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HOW DO YOU KNOW  -When - Part 1 


   For our pets, most agree a good life is as, or more important, than a long life.  It’s amazing how intelligent & intuitive dogs & cats can be, but they definitely live  'in the moment’ & don't have the same sense of time - past, present, & future, that we do.  No pet would make an appointment for vaccinations (or a nail trim!) much less consider major surgery, even if it was life-saving, or consider chemotherapy to extend their lives. And although you have an moral,  & legal, responsibly to treat a pet humanely, you don't have to 'do everything' to extend their lives.  Our pets don’t have the level of consciousness to consider the trade-offs, of side effects of treatment vs. increased longevity, & some pets' personality precludes aggressive treatments. 

   It's also important to recognize animals never consciously decide it’s time to 'give up'  (the equivalent of refusing treatment). In fact, although reduced appetite is an important negative sign, many suffering pets continue to eat. Dogs & cats know how they feel, right now–it is our job to assess 'the big picture'. Keep in mind, thankfully, they don't have the psychological burden of impending mortality,  They have no amends to make, milestones to reach, responsibilities to fulfill. "No promises to keep".  

   When facing illness or injury, your regular veterinarian can examine & evaluate your pet’s condition - it may be easily treatable. If not, they can explain medical & surgical options, risks, chances for full or partial recovery, any potential disabilities, special & long-term care needs, and costs. It's not easy to get a realistic prognosis from most physicians;  veterinarians have less statistical support for treatment options.  Most medical professionals are optimists, & loath to give bad news. (As a patient myself, I had to research NIH websites to get prognostic statistics). 
But you should push past  "there's a chance", to understand the pet's condition & prognosis with various interventions  Veterinarians will never be able to offer the possibility of a cure or significant prolongation of life for many conditions.  Special equipment, medications, gene therapy, may never be modified for pets - often because so few would be able to afford,  but also reasonable owners, and veterinarians, would consider many therapies we subject ourselves to,  cruel to subject pets to,  especially considering their relatively short life spans. 

    Sometimes,  when 'working up' complicated medical & surgical conditions,  it can be quickly apparent all, or almost all,  likely possibilities carry a similar dismal prognosis,  & unless 'a miracle happens',  further workup is academic.  When facing a situation, where the outlook for cure or control is similarly poor for each of several conditons, you are not required or even expected, to request/accept   arduous & expensive diagnostics, & treatments.  (Does anyone really care, what the 20-letter name of cancer is?  We want to know: can it be cured or controlled. 

    If you don’t fully understand what, and why a test is recommended; your pet’s likely, or definite diagnosis; treatment options; (including nothing or palliative care); and prognosis, --ask more questions, or request a second opinion. Many owners, when making health care decisions for pets, knowing no pet will gain decades of life,  may not want to 'put them thru' what they themselves might accept. 

And, if you know you can't financially 'go the distance, don't feel guilty for not starting the trip. Although some decisions need to be made immediately, most have some time to consider what is best for their pet, family, & themselves. No one should feel embarrassed or guilty d by having financial limitations, or declining extraordinary care for any reason; you know your pet & your situation best. Your ultimate responsibility as a loving owner is to limit your pets' unnecessary suffering. Injured and ill animals don't linger, in nature.

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