The last goodbye – when to let go?

A wonderful ten year old Labrador named Futte came into the clinic – an old friend which we had been following for years.

Over the past few months there had been a change in Futtes behavior. He seemed more fatigued and had trouble settling in at night. His abdomen had become bloated, but he still seemed to want to eat, play and go for walks.

Could this behavior “just” be the body’s natural way of aging? A dog of his age cannot be expected to have the same energy it once had, especially when battling arthritis and a low metabolism.

What seems to be the problem?  

The owners still had a sense that something wasn’t right.

Futte was examined and his abdomen did look bigger for a typical food-loving Labrador.

Bloodwork were done to screen his organs. While waiting for the result to come back from the laboratory an x-ray was taken of Futtes abdomen. The x-ray was clear; an enlarged spleen, which was confirmed by the laboratory.

Futte had cancer of the spleen.

Cancer of the spleen or a spleen tumor can occur as a result of changes in the spleen itself, or could have spread from other parts of the body to the spleen.

This type of cancer usually affects larger dog breeds and is typically seen in dogs past the age of 5. The course can be very varied depending on the extent of the cancer and how advanced it is.

As with all types of cancer, the symptoms may come in many different disguises.

The most typical symptoms are; a subdued behavior, increased drinking desire and need to urinate, enlarged abdomen, pale mucous membranes and sometimes the dog might even collapse.

If you experience any of these symptoms in your dog, you should consult your veterinarian immediately.

 Is an operation the right course of action? 

Futtes owners had a tough decision to make of whether to operate or if Futte should be euthanized and laid to rest.

It is possible to remove cancer of the spleen or a spleen tumor with an operation.

During the operation, the veterinarian will investigate whether the cancer has spread to other organs. If the cancer has spread, it is very unlikely that the dog will come out of surgery.

If the cancer is localized to the spleen, the spleen will be removed and many dogs can live a long and normal live without a spleen.

Although Futtes case was a bit more difficult, we must always asses each case individually.

How far should we go to keep our dogs alive? This is a question of ethics in many cases and Futtes case was no different.

Should Futte be put through an operation? Especially considering that Futte already has other health issues.

If he was younger and without arthritis, would it have made a difference in making the decision?

Letter of intent!

Was love, the motivation for letting Futte undergo the operation? Or is it a greater love to be able to say goodbye and thereby let Futte be laid to rest, as to not put him through unnecessary suffering.

When to let go of a beloved pet, is the toughest decision an owner will ever make!

We know – that when we get a pet, we also get a sorrow in knowing that a pet rarely outlives their owner. When is a live no longer worth prolonging?

Facing such a decision it is very difficult as an owner to remain objective, because we wish to keep our beloved pets with us.

This is why it is important to keep in mind when enough is enough. It is therefore important to talk about the subject throughout our pet’s life.

Through this difficult process it’s important to remember the letter of intent we gave to ourselves and our pet when they came into our lives.

Facing the tough decision of euthanasia our emotions can sometimes get the best of us because the thought of losing our pet is painful.

I had a long talk with Futtes owners and they looked at each other and told me that they had made a promise to themselves that they wouldn’t prolong Futtes life unnecessarily. His age and health issues made it clear.

Futte went home with his owners to spend a last weekend with his family and on Sunday afternoon Futte came back to the clinic and was laid to rest surrounded by his family.

In my book it was a”good” euthanasia. Futte have had a wonderful life and his time had come.

If you as an owner don’t have any doubts whether euthenisia is the right desicion, then you have been putting it off for too long.

Anyone with a common sense would agree that a tremendously weak and sick animal should be laid to rest.

It is much more difficult making the decision in situations where the pet’s illness isn’t at a point where life is unworthy.

This is the point where I as a vet believe that we should let the love for our pet prevail and let them be laid to rest with dignity.

Have you given you pet a letter of intent regarding a worthy passing?

Have the talk with your family members about what you consider to be a good life for your pet and a worthy passing, should it ever come up.

A letter of intent might spare your pet from unnecessary pain in the end.

The grief will not be any easier but it will be easier to bear knowing that you kept your pet’s best interest at heart.

The night sky burned a bit brighter on Sunday as Futte took his place amongst the stars, representing both the beginning of life and a final farewell.