Sunday, January 15, 2012

Treatment Options

What is happening at Silverwalk which could inspire change in the way people view, treat, train, enjoy their dogs? AGE. I thought and thought about what change I could blog about and it is age - which includes quality of life.

Sweetie Pie RIP
Raggedy Ann RIP
A couple weeks ago, I sent Allie Mae to heaven. If you followed her story, she had had a tough time recovering from simple lipoma surgery but recover she did, in splendid fashion - meaning, she again was her bossy old self. A few weeks ago, I noticed a loss of muscle mass behind each shoulder; no matter how much I fed her, she still looked like she was losing weight. Then she stopped eating. Then she couldn't walk and looked afraid. She is no longer afraid - she was in my arms, she never resisted, she calmly slipped away.  Fighting with her for her surgery recovery was right. Helping her go to heaven when it obviously was time was right, too. 
Allie Mae RIP
Friday, I found out my personal aging Sheila Sheltie has a raging case of heart-worms, adults and swarms of microfilaria. My instinct was to treat her with doxycyline (which we are doing along with liver tabs), then give her Heart-Gard (ivermectin) to slowly control the adults. My vet wants to treat her with split shots. I trust my vets - but, is this what is truly the best for Sheila, a 14+ y/o Sheltie who lost 4# this past year (that was a shocker, too).  I was so surprised by Sheila's diagnosis and weight loss because I have had several of my personal dogs in for their yearlies in the past couple months and everyone was clear - even Danny Quinn's fecal was negative, he who eats poop. 

a younger Sheila Sheltie
This evening, I had supper with a close friend whose opinion I value. After hearing about Sheila, she asked if I was going to treat her. I told her the plan; she said her plan for her three large aging dogs is to stop testing for heart-worms, cont. with preventative but she would not treat her older dogs. She is weighing quality vs quantity of life. I have a similar concern for Walter Brennan, my adoptable HW+ black & tan senior Coonhound. 

I never want anyone to suffer. On the other hand, just because we can do things to and for our dogs, do we really need to every time? If Sheila survives another year, I won't get her vaccinated - she will get bordetalla only; I do rabies every three years.  I need to think hard about her treatment and my senior population. 

Just because a dog is old is not a reason to not treat. I am not saying that; what I am saying is, think carefully for what you are treating and the benefit or not your dog(s) will enjoy.  Make a careful decision with regards to your dog, her lifestyle and activity level and your comfort level. 

I am not making a blanket decision about any of the dogs in my care. I had already questioned how I would treat Walter.  Comfort measures, treating symptoms may be the way to go for both. Would people be comfortable adopting a HW+ dog without treating him besides his monthly preventative? Walter is supremely adoptable. 

Treatment options are exactly that - options. It is us as owners, caretakers, guardians, rescuers, who need to decide the best option for each animal in our care and whom we love.   

Farrah and me


  1. This is something we all have to remember. Our dogs can't make their own choices, it is up to us and every situation is different.

  2. This is such a wise post. We have such responsibility for our animal friends. And it's not always easy to tell what's going to be best for them.

    I'm very pleased that there is now a veterinary hospice movement to help families make good treatment decisions for their older pets. And no, this doesn't necessarily mean forgoing treatment. But it does mean being mindful about what your goals are.

    I wrote about it:

    I hope you have peace about the choices you make for Sheila and your other dogs. But it's never easy, is it?

  3. Janet and Pamela, no, these decisions are never easy. I truly appreciate your post on hospice, Pamela. I have taken care of many human patients in "compassionate care," too fragile and time limited even for hospice. Caring for these patients remains a highlight of my nursing career. I see over and over abuses of medical care because the family won't let go or the doctor injects his/her belief system into the patient's care. Nurses are not immune, either. In these circumstances, human or animal, we/I need to step back and assess the care, outcome and benefit of treatment. Just because we can doesn't mean we should automatically. Cornell did you wrong because they wanted to fix "things"; everyone needs to remember the owner has the last word and needs to gear their treatment decisions in her direction - she knows her pet best. After a vet tracked me down at the hospital for permission to put down my aging Coonhound who was drowning in his blood (his platelet count was 2), I now, when leaving a dog at the vet, state whether or not she is to be resuscitated. I'm forever grateful she called me but regret the minutes he was terrified, unable to breathe properly while she did so :(.
    This Blog for Change has been the best I have seen so far - bloggers carefully chose topics to address which were close to their hearts and would benefit others. The diversity was wonderful and very, very helpful. Thank you for your thoughtful comments.

  4. well pawed. thought provoking and insightful. we trust in our humans and they do know us best.

  5. Oh dear, that's a hard one. Sometimes its better to treat the symptoms on older dogs. It drives me nuts to see a dog in agony unable to walk, a simple monthly pain medication able to make them practically back into puppies, and they won't do it because it will eventually cause liver damage.

    If he's 14...why are you worried about liver damage? O.o It's not like he's going to need that liver for a zillion years more.

    Give him the pain meds, lengthen the quality of life, and when he no longer has quality of life, it's time to let go.

    So sorry to climb on a soap box on your blog.

  6. It's so important, as caretakers of animals, to learn their best options. You are so right. Striving for a quantity of years - or extra months in the end - when quality of life is waning beyond pleasure is not fair.

    Thank you for discussing your plans and sharing with others what the possibilities might be. I hope others take your lead and learn what their best options are.

    Thanks for Blogging the Change!
    Kim C.