old… At 6.5 years, I thought I had lost her… Last week I was prepared (sort of, almost, not quite) ready to let her go…

So I’ve decided and the little lady has agreed, we aren’t cutting her open again. That’s just too much. I didn’t really want to do it this time, but all they saw was one tumor… I was ready to start digging, and this ground out here is so hard… about a foot of pick axing and then you can dig.

I’m sort of feeling guilty, I was ready to put my dog down a week ago or so, and now she’s happy and hoppy, with 4000 staples across her abdomen. She had no idea what is going on inside her, she just wants her belly rubbed and a kiss on her pointy(fat) head.

So… When do you call it quits?

I didn’t want to get this far… into and past a second major surgery… but my puppy dog is laying over here next to me snoring her fat ass away, and that makes me pretty damn happy. And she seems pretty damn happy, but I think the next time she takes a turn for the worse… That’s it.

I am very sorry for what you are going through. I am going to say this from experience. I dearly loved all the dogs I have had. Their lives are so short. One of them, a female pit bull, got cancer when she was about ten years old. I had the surgery done, brought her home, and after she healed up we got one more year and the cancer came back. I could not bear having her go through that again. So after much thought I took her to the vet and had her put down. I cried like a baby for two days.
Her son was my companion 24/7 for 14 years. When he was about 9 years he took off one day. I searched for days, no luck. I put out a poster, $250 reward. As the days went by my chances of getting him back got worse. I put another poster out, $500 reward. On the 14th day I decided to put my house up to get him back. On the 15th day I was upstairs searching with binoculars and I spotted him about a half mile away. I jumped in my truck and lit out and when I got there he jumped in and the ordeal was over. Talk about relief. My point here is that putting my house on the line was going too far. I have no family and that dog was all I had so I felt justified in doing so. But looking back, I should not have taken that risk.

Pain and quality of life are my deciding points. Also, because this is the real world, bufgetary matters come into play. I have had to make the decision on too many. I don’t want to do it any more. I’m not sure I will ever have another pet.

This. My sister just had to put down her 19-year-old Australian Cattle Hound. Lovely dog, always retained her “inner puppy.” Her hips were so messed up, she couldn’t stand on her own. Someone had to carry her outside to poop. Didn’t always make it. Had quite a few messes to clean up. They used a lot of Lysol.

But…the dog was happy. Ate well, was glad to be taken on rides in her wagon, really had a good life.

Then…signs of physical distress. And that’s the time to say enough, and do what has to be done. A dog should not have to suffer.

You can read your dog pretty well. The symptoms that got you to the vet this last time that resulted in surgery, expect to see those again. Expect to maybe see something different, too, but it really sounds like you know her well enough to tell when she’s going downhill. It’s just that this time, you’ll be making the call for sure.

I always tell people (as a vet tech who works in an ER and a shelter) a day early is always better than a day late. Let her go when she starts feeling crummy again but can still appreciate a last steak dinner. Who knows how long that will be. You sound like you’re the type to appreciate every day, and that’s all you can do. You also sound more prepared than most, already. You’ve had a lot of time to think about it.

Letting her go when it’s time will be hard, but it’s the kindest thing to do, and you know that. I see too many take their pets home after euthanasia is recommended, and it’s more depressing knowing the animal is going to suffer for an indeterminate amount of time after they leave, because I know how peaceful the procedure really is and they’re being denied that.

She sounds happy and comfortable for now, and like a very cherished and lucky dog to have you.

My vet told me that only on RARE occasions do dogs die quietly in their sleep. In almost 90% of cases its up to the owner to decide when to put them down. He says he’s seen people spend thousands to put a dog on life support to those who put them down at almost any early sign of old age.

We put down our beloved Shiloh 5 years ago and the pain is still there. I am glad we did it though because he was very sick at the time and all the expensive care in the world would have maybe lengthened his life by maybe 6 months to a year.

I believe Shiloh was a gift from God to us because shortly after he died my wife had a dream where Shiloh spoke to her. Reminding her that he too was a creation of God and although we will never see Shiloh again, we would still feel his spirit in other dogs.

We have another dog now but she isnt the same.

I think you’re doing great. As SeaDragonTattoo said, it’s better to be a little too early than too late.

This is heart breaking for you and I just gotta say it gets harder before it get better, but give yourself permission to do what you know is right.

I was one of the stupid ones, my dog had a lifetime of dermatology issues, he’d get good to a point and then something else would happen. Finally he got lymphoma at 11, we ignored the advice of our trusted vet friend to let it go, and went with the flashy cancer vet who said they could give him about 2 more years with Chemo. We spent thousands of dollars, initally the chemo cleaned up his fur problems, he seemed to get stronger, but then it reversed. Our boy had 7 months. Then we took him in for the last time. To this day it’s the hardest thing in my life to say good bye to my friend. I still cry thinking of him. Rationally I was selfish trying to keep him alive, and I tell myself never again. I have another dog. I hope I don’t make the same mistake of going too far in trying to save her. Some things just are the way it is.

