Thank you everyone for your good thoughts and well-wishes yesterday. As we were doing internet research this week on Natasha’s condition, we noticed a common theme of people wondering about making canine medical decisions. We thought we would describe what we consider are the critical factors.
Yes, Qannik, before we get started, a Natasha update.
Natasha’s surgery took longer than we had originally expected because the mass was more invasive. On the good news, the mass has been removed and Natasha was resting comfortably in the hospital last night.
The mass turned out to be the size of a small cantaloupe. Worse, it had invaded the liver. The surgery removed the mass, the spleen, and about 30% of her liver. Fortunately, dogs (and humans) can recover quite well without a spleen and with 70% of a liver.
For right now, we are focused on three things (in this order). First, recovery from the surgery itself. We need to make sure there is no internal bleeding from the liver and no infection from the sizable incision that was made.
Secondly, we need to make sure that the remaining liver is healthy and functioning.
And, finally, we will wait on the results of the biopsy on the mass and the liver.
Once we know these things, we will know how to move forward.
Which brings us to our criteria on making canine medical decisions. We boil it down to four questions.
Who are you making decisions for – you or your dog?
The easiest thing to do in a time of crisis is to think about how you are emotionally hurting. But if you are thinking along the lines of “I can’t bear to let him go,” we challenge you to shift your perspective to your dog.
Dogs are such special creatures. They want so little from humans. Food. Shelter. Love. They are insanely happy to see us return, even if we only walked outside for a moment. They will do tricks for us, entertain us, work for us – do everything we ask. In return, they only ask that we take care of them when they are unable to take care of themselves.
Yes, it hurts. In fact, sometimes, you will have to make a decision that will hurt yourself greatly because it will save your canine friend from hurting. Not fair, but reality.
So shift the question around. Will she be happy? Will she be pain free? Will she have a good quality of life? Am I prolonging things for her . . . or for me?
Trust your veterinarian
The very first day we met our vet, she walked into the exam room in a pair of black slacks, sat down on the floor with her canine patient, and was immediately covered in Siberian hair. And then she introduced herself to Hu-Dad. We had found our vet. And when we met the other vets that are in the practice, the terrific vet techs who care so deeply, and the staff that works so hard for the animals in their care – we knew we had the right place.
Long before you find yourself facing difficult decisions, make sure your vet is someone you trust. Does she know the way you think about treatments and vaccines? Does she spend time answering questions? Would you trust her to make decisions in your absence?
And trust is a two way street. Vets are human and, unlike we superior canines, they can make mistakes. The vet has to feel comfortable telling you things you may not want to hear. One of our favorite things about our vet is that she is comfortable saying she does not know something or wants to consult with someone who knows more about her on a particular topic. That does not create doubt for us – it creates confidence that when she tells us she knows something, she knows it.
Most importantly, trust is built over time. If you don’t think you trust your vet now, figure out why not, whether it is repairable, and, if not, make the change now. When you reach that inevitable point of having to make difficult decisions for your canine pal, you don’t want to have to be worrying about whether the vet is someone you trust.
Comfort and Quality of Life versus Longevity
We canines are special souls, but our biggest downfall is that we are only on this earth for too short of time. You will have to make difficult decisions balancing our utter joy of life with your desire to keep us here as long as possible.
Hu-Dad has been asked dozens and dozens of times over the years how you will know when the right time has arrived to let your canine pal go. While he would like the answer to be clear, the reality is that it is always a difficult decision.
Think of when we are happiest. Running. Playing. Hanging out with our humans. Whatever that may be. And then ask yourself, will we still be happy? Will we be pain free? Even if we can’t do exactly what we had done before, will we still have that exuberant canine joy?
Sometimes, short term discomfort is worth long-term comfort – but rarely is the opposite true.
Wow, wouldn’t life be easy if we didn’t have to worry about money? But the reality is that money must be a part of the decision process.
Personally, we do not use any sort of pet insurance, but that is because six of us is kind of like a big self insurance pool. If we put aside enough money each month to pay premiums, than we have savings available to pay for those surprise medical expenses.
But that is not always logical – particularly if you are a one or two pet family. So if pet insurance helps remove finances from the equation, by all means, we recommend a good quality insurance. (Hey – that is back to trusting your vet and their recommendation on insurance).
And, in times of emergency, your community may have resources to help pay for unexpected vet expenses.
But we also understand that you have to think about the impact on yourself and your family if you take a large, unexpected financial expense.
If you focus on what we said above – our comfort and what we would want – we think you will find that the large expenses sometimes just don’t make sense.
And that is ok. Really.
And that’s our criteria.
- Make decisions from the dog’s perspective, even if it causes you pain.
- Build a trusting relationship with your vet so their input helps you make decisions.
- Focus on the comfort and quality of life of your dog first versus longevity.
- Finances matter and that’s ok.