Maybe it's my age, maybe it's my experience but most likely it's a bit of both. I am growing increasingly sympathetic to our pets due to the things they must endure just to be "owned" by us.
Sure it's obvious we love them, often more than we love our very selves. My question is: why don't we take more time to honestly weigh out what we do for them on a daily basis and think about our motivations for those actions. This blog may upset some people and I am sorry for that. I too have guilt about past choices I have made but those choices helped lead me to the path I am on now.
When I see or hear of an animal that must endure experimental surgeries, radical chemotherapy and/or other toxic treatments I feel for them. Their sufferings, which may include nausea, inappetence, uncontrolled pain or lethargy, can affect me so profoundly that I am often overwhelmed.
Where have the days gone that we understood the statement: "there are no better days ahead" or "he wouldn't want to live like that"? It seems we have lost sense of mortality and at times have pushed our own fear of dying onto our pets and their lives with us.
Perhaps it is time for us to think more about humanity and the logic of our choices. Would your dog ever choose to take a poison like chemotherapy? Would they choose to ingest a monthly heartworm toxin if it were not highly flavored to make him do so? Would your dog choose the same dry kibble, day in and day out if other things were available to him? Would your pup want to receive possible brain altering vaccination chemicals like mercury and aluminum injected into him?
What has happened to our pets? Generally, are today’s dogs living longer than your grandmother's dog which got no vaccines, chemicals and ate table scraps? Really? I doubt it.
For example, if we trade off possible acute illness (ie. parvo) for probable chronic over vaccinated disease (ie. autoimmune disease) is this really what your dog would choose?
I know we all want our dogs to live a long and healthy life. I personally hope for all of my dogs to live into their 20's. Anyone who knows me would never doubt my love, respect or responsibility to them yet I do not support the use of chemicals, toxins or processed foods to keep them "alive". If you are reading this blog, there is little doubt of your connection and devotion to your dog either.
I write this to begin opening your mind to the idea that perhaps the dog should have a choice in what is selected for treatments. This isn’t about humanizing him because he is of course, not human. But think about this for a minute: would he want to spend 2/3rds of his expected lifespan after a cancer diagnosis suffering from treatment effects and away from you in a hospital treating those effects? Or, would he rather enjoy what he has left with you? This obviously does not mean do nothing. Maybe instead embrace the process, make his days worth living. Support him and give him all the extras he needs while being mindful of your goal together as the team you have always been. Every case will be different and so will the support that will be needed.
I want to give you a personal example. My dog Gem was diagnosed nearly 5 years ago with mammary tumors. I palpated them while holding her for a lure coursing run. My heart instantly sank and I wanted to puke. But Gem just wanted to chase that foolish plastic bag. Nothing had changed for her, just me. What would we do? She was only 9 years old! Immediately I wondered what kind of tumors they were. Well years have passed and I do not know. Why? Because I have done nothing conventional to find out. In my heart, I believe they are malignant. Why? Because in 25 years, I've seen tumors that look and feel like Gem's. I could be very wrong without a biopsy to prove it, yes. And why did I not biopsy Gem? Well, after fear and disbelief passed, I got my head on straight, threw my emotions to the side and put some thought into what path to take. Gem is not a fan of anesthesia or pain. A full mastectomy would be needed to remove all tumor "seeds" that I could feel. Could I do that to Gem? Would Gem want that done? My then very clear answer was NO! I was prepared, no matter Gem's longevity that this was the decision for us. That did not mean we just sat back and relaxed. Since the day I palpated those tumors, she has been on different supportive herbs, supplements and homeopathic remedies. Of course she continues to eat her raw, fresh food diet and gets all the love and exercise she wants. She remains my best friend and one of my biggest fans and I am grateful for that.
I do not tell you our story to suggest you to do the same with your dog. I mention Gem's story to give you an example of thoughtful choices. People cannot make good choices while stuck in fear mode so do what you have to do to get through that part and start thinking more clearly. Do not jump into any treatments while you are still in shock or fear. Cancer is something that does not happen overnight as much as it seems to sometimes. You have time; take it while deciding on your options.
Although my example is quite serious, the same thought needs to be put into less threatening choices such as heartworm prevention and vaccination. If every time your dog gets his Sentinel he has nausea, inappetence, or itch I would question your choice for him. Perhaps herbal heartworm prevention would be better or more appropriate for him? If every time after his vaccinations he's lethargic or painful, I would also ask you to question your choice for him. Perhaps vaccine titers or just simply no annual vaccines would be better? Any treatment options must be weighed thoroughly before deciding. Often making a list of pros and cons can be very a logical and helpful tool.
I hope this blog has brought you some type of awareness. In the past we have always done the best we could and we cannot blame ourselves for things we did not know. Let's open our minds to doing even better by our much loved companions! We all adore our dogs so why not try to make decisions they would approve of and leave our own fears behind!