Thursday, December 16, 2010

Letting Go...or the "B" side of being a vet...

What is 14 years in doggy time? A lot?
When I was a young vet, still with the "smell of textbooks" on me, I used to think that it was equivalent to like 80-90 human years but along the years I have come realise that it is all subjective to the animal.
Loufi - 14 yrs old black lab,on treatment for mammary tumour, runs and bounces around like a puppy; Luka - 15 yr old cat, still behaves normally even after after amputation of her left hind paw; Pongo - First ever adopted doggy from PAWS, found dumped in a trash bin, living its 11th year with the people who adopted him and still puts up a serious "resistance" when it comes to go to the vet...
Then there are the ones that come to the clinic in such a drastic and debilitated state, even at younger ages...with fully matured cataracts, with diabetes, with pot bellies etc...not to mention the ones with severe gingivitis and teeth practically falling off.
Just as humans, dogs do not age at the same rate.How many times have I been brought dogs that were on their "last breath" with the owner struggling to keep them alive; dogs who were visibly suffering but in trying "everything to save his pet", the owner was just doing everything to prolong his sufferings...
That is when, as a veterinarian, our role is to judge what is best for the animal and counsel the owners on how to alleviate this animal's sufferings, even if that entails euthanasia. Difficult task, I must say...some owners are so bonded to the animal that their emotions "cloud" their rational and logical thinking. Oh..and there are also some vets who find it ethical to continue to treat, propose ways to keep the animal alive (but still suffering)for some period of time...just to make a little more money!
Yesterday, I had 2 cases where I had to advise euthanasia. One was a walk-in emergency with a blind poodle, with evident signs of diabetes (pot belly, drinking and eating a lot). Animal was in hypoglycaemic shock and had started seizuring. 15 yrs of being a loyal companion and now its general system was breaking down.This had been going on for like a week and he'd been to 3 other vets before. Owner was somewhat prepared for the euthanasia option and he himself admitted: " I was being selfish, just satisfying myself by keeping him alive in atrocious sufferings"
Second case was a more problematic one for me...I have known this dog and his owner for a long time and during the day she called me to tell me that 14 yr old doggy is lying down, had lost bowel control and was not well.Her whole family had already opted for euthanasia. My first reaction was to "evade" this but I quickly realised that this person was in distress too and needed to go through all this with someone they know. I finally reached her place at around 19:00 and proceeded with the euthanasia of this poor soul.
No matter how many such humane euthanasia I have performed in my life, it is always a hard moment for me. It might be so hard to decide that all you can do, as a vet,to alleviate an animal's suffering is to euthanise it; but gosh it is harder when you are pushing the plunger of that syringe and you feel the life leaving that animal. Worst moments being a vet!
Today I read an article about the Veterinarian's Oath being amended (
For all those of you who did not know...yes there exists an Oath for the newly graduated veterinarians and it now reads as follows:
"Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge."
Oath or is all based on our sense of responsibility; if the owner feels responsible enough for the life of his animal and if the vet feels responsible enough to be the guardian of the animal's welfare.
"Prevention and alleviation of animal suffering"...I wish every owner and vet in this country wrote this to themselves and applied it.

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