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Pet Talk: Is your pet suffering?

Our pets do not live as long as we do and it is hard to say goodbye
People ask me ‘How do I know if my pet is suffering? And what can I do for him? Is he arthritic? Is he in pain? Is he trying to tell me something?'

Unfortunately, our pets do not live as long as we do and it is hard to say goodbye. Likewise, pets do not communicate like humans do either, therefore we need to try and understand their condition to determine what is best for them.

As your senior pets age, they exhibit various symptoms of old age, like trouble getting up. If he has heart problems, then he may be coughing a lot or have breathing issues. If his kidney's are failing, he may feel nauseated or dehydrated, etc. Pain in a dog can be hard to detect, but here are a few symptoms that you can look for. First of all, when some dogs are in pain, they will not want to eat or move around. But some of our animals will eat no matter what so we need to look for other signs. Another common sign is shaking or shivering. If your dog stands there and shakes or is lying down and shaking without a reason, then he may be in pain. Panting is another common sign of pain. Make sure that your dog isn't panting for other reasons; older dogs tend to have some lung issues (thickening of the bronchii) that will cause excessive panting.

Once you have treated these possible problems associated with pain and your dog is still not improving or is still in pain, then there is the inevitable question “When is it time to put my dog to sleep?”

This is not an easy question, but I try to help people make the right decision for their animals. No veterinarian can tell you what to do. You are the owner, the person who has spent the dog's life loving him and caring for him. Your veterinarian can tell you if your pet is suffering, if his problem is treatable and what the outcome of treatment might be. The most important things to ask yourself at this point is “What is my pet's quality of life right now?” and “Am I keeping him alive because I can't say goodbye?”

If your pet can't get up to go urinate or defecate and starts to do this right where he is laying down; if he doesn't get up to eat his meals; If he doesn't seem happy to see you and can't get up to greet you; If he is losing weight and strength; or if treatment fails to help him anymore, then it might be time to say goodbye.

I have had to put many animals to sleep and it is the hardest thing to do, but remember that you are also ending your loved one's suffering.

Some people wonder if they should get a new puppy while their older pet is still alive. If your senior dog is still able to get around, and a new puppy won't make the last few weeks or months of your senior pet miserable, then by all means, get a puppy. Sometimes it even gives some renewed life to your older pet. Make sure that your older pet is strong enough to fend off the puppy. Also, consider if your older pet would accept a new pet or if it would upset him before bringing a new animal home.
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