ASK THE VET

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - GARDENING AND PETS - Craig is a Clin­i­cal Direc­tor in Cedar­mount Ve­teri­nary Clinic, Ban­gor www.cedar­mountvets.co.uk . He can only re­spond to ques­tions through this col­umn, and th­ese an­swers can­not sub­sti­tute for treat­ment de­ci­sions based on a full his­tory and clin­i­cal ex­am­i­nat

QOur fam­ily is very close, and we love our dog to bits. She is turn­ing 14 years young this sum­mer, and we are re­ally wor­ried about her qual­ity of life. Friends say we should have her put down, but we re­ally don’t want to part with her. Can you help us de­cide what is right?

Fred­die, Belfast

AQual­ity of life as­sess­ment is re­ally very, very chal­leng­ing for us all, owner and pro­fes­sional ve­teri­nary sur­geon alike. The fact that friends are say­ing to you that there are con­cerns, means that a gen­uine ef­fort must be made to come to a ra­tio­nal de­ci­sion.

Your friends may be wrong, but there is the pos­si­bil­ity that they are not.

Your first port of call is your own vet: I have seen many, many pets over the years whose lives seemed blighted by ill­ness or pain, which the own­ers as­sumed was age alone.

Once the un­der­ly­ing con­di­tions had been ad­dressed (cured or sim­ply pal­li­ated) life was of­ten dra­mat­i­cally more en­joy­able. Our older pets suf­fer from many of the ailments we do — even arthri­tis and the pain it causes can be a very sig­nif­i­cant neg­a­tive con­trib­u­tor to qual­ity of life. Please, please have your vet do a health as­sess­ment and ad­dress any painful or de­bil­i­tat­ing con­di­tions.

That said, of course there is more to life than sim­ply not be­ing un­well — we must ad­dress the an­i­mal’s cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties — de­men­tia is a ter­ri­ble prob­lem in some older cats and even dogs can be­come con­fused or ob­tunded by cog­ni­tive dys­func­tion. Dogs usu­ally are hap­pi­est when they can demon­strate nor­mal be­hav­iours — go­ing for a walk — per­haps not a run around at 14, but at least en­joy­ing a gen­tle ram­ble in the park or at the sea­side.

They need be able to en­joy their food, free from nau­sea or toothache. There is so much to the end of life de­ci­sion that I re­ally be­lieve you need a pro­fes­sional as­sess­ment to as­sist you — that is what your vet and vet nurse team are for — they are re­ally best placed to ad­vise, and they do this al­most ev­ery day, so are very ex­pe­ri­enced.

My heart goes out to you, and I wish you all the very best with what I know is a ter­ri­bly emo­tional process.

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