Extreme Measures vs Euthanasia - A Pet Owners Agony

I am wrestling with the issue of “extreme measures” right now.

We have a 10 year old beagle named Arthur. Arthur has defied the odds for the past several years. He was apparently misdiagnosed a few years ago with a neurological disorder and given only months to live. He got better instead. He has an enlarged heart apparently due to a thyroid issue. We were concerned he would die a few months ago when he developed a cough that would not go away. He got better instead. Then he started dropping weight and when he stopped eating, we got him back to the vet. Last Thursday evening, X-rays showed a mass of some sort in his abdomen. Blood work results on Friday showed anemia, but that he was still producing blood cells. Saturday (yesterday) morning, an ultrasound showed it was a mass on his spleen. Fluid drawn from his abdomen was bloody, so the mass was bleeding.

We elected to have his spleen removed. He had problems during the surgery & the vet almost lost him. He was uncomfortable with the level of care he could provide him over the weekend, so we took him to an emergency clinic where they are staffed around the clock. They listed his condition as “guarded” last night and placed him in an incubator cage where he could get heat & oxygen.

We just got back from seeing him about 30 minutes ago. Arthur is still in an oxygen cage, is still on IVs, and would only lay there when he saw us. No tail wagging, no brightness in his eyes. His vital signs are stable, but not great. He has not made tremendous progress since last night and has developed bruising on his abdomen - not a good sign. The vet talked about balancing one treatment against another and about trying things. She was going to call the cardiologist for more suggestions. Then I asked at what point we were taking “extreme measures”. She was fighting tears as she said we were probably at the edge of that, if not already there.

My wife is so much against euthanasia that she would do anything, spend any amount of money - just to not have to make that decision. I am feeling a bit more practical about this. I am very sad, but I was looking at a vet bill in excess of $3000 to get him through today - and no one is giving me any real hope that tomorrow would be better for him or if getting better is even possible.

I am waiting for a call from the vet now. They were going to do some X-rays to see if his lungs were developing fluid and talk to the cardiologist. Then they are going to call. So, I wait. I am in agony over this. I am going to have to decide if he lives or dies. No one is going to help me in this. I feel so very alone and in so much pain myself right now.

They say that a problem shared is a problem halved. I have almost deleted this several times since I started typing it. If not for that saying ringing through my head, I would have done so. Thank you for listening.

I should say that this might not have been nearly as hard if we had not lost our Golden Retriever, Max a month ago when he just laid down & died unexpectedly. My head is spinning in trying to deal with all of this.


This is always a very difficult decision to make, and no pet owner wants to face the possibility of putting their pet to sleep. I’ve had to make it, and it’s devastating.
That said, it sounds like your puppy is not doing too well. Now might be an opportunity to spend a last few good minutes, show Arthur that you love him and that he has had a very good life. Sometimes it’s okay to end suffering, and the point is to consider his suffering, not you or your wife’s.
And if you think about it this way, you still have a home that can happily adopt any of the massive number of pets that have been abandoned due to home foreclosures. Maybe not right away, but Max’s death and Arthur’s injury/illness can be used to help another loving animal who needs an opportunity to give their love back to someone.
Best of luck.

Thank you, ladyfoxfyre.

We can not really even be with him right now. He is in a plastic box so they can pump the oxygen in to him. He barely recognized that we were with him when we were there a little while ago.

We tried to do things (i.e. the surgery) in the name of making it better. I feel like we gambled and he ended up losing.

I understand the need for pets to have loving homes and that there are more pets being abandoned now. It will be a while though. It is unlikely another dog will come into our lives any time soon as I travel too much on business to effectively be a sole owner. My wife gets adopted by dogs, but does not consider herself a “dog person”. She has been hurt a lot by the losses we have had in the past month and will not be willing to open her heart again any time soon.

Oh, my heart goes out to you, your family and your poor dog.

I had to make this decision with my beloved Floop in Feb., and it is a real heartbreaker. But I asked my Vet what Floop’s quality of life would be if I elected to take extreme measures. She was very frank and told me it would be poor and hard on my old guy.

That made my decision for me. I had my dear friend put down. Hard on me, easier and kinder to him.

Talk to your Vet and really ask them to tell you the brutal truth, not what it makes you feel better to hear. Then make your decision.

No matter what you decide, you’ll know you did the right thing for your situation for your beloved pet. Many hugs to you and yours.

I’ve also had to make this call recently, and it’s horrible, but it has to be done. I’ve never truly believed that a pet, while a part of the family, is equal to a human wrt how much resources it should be allowed to drain from that family. I’m also a fan of pragmatism and not letting an animal suffer.