My criteria is “can it be fixed”, along with age, pain, and quality of life.

My beloved Beagle was about 11 when she developed Congestive Heart Failure. You can’t fix that. It happened the day I got back from vacation and my parents were babysitting her. The vet wanted to run $500 worth of tests then put her on medication that could give her “…a week, or a month…” Hell no. As you can imagine I was a sobbing wreck. My mom, the strongest woman I know, said to me: “She had a wonderful life with you. She saw Christie (my best friend) two weeks ago and she just spent 4 days with her grandma and grandpa. She is happy. You are going to let her go right now before she gets any sicker.” And my mom was right.

Sidenote: when I told the vet to let her go now because I wasn’t going to keep her alive and suffering, the vet called me “selfish” and got all huffy about doing the procedure. I am still pissed off that my final memories of my dog are tinged by a vet with horrible “bedside manner”, but I KNOW I made the right decision.

If it’s something that CAN be fixed - ie. broken bone, easily removed tumour - I’d mortgage the house if I had to.

I learned this hard lesson of knowing when to let go some years back. I had a cat, getting up there in years (about 17), and starting to have some issues. She was going blind and other parts were not working well and eventually had litter box issues, both going outside the box and messing herself.

Cats do not like to be dirty, so it was hard on her as well as she didn’t want to be messy but things just didn’t work so she could not help it. So her quality of life went to being unhappy, and then perhaps just a zombie shell of herself. It also got the the point where I needed to keep her in the bathroom almost all the time, which made things worse.

After a year of this I finally concluded that this is not working for her or me and I needed to do something. I decided to have her put down. I took her to the very and as she was lying there calmly and the vet was getting ready to inject her, I placed my hand on the table in-front of her nose, mainly so she knew I was there (as she was almost totally sightless by then), and unexpectedly she licked my hand once as to say thank you and I knew it was the right thing to do.

After having gone through this multiple times, all I can tell you is that you’ll know what you have to do when you have to do it. There aren’t any rules.

We ran into that with our old cat, too - she was 15 years old, she had kidney failure and a big lump on her kidney, and the vet wanted to do hundreds of dollars of tests and ultrasounds etc. to find out exactly what was going on. We said no to all that - we know what’s going on - she’s old and she has kidney failure. We took her home, kept her hydrated as best we could, and she had another couple of mostly good months before her body just gave up and we knew it was time.

That really isn’t right. Our vets weren’t nearly that bad, but I got the impression from them that the only option was to do everything we possibly could, no matter what the cost. That just wasn’t going to happen - as people are saying, if it was fixable, yes, but an old cat with kidney failure? There’s not that much that can be done - her body was just giving out.

I’m sorry you have to make this decision, Bubba. If she’s still meeting the criteria set out here (quality of life, pain, suffering, etc.), I’d say it isn’t time yet, but as you say, her next bad turn is probably her last.

I lost two elderly girls this past fall. Both had to be euthanized. The first was my 16-year-old pug. She just ran out of puggy gas and it was her time. She went like a lady and although I was sad, I was also at peace.

A month later my 12-year-old chihuahua developed what we thought was an upper respiratory bug. Antibiotics didn’t help and she got worse. The vet did x-rays and saw either fluid or a mass in her lungs. A blood panel was done and compound antibiotics were ordered. That night she went into cardiac arrest and we rushed her to ER. Nothing could be done so we opted to end her suffering. The blood panel turned up some off the chart liver numbers that were probably signs of cancer. I still miss that little monster like you wouldn’t believe.

The thing is they all come with a sell-by date and you know that going in. Doesn’t make it any easier, though, I know. I would do it all over again for everything they gave me. And I would help them out of this world in the same way, too.

I think you’re making the right decision and it is best to make it now. I had a lovely cat who had a very bad psychological reaction to veterinary treatment. Any time I had to give her medicine she became very fearful and alienated.

She had two thyroid operations. After the first she managed to run outside and lived like a feral cat for the rest of the summer, sneaking inside for food when I wasn’t around. After the second she hid under my bed for a month, only coming out for food and the litter box when I wasn’t asleep or not around. After that one I made a pact with her and me that there would be no more operations, no more pills.

Eighteen months later she went into decline. She decided she lived on the kitchen table, and I let her. She was painfully thin but still eating, still taking care of her toilet and still happy to be fussed. At the point that she would only eat fancy food I knew it was time. I was lucky to see a lovely local vet who took the time to make her passing as easy as possible for both of us.

We can’t stand in the way of death forever. Trust yourself to know what is best for Daisy and enjoy the time you have with her.

That seems eminently reasonable. In all honesty, I think it would have been reasonable to put her down at many points in this saga. A lot of dogs wouldn’t have recovered from the first surgery, much less made it through all the ensuing issues.

