Gilroy Today 2011 06 Summer - Page 40

Saying Goodbye! Dealing with the loss of a friend By Dr. Greg Martinez, DVM Gilroy Veterinary Hospital Dr. Greg Martinez with his first dog, Sadie. My first dog as an adult was Sadie. Our family had dogs when I was young and I thought I had experienced all dog ownership had to offer. Besides, had been working for a vet since I was 16, and had just finished vet school. How much more was there to “owning” a dog? Sadie taught me so much about a dog’s love and companionship that I still miss her. She rode with me out to my large animal visits, trained for marathons with me, and slept under the covers at night. She spent 24 hours per day with me for 10 years. She was my constant companion. Lonna, my wife, once asked me who I would be most concerned about if a house fire were to surprise us in the night. Of course, I assured her that I would make sure she was awake and that all three of us could safely make it outside. Sadie’s kidneys started to fail when she was 14. I was devastated that I could not cure her. All my schooling and education did not matter. An important and irreplaceable part of her body started to fail and she only had a year or so to live. I fed her a better diet, gave her fluids under the skin, and always made sure she was comfy, before I went to work. I watched her activity and appetite decline, her ability to balance deteriorate, and half of her body weight disappear. I kept her going because I thought that was my job. Then Sadie taught me one more important lesson. She was miserable, but would weakly wag her tail whenever I would walk up to her. I started to realize how miserable she was, and how I was only keeping her alive for me…and not for her. One day, I decided that letting her go was the humane thing to do. I took her out in the country where we used to run together, let her look around a bit, held her close, and released her from that diseased and worn out body. Of course I cried and missed her but was relieved that she did not have to suffer any longer. Deciding when to let a pet go may be one of the hardest things that we are faced with. However it can be a gift to terminally ill or very sick pets that are obviously suffering. Many clients bring their ailing pets into the clinic once the family decision is made, to be reassured that they are doing the right thing. Most people know when the time has come to let go and I usually agree with their decision. On rare occasions, I may offer a stronger or different medication or surgery that might give their pet a little bit longer. However that is only if the pet is not suffering and is still interacting with the family to some degree. If a pet seems really miserable, has lost a lot of weight, does not want to eat, or is suffering from severe dementia, then it is time to consider letting go. For example, a happy senile dog or cat may lose some weight, interact with the family, and eat well, but may sleep 20 plus hours a day. Senile dogs may bark at nothing and get lost in corners. A cat may lose weight and be unable to get around as well, but actively seeks attention and food. As long as the pet seems comfortable and is eating, they are living life. Once an animal stops eat- ing, that is a bad sign. Every animal loses their appetite for a day or two every now and then, but to not eat for a week signals something very uncomfortable is happening. On most occasions, I “interview” the family to get a feel for the interactions and activity level of the pet. Most pets get really hyper at the vet and some pretty sick animals really seem to “wake up and look better” because they get a big surge of adrenaline. Once I explain what is happening, it usually helps the owners feel better about this tough decision. Once the decision is made, an injection of tranquilizer, then an overdose of anesthetic in the vein allows the pet to flee the defective body. In making the hard decision, I always counsel my clients to try see the world through their pet’s eyes and not through their own. I often have my technician help my clients let go of their pets because it just doesn’t get any easier. I always keep pictures of my deceased pets around me to keep them in my thoughts. Sadie, Teddy, Archie, Carly, Jake, Kato, Alvin, and Maxine…thanks for all the love and the lessons. Dr. Greg Martinez is a partner at Gilroy Veterinary Hospital and the author of Dog Dish Diet. His book helps dog owners treat and prevent chronic itchy skin and ears, stomach and bowel problems, urinary problems, and even seizures with simple practical changes to the diet. 40 G I L R O Y T O D A Y S U M M E R 2 0 1 1