I promise folks, less depressing subjects are coming.
Let me start by saying that my initial goal was to submit one blog entry per month. In this case, the relationship between pain and suffering prompts me to quickly piggyback this entry with the last one. Having just lost my dog Colby, I am inspired to push on with this subject.
The Relationship Between Pain & Suffering
Pain and suffering are directly related. It is important to remember that suffering can occur even in the absence of pain. Let me explain. If an animal is hit by a car, experiences some form of trauma, or has a chronic, painful condition, we can all agree it is suffering. What about the pet that is either having its pain successfully managed or has no reason to be “in pain” but is obviously declining?
Put another way, if you break your arm or have osteoarthritis you are in pain and we know you are suffering. However, if you get an illness (the flu, diarrhea, vomiting, upper respiratory, some cancers, liver disease, kidney disease, etc.) you may not necessarily be in pain, but you still suffer.
I have seen many cancer patients, kidney disease patients, and patients with other conditions that are not in pain but are clearly suffering. Colby was suffering from inflammatory bowel disease. He was losing weight, had chronic diarrhea, and was starting to turn down food. Was he in pain? Not necessarily, but he certainly did not feel well. He was suffering. He failed to respond to every treatment I came up with. He was continuing to decline. Finally, I had to make the choice to relieve his suffering through humane euthanasia.
Suffering & Quality of Life
The goal is to treat the conditions we can to relieve suffering. There are many diseases that can be treated and cured. Others can be successfully managed. Still others are either too advanced to treat or simply not treatable at all.
Related to the whole idea of suffering is deciding when it is time to say goodbye to your fur kid. I often get the question “How do I know when it’s time?” I know, having just lost my own dog, emotion clouds judgement. None of us want to face making that decision. Many of us are hoping our pet will just “Go peacefully in his/her sleep.” Sometimes, because of the fear of loss and the dread of making the decision, it is put off too long. How can we separate emotion from objective evaluation?
As stated above, this is not an easy task. One of the tools I have used with my clients is the following from Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine:
The list provides a way to objectively score your pet’s quality of life. It does not remove the emotion of end of life decisions. It helps make the decision more objective.
Humane euthanasia is the ultimate act of love for a suffering pet. The decision and the loss can be excruciating.
We are always available to help you make an honest assessment of quality of life. Please understand that YOU are the best judge of your pet’s quality of life. YOU see them every day, live with them every day, know their habits etc. You will see changes better than we will.
If there is anything we can do to ease the process for you, please let us know.