I was very leery of the vet I was using when I elected to put our pet down; when they start talking about doing x, y, and z which may help or should help, I start mentally looking for a different vet. As has been mentioned, ask for the honest, brutal truth. Don’t let them manipulate you into spending thousands of dollars for what will probably only be a few more weeks of painful living for your dog. Be very explicit in that you want to know what the dog’s life will be like if whatever they’re doing (or want to do) works. You’ll have to balance that out with only the animal’s interest in mind.

Good luck, and I wish you the best.

Two months ago we had to make this decision for our beautiful malemute, SpaceDawg, when she developed a vicious bone cancer in her shoulder. It was heartwrenching, but I’m glad we elected to care for her ourselves, didn’t go for extreme measures and had her put down right here at home. We knew we’d given her a happy life since the day I rescued her, we made her last days as spoilicious as possible and the night before we had a wake with the whole family coming over to pet her and say goodbye. It was hard and I still cry for her, but it was the best thing we could have done.

Today we’re going out to meet another dog who needs rescuing, and might become a part of our family. I know that nothing we can say here will truly help you at that final decision time, but I can absolutely tell you that it will get easier and you’ll feel better knowing you let your beloved companion pass without adding to his pain. At this point, keeping him going is for you, not for him–do you think your wife will be okay with this in the future when she realizes it? It’s the hardest part of the agreement we have with our pets–that we will make these decisions for them at the end of their lives, to make it easy on them by making it tough for us.

I’m so sorry for you and your wife, and for Arthur. Please accept my heartfelt sympathy, know that I know EXACTLY how you feel, and that I’m grieving with you for a dog I’ve never met. If you think it might help, here’s my LiveJournal entrywritten a couple of days after SpaceDawg died–it comforted me to write it, perhaps it might comfort you to read it.

I’m so sorry. I know how hard that decision is. For me it is not about money - if I have it, I’ll spend it on them - so it all boils down to quality of life. Ask if you are doing it for them, or for you.

I have walked a mile in the shoes you now wear, and it’s definitely hard. As MizTina said, part of it is a question of quality of life. With our beloved himilayan, we were giving her daily IV fluids at home, and she let us know when she was done.

Sounds like you have a kind and compassionate vet. Ask for the honest truth, if it’s time to let your pet go. While it was an awful decision for us, we have never regretted it and know we did the right thing.

My heart goes out to you and your family {{{hugs}}}

I have had to make the decision 5 times, including once while the vet called me from the OR to tell me that the tumor (which she had been going in to remove) had spread throughout the body. I’m not unwilling to have a pet undergo surgery, but there’s a point at which you have to say enough, we’re doing this for ourselves, and not our pet. Our vet told me during one of the times, while I stroked our ferret’s fur as the pain left her and she ‘slept’ for the last time, that often euthanasia is the last kind act of an owner to a beloved pet.

My inlaws kept an English setter of theirs alive far too long, and after seeing that dog I knew I would not unnecessarily prolong the life of a pet if there was not a very good chance of significantly-extended life or quality of life.

It is never an easy decision to make, even when it is the absolutely obvious choice. My sympathies to you.

I thank you all for being so supportive and helping me focus on the right things today.

I just spoke with the vet again. The X-rays showed his lungs are clear, but he is just not getting anywhere. His bruising is getting worse and while they could push plasma, the likelihood of him getting home again is so very slim. I asked her to be brutally honest and she said that if he only had one thing wrong, then they could save him. He has 3-4 things working against each other. She said even if she could get him over the hump he is battling right now, that the prognosis of life would be measure in days or perhaps weeks.

I called my wife and explained what I was told. She is extremely upset, but has agreed to let him go. She will be home in a few hours and we can go to the clinic and say good bye. They said they can keep him comfortable until then.

I feel so bad right now. I can not even come close to explaining this. I know many of you understand and I appreciate you allowing me this place to share.

I kinda glossed over a lot of the above because it’s a bit hard for me.

My best bud had a stroke about 4 years ago and I took extreme measures, spending about $2k and taking him to the U of M hospital. I turned down several grand in more expensive and less certain treatment options. He improved, and lived fairly well for another two years before having a second stroke and sliding into the abyss. I still miss him.

All I can say is this: Is there a chance that he’ll recover and live a normal life? If not, then are you only prolonging his pain and keeping him in a state of half-life because you don’t want to let him go?

It’s a very hard question, and I certainly mean no offense or additional pain on your part. But that’s the bottom line. For my own part, I have no desire to be in a similar situation as a Human, with no hope of improvement, spending the rest of my life in a hospital bed, in constant pain.