When to put one down varies greatly by individual diagnosis, pet, and owner, but there are a few general guidelines. When they’re having as many bad days as good days, it’s probably time. When the bad days are really awful, it’s probably time. When you can’t provide appropriate treatment or palliative/nursing care (whether due to finances, physical/logistical limitations, or the pure emotional pain of watching one slowly fail), it’s time. And when you feel like it’s time, it’s definitely time. I’ve watched a lot of people make this decision, and I’ve had to make it myself. Never once have I ever seen someone make this decision at a point I felt like was pulling the plug too soon.

What. The. Everloving. FUCK? That is quite possibly the most inappropriate thing I’ve ever heard, and I have a brother who’s 41 and still tells dead baby jokes. I mean, it always vaguely bothers me to put one down immediately upon diagnosis of a condition that can be managed for a while, but I’ve been the one sitting there waiting for the other shoe to fall. I can’t find it in me to condemn anybody for not wanting to go through that, and even if I could, it’s 10000% Not My Place to say so. I’m really sorry you had to deal such a shitty, unprofessional asshole.

Forgive what may seem blunt, but when the time comes, get the vet to come out to you. Less stress on you, less stress for Daisy as she drifts off. It will be a much better memory/experience than the cacophony of an animal hospital. Voice of experience, friend.

As for when–trust your gut, and do not doubt it! You know the creature backwards and forwards; YOU WILL KNOW WHEN IT’S TIME.

And BTW, your other dog will need you as much as you will need him/her.

When we lost our Burpo almost two years ago, we were renting and had no place to bury her and I was not about to leave her at a vet’s for “disposal.” We did cremation and her ashes are in a very nice cedar box on the mantel. Someday they may get “taken care of,” but not today. Believe it or not, it was a cathartic experience.

If this helps you, even a little, I’m glad.

If the roles were reversed, how much suffering would you want to go through before your dog put at end to it?
The bitch of the problem is, every pet comes with a coupon for a broken heart, but as much as we don’t want them to go, they rely on us to not let them suffer.
(Toby the wonder dog just came in for an ear scritch. I know I only have a few more years with him, and it breaks my heart. Regardless of how I feel, I won’t let him suffer when it is his time)

I try to reverse roles, but it’s difficult to know how much they are suffering right now and just putting up a brave face for you. I think now that’s what haunts me about my Bigelow. He was stoic, never put up a fuss, he would still lick my face, he would try to be himself. He’d be down for hours after the Chemo and I think, no I know I lived in denial about the obvious. Instead I was obsessed with hope because he came back from the brink so many times.

At some point we had to stop. My husband was the one who said it was time. I was afraid to let go, but with decision made we wrapped him in a blanket and took him to the vet for the last time. $10,000 later in bills, and still I wonder if I did enough. I’ll never be comfortable with having to end our dog’s life, regardless of how crazy it appears, he was my special needs doggie.

I am so sorry for you, I know your pain. I have my mom’s dog living with me. My Mom passed away last November. Her passing was really, really, hard for me. Because of things that went on, I no longer talk to my siblings. So I feel the only one I have from my mom’s side is her doggie.

His name is Ollie, and he is around 12 or 13 years old. He currently has been diagnosed with Chronic Heart Failure. He is on 3 different medications right now.

I know, even though I do not want to face it, that he is leaving me too. When the good outweighs the bad I will bring him in. I count every minute with him a true blessing. That old dog is really getting spoiled. Cheeseburges, steak tips, whatever he likes.

It probably is a matter of weeks, or even days when I have to bring him to the vet to put him down.

I really wish they could give you something so you could let him go in peace at home. Like a special pill or something. I even looked into a vet services that will come to your house and perform the procedure. The cheapest is $400.00-$500.00 That I cannot afford.

Cherish your time with your friend, my heart goes out to you.:frowning:

When Daisy had her first surgery a year and a half ago, the vet (did I mention
she’s awesome) sat my little lady and I down… She said I would wait too long,
my little lady would pull the trigger too quick.

She wanted us to keep a calendar, if Daisy was doing good that day, smiley face,
if she was doing bad, frowny face. When we saw more frowny faces than smiley faces, we had to start making decisions, which she also said we should do ahead of time… Do we do it when there 60% frowny faces, or 3 days in a row with nothing but frowny faces…

Either way, we didn’t do the calendar thing… Didn’t need to, had almost 18 months of nothing wrong, smiley faces the whole way.

I already thought I lost her twice… These past 18 months have been bonus time, and its a miracle she lasted this long. We were given averages, with her type of cancer, 3-4 months, 6-8 with chemo…

Just going to keep her happy, and when its that time, its that time…

Talked to the surgeon yesterday… The results from the tumor don’t look good, especially with other tumors in her liver… We’ve got her on meds to help control her adrenal gland. Apparently there is chance that she could overspeed her heart and pop a gasket if she gets too excited…

He also said that I shouldn’t encourage crazy behavior, but if chasing a rabbit makes her happy, I shouldn’t discourage it either. I wouldn’t be overly sad if she
popped a gasket chasing a rabbit, be a lot easier than making a conscious decision.