Aging Pets – When is it Time to Let Your Pet Go?

Story of Killer and Fritz

I was just visiting my family this Thanksgiving and was concerned about my parent’s two aging pets – Killer and Fritz.  Both are 15 years old, have a difficult time getting around, and sometimes have issues with not being able to hold their bladder.  Killer is a Lhasa Apso who is deaf and also seems to have a bit of dementia.  Fritz is a yellow lab who has arthritis and a bunch of very big fatty tumors around his body.  He also has a bad hacking cough which the vet associates with heart problems.  Sometimes he also has stomach problems which give him a very bad case of diarrhea.

When I first heard about all these problems, I wondered why my parent’s hadn’t considered putting them to sleep yet.  Killer’s vet recommended to let Killer live out the rest of his life which may be only another 6 months or so.  But that was before he hurt his leg and is now walking with a painful limp.  My brother took Fritz to a different vet who recommended that Fritz be put to sleep.  The vet said that the coughing may not only be causing Fritz pain, but it could also cause his heart to give out.

After spending time with Killer and Fritz myself, I decided that my parents made the right decision to not put them to sleep.  While Killer can’t hear, he can still see and still find his food bowl, bits of food which fall on the floor, and still go to the door when he needs to go out.  Killer wears doggy diapers and he still looks forward to bed time when my parents put him in their bed for the night.  He loves to snuggle.  And towards the end of our trip, his leg was doing better and he was up and about more.

Fritz has a much more difficult time getting around due to the arthritis and fatty tumors.  But he loves feeding time and attention.  He was even inclined to play with my dog Maya (but we had to put a stop to that in fear of his heart problems).  His coughing was not frequent and only lasted for a few moments.  And he loved to go outside just to lay in the sun.

When we came home from shopping, both dogs were very happy to see us and looked forward to the loving greetings which they always get when my parents get home from work.  Despite their aging health issues, they seemed like very happy dogs.  They loved to eat, begged for Thanksgiving tidbits, and often sought us out for pettings and tummy rubs.

The vets did not see this happy part of them.  They saw the deteriorating physical conditions and dogs who were not very happy about being at the vet in the first place.  Perhaps if they had seen, both vets would have made the same recommendation to let Killer and Fritz keep pushing on until either their conditions got worse or they passed away in their own time.

If you have an aging pet and are wondering what you should do, take several factors into consideration.  Ask yourself these questions:

What does your vet say?  Does he give a definitive recommendation or does he use the words ‘maybe’ or ‘but’?

What are your pet’s health problems?  Do they appear to be causing constant pain or occasional pain?  How severe does the pain seem to be?

Does your dog still enjoy eating?  Do they look forward to treats?  Do they still beg for food or look for bits of food dropped on the floor?

Is your dog happy to see you when you get home?  Does he seek you out for petting or snuggles?

Does your pet still have an occasional inclination to play?

There is no definite answer.  A vet’s recommendation is just an opinion.  It is a professional opinion, so one that needs to be taken into account.  But your vet does not have the final say.  Weigh all your options.  Keep your pet’s happiness and comfort in mind.  And if it does come to the decision of you putting your pet to sleep, do it knowing that you considered everything and this is what was best.

For people who have had pets put to sleep or pass away, check out our blog on the book, “The Rainbow Bridge, Pet Loss is Heaven’s Gain”.

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One Response to “Aging Pets – When is it Time to Let Your Pet Go?”

  1. Sara Says:

    Touching. I believe it has to be the owners’ decision and you have to trust yourself to do the right thing at the right time, having learnt and assessed the actual facts – I think I would want 2 opinions if the decision wasn’t obvious.

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