I’ve had to make this decision far too many times, and it’s never easy. As others have said, it’s about quality of the animal’s life. He can’t enjoy you and you would be agonizing over whether or not he’s happy and comfortable. Given the vet’s opinion, I think your decision to let him go is the right one.

Wishing you and your wife all fond memories of your time with him.

Chimera - you pretty much went through the same thought process I went through today. I think you hit upon it pretty well with the “half-life” comment . Can I take him home or will that cause more pain & suffering? I would have done that this morning, but the short answer is that he can not survive outside of a pure oxygen environment and he is not thriving even inside of it. We have chosen the more difficult, but hopefully more responsible path of not prolonging his bad situation.

Oh I am so sorry for your pain. Please know you are doing the right thing and your beautiful pet would thank you if possible. The absolute toughest part of what we contract with our pets when we choose to journey together. And honestly the most important.

Thank you so much for taking the responsibility and making the decision your pet cannot make for himself. I applaud you for your bravery and commitment to the doggie’s best interest. Thank you so much.

Aw geez. I’m so sorry to hear that you guys are facing this painful situation, but I think you’ve done the best you could for him. You did your best to help him get better, and sadly it just wasn’t meant to be. My condolences to you and your wife

I know it’s very little comfort, but you were fighting a pure uphill battle from the start. Spleen masses, especially ones that are already bleeding when you find them, are bad bad bad juju.

You’re absolutely doing the right thing. I’ve been the owner trying to decide when enough if enough, and I’ve been the tech at the emergency clinic watching an animal die by inches because the owners just can’t bring themselves to make the decision to end it. Being responsible for your pet’s death carries a burden of guilt, but it’s far better than being responsible for the life he would have left if you opted to press on.

Our pets give us so much, and euthanasia is the last gift of love we can give them. I’m proud of you for making the heartbreaking choice not to withhold it.

If you’re not wil;ing to go as far as euthanasia, then cease treatment, get him out of the box and bring him home, and wait with him until the end.

I don’t know if he can survive long enough outside the box to get home, but at least you can be there with him and comforting him at the end, whether it’s at home or at the vet’s office.

We had to put Copper the Beagle down 8 years ago. It was horrible, but it was the responsible, loving thing to do. He had cancer and had gotten to the point where he couldn’t even eat. Anyone who has a beagle knows that not eating means it’s very, very bad.

I have felt your pain, AKOKMOTSD, and all I can say is that I’m so very sorry for what you’re going through. But you gave Arthur a good home for years and he’s lived a good life. What more could a dog ask for?

In a few months, when you simply cannot bear the thought of coming home without hearing the click, click, click of toenails on the floor, I hope you can go back out on that limb and give another pet a home. I did, and I’m glad to report that Buddy the Beagle has filled the hole we had in our hearts. He’s 8 now and not getting any younger.


My saddest condolences. This is just heart wrenching, I know.

Based on the OP I was going to post that I thought you were past the point where it was best to keep fighting, and then I read that you are reaching the same conclusion - and maybe the euthanasia has already happened now. You did give him a pretty unusually good chance to recover from a very bad situation. A vanishingly small fraction of pets gets that kind of care at the end. I think the entire story sounds like you did your very best possible.

We have many cats, all very well cared for, and of course we lose them eventually. It is always hard, sometimes extremely so. But euthanasia is a wonderful blessing in many situations, and I’ve never regretted choosing it over a painful lingering end. In a way, my greatest fear about being a human is that we don’t get to have it.

So, there are a great many animals who want very much to be pets, and they need us, whether we need or want or are ready for them. You must take care of yourself, of course, but I hope you’ll be inclined to help another one. Meanwhile, please accept my sympathy.

I had a heart to heart with the vet. She said that she was battling 3-4 different things with him. She could not get as aggressive with treating one because that would cause problems with another. I asked her to be blunt about whether he was ever going home. She said she could not say for sure, but it looked really bad. Right now, he could not leave the box to go home. She said he would suffer far too much.

We went up to the clinic at about 3:30 this afternoon. We petted Arthur for about 30 minutes. Then my wife & daughters went to the waiting room and I petted his head while the vet gave him the injection. I told him I was sorry for putting him through the past few days and said good bye. It was over extremely quick. All I could think of was that if I had that much wrong and was in that much distress, I would want one of those shots, too.

So he is gone and our lives are a bit more empty. We have good memories and I know he is not in any more pain or distress. I just have to hope I did the right thing this time.

My thanks once again to you all for being there.