Making Difficult Decisions

(e.g. surgery, chemotherapy, euthanasia, hospice care)

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Questions to ask yourself before making an end-of-life decision (such as euthanasia or hospice care):

  • What are my religious, spiritual and personal beliefs regarding end-of-life care? Do I have a trusted friend, spiritual advisor or veterinarian who can help me make this decision?
  • Have I asked the questions I need to ask in order to feel knowledgeable about euthanasia? Do I have fears or concerns that I would like to discuss with my veterinarian, so that I have a better understanding of how euthanasia is handled and what my pet and I would experience?
  • Are there friends or family members who are close to my pet and would like to be included in this decision, or who would like to be present for my pet’s euthanasia? Might I be comforted by including those close to me?
  • What is the value for my pet to continue to live this way? What is the value for me or my family members for my pet to continue to live this way? Is the value higher for us than for our pet?
  • If I elect to provide hospice care for my pet, are my veterinarian and I able to adequately control my pet’s discomfort or anxiety? Am I willing to give the medications or provide the treatments that will be necessary to minimize my pet’s distressing symptoms? Will I be honest with myself if my pet’s symptoms and anxiety are no longer well controlled?
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Questions to ask yourself before making a treatment decision (such as surgery or chemotherapy):

  • What will happen in the near future that will be significant to my pet?
  • Can my pet’s pain or anxiety about upcoming procedures be well-controlled while hospitalized or healing?
  • Is the procedure likely to give my pet good quality of life for some period of time?
  • How do I feel about the medical information I’ve been given about my pet’s prognosis (the likely course of my pet’s illness and treatment)?
  • Do I have the financial resources to go forward with the procedure and handle ongoing treatment expenses? If I do not have health insurance for my pet (which is true for the majority of pet owners), can I sacrifice from other areas of my family’s budget to provide this care?
  • Do I feel like I have all the information I need to make this decision comfortably? Are there questions I need to ask my veterinarian to better understand my pet’s treatment options?
  • Do I have the emotional and physical stamina to provide the ongoing care my pet needs, or do I have the means to have someone else to provide care? Am I ready to undertake the care that may be required, such as lifting or assisting with walking, assisting with bathroom functions, performing physical therapy, giving medication, maintaining a feeding tube, preparing special food, or monitoring overnight?
  • What is my personal “bottom line” with regard to my family’s lifestyle and how it will be impacted by this decision? Are there any aspects of this treatment or aftercare that I am unable to accommodate?