By DR. PIERRE BLAND
It is strange how certain cases seem present in clusters. Sometimes there are clusters of urinary tract infections or skin problems. Unfortunately, as of late, I am seeing a cluster of very ill pets and providing end of life services.
From my experience, it seems I perform more end of life services for clients during the summer.The heat and humidity apparently take a toll on a pet with compromised health. For cardiac/pulmonary patients the conditions make it more challenging for them to breath, renal patients experience significant challenges related to hydration, and for others it is just time. I often receive phone calls asking, “How do I know it is time?” The simple answer is quality of life.
With the improvements in veterinary medical care, pets are living longer, healthier lives.But just as with us,a longer life span results in the expected age related changes along with the opportunity to develop other disease processes, chronic and acute. Interestingly,pets often develop similar if not the same life style related health issues as their owners, since the lifestyle of the pet tends to mirror that of the owner.
Very physically active owners tend to have pets that have activity related injuries and orthopedic conditions. Owners and pets that live more sedentary lifestyles tend to have obesity related issues such as heart disease and diabetes. Pets that belong to smokers have higher rates of cancer – lung and others. Add the luck of the genetic draw and we tend to see all kind of conditions from autoimmune diseases like Lupus to ulcerative colitis. The disease process, age of the pet, and sometimes the extent to which owners want to proceed with treatment are major factors in determining quality of life.
In my opinion,quality of life comes down to if the pet is living or existing. Living often involves some discomfort and challenges which are medically manageable, but there is still interaction and fun being had. Existing is just a continuum of pain and suffering with little to no interaction. Clients seem to appreciate and are able to use the living vs quality of life comparison in making decisions.
I am a practitioner of the only medical profession in which humanely ending a life to alleviate pain and suffering is a therapeutic option.The concept and option of euthanasia is beginning to be explored in human medicine,along with the moral,legal, and religious ramifications of the procedure. As a point of assurance and comfort, I always share with my client they have made a decision that gives their pet an opportunity to do something which we as humans don’t have: to die peacefully with dignity. It is amazing how comforting sharing that thought and a heartfelt hug can be.
Dr. Bland is a practicing veterinarian in Oakland Park. He can be reached at 954- 673-8579