Each of us dreads the day our dog will receive a frightening medical diagnosis. Here are some suggestions for dealing with this difficult time from a vet who has been guiding clients for over 20 years.
If the situation is urgent (a sudden attack, complete loss of balance, severe rapid heartbeat or breathing), you don’t have time to sort things out. Call your vet right away and discuss what you need to do.
As you visit the vet, take notes of what he says: When we’re in a stressful situation, we often forget important details. Writing it down can protect you from the added stress of trying to remember everything you’re supposed to do or what you expect.
If your dog has a condition that requires a veterinarian, ask your veterinarian for a reference or contact your nearest specialist centre. I will discuss veterinarians in a future column.
If you decide to take advantage of holistic care for your dog, remember that along with many legitimate practitioners, there are scam artists in these areas who are aware of your weakness and promise nothing. Often times, these “miracle” products do nothing to help your pet and can even be dangerous.
Thanks to the Internet, we have access to health-related information that would have seemed impossible twenty years ago. Unfortunately, much of what we find can be either misleading or completely wrong, sending us down some weird and useless rabbit holes. Choose your sources of information from highly respected sites such as the American Veterinary Medical Association, ASPCA, The Humane Society, Pet Health Network or Pet MD. If you join a group forum, remember that just because someone says their dog responded in a certain way to a particular treatment or product does not mean that your dog will do the same. Always check with your vet before taking any action or purchasing anything.
Unfortunately, we live in the real world where money is often an issue and where no one has access to a crystal ball. It is very stressful when you are faced with deciding whether the benefits of treatment outweigh the costs, or whether you can even afford the treatment. There is also the fact that even the most educated professional cannot always predict with certainty whether a particular treatment will help your dog. This is a good time to have a frank discussion with your family and your vet about options and resources.
If your vet recommends a drastic procedure such as amputation or removal of the eye, try to take yourself out of the equation. Unlike humans who often struggle emotionally and physically with such conditions, dogs tend to adapt very quickly to things like losing a leg or an eye. I volunteer with a local rescue organization and can speak from experience that dogs with only three legs or one eye have an excellent quality of life despite their disability.
Finally, if you give a definitive diagnosis, do your best to focus on the positive and the possible. Take the puppy to his favorite places or to visit his loved ones.
Allow your dog to do whatever he can, such as walking, swimming in a lake, or playing with other dogs. If your dog’s time is limited, you may spend those last hours or days to allow him to enjoy some of the more specialty foods or things that were on the “forbidden” list like a fast food hamburger.
In general, remember that your relationship with your dog is built on love, not guilt. Make the best possible decisions with the information you have and trust yourself.
Joanne Merriam lives in Nevada County with her golden retriever Joey, her shepherd cat Indy, and the enduring spirit of her beloved golden retriever Casey for whom this pillar is named in his memory. You can contact Joan at [email protected] And if you’re looking for a goldfish, be sure to check out Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue.
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