Dear Barb—Pet Care

Hi, I have an old dog, almost 15 years old.  Lucy has stage 4 heart failure and is on three medications for her heart.  She appears to be stable as far as her heart goes.  She has two abscessed teeth for which I give her a cycle of antibiotics every couple of months.  The vet said it would not be a good idea to put her under to remove the teeth because of her heart condition.  He also said if the teeth become so painful that she cannot eat, will we have to have a further conversation about what to do. 

Right now, these things are manageable, but what is very troubling is that lately she seems to be getting confused.  She goes in and out of the house constantly and wants a treat every time she comes in.  Plus, she is very anxious, but I cannot say she is not happy.  She loves to cuddle up with me and my husband but has lost interest in interacting with the kids.  I just do not know if we are doing the right thing by keeping her going.  The drugs seem to be keeping her body going, but what about her mind, not to mention the ongoing expense.  I shouldn’t be putting a dollar figure on it, but I must be realistic.  I need some objective advice, which I am hoping you can provide.  Thanks so much, Sylvia. 

Hi Sylvia:

So sorry about your Lucy, but this is all part of owning a pet.  I personally have had to make that difficult decision several times over the years.  Making this decision is extremely difficult, which may be why many people choose not to do it, but rather allow the dog to go on its own.  The problem with not making the decision is that your dog may suffer needlessly.  I would suggest you follow your vet’s advice; they know when an animal is suffering.  If you still have doubts, The Human Societies’ website posted the following signs to indicate that your pet is suffering:

  • He is experiencing chronic pain that cannot be controlled with medication (your veterinarian can help you determine if your pet is in pain).
  • He has frequent vomiting or diarrhea that is causing dehydration and/or significant weight loss.
  • He has stopped eating or will only eat if you force feed him.
  • He is incontinent to the degree that he frequently soils himself.
  • He has lost interest in all or most of his favorite activities, such as going for walks, playing with toys or other pets, eating treats, or soliciting attention and petting from family members.
  • He cannot stand on his own or falls when trying to walk.
  • He has chronic labored breathing or coughing.

I hope this information is helpful in making this most difficult decision.  Thank you for your email Sylvia.