The Animal Doctor by Dr. Michael W. Fox

When to Say Goodbye and Stop Treatments

DEAR DR. FOX: We have a 23-year-old female cocker spaniel named Ed. She was just diagnosed with very bad diabetes. It has been a horrific, heartbreaking ordeal.

The vet is still trying to determine what dose of Vetsulin to administer. She is currently refusing to eat, and has to be fed critical-care food orally by syringe. We will have to increase the syringe feedings to give her the Vetsulin. She takes Entyce, an appetite stimulant, once per day. The vet said she may be insulin-resistant, as well as possibly having Cushing’s disease. Can Cushing’s be determined by a blood test easily?

We have two days to make a decision as to what we will do, and we do not want her to suffer in any way. Is there any advice you would give us about how to move forward? This is a most difficult decision to make, and our hearts are in such pain to think about seeing her go. -- L.P., New Rochelle, New York

DEAR L.P.: Your dog has reached a remarkable age. From your account, it seems that chronic organ failure has set in, which could be partially rectified with various medications, after more tests and determining the proper dosages -- but to what end?

If this were my dog, I would provide whatever she likes to eat and give her lots of tender loving care (including relaxing and anxiety-relieving massage therapy, as per my book “The Healing Touch for Dogs”), and let her go. No more medications or tests. Whether this answer upsets or relieves you, do let me know.

L.P. replies:

DEAR DR. FOX: Thank you for reaching out to me. Yesterday, we said goodbye to her, and my heart is crushed. It’s so hard to lose our companions when we love them as family. I’m trying to focus on believing we made the right decision in not allowing her to suffer, but it’s still very hard to convince myself. I have been filled with guilt and second-guessing if we decided to let her go too soon.

You have relieved me somewhat, and for that, I’m grateful. Thank you for the wonderful work you do on behalf of all beloved animals. I will refer to your website as soon as we are able to welcome another loving animal in our lives. -- L.P.

DEAR L.P.: I always hesitate to recommend euthanasia, because it is such a huge responsibility, and often a painful decision to make for a loved one. Most veterinarians feel this burden when having to euthanize terminally ill animal patients, and those whose owners cannot afford costly treatments that may or may not improve the animal’s quality of life. But there are some who would delay this -- not necessarily just to make more money, but because they see some diseases (like your dog’s diabetes) as conditions that should always be treated, rather than focusing on the whole animal. The caregiving burden and continued worry of the animal’s owner-clients must also be considered. Sending warm regards and my condolences.


DEAR DR. FOX: Have you seen this article in The Washington Post? Headline: “Trump administration makes it easier for hunters to kill bear cubs and wolf pups in Alaska.” This is so inhumane, so terrible, so upsetting, so depressing.

What can we do? -- M.S., Washington, D.C.

DEAR M.S.: Yes, I have read this newspaper article; elsewhere, I read that one Alaskan wildlife official said this measure is intended for “subsistence hunters.” That is an insult to indigenous peoples. This is a relaxation of wildlife hunting regulations for “sport” and “trophy” hunters -- with the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. being a dedicated advocate of such activities, and of the deregulation of wildlife protections. If he were my son, I would disown him. Taxpayers paid $75,000 last year to provide him with Secret Service protection during his sheep-killing trip to Mongolia, during which he killed a member of a threatened sheep species before receiving a permit.

As to your question about what can we do: We can vote and elect the kind of leadership at federal and state levels that does not regard animals as objects, commodities and “harvestable natural resources.” This state of mind is called speciesism, which is part of the same degenerate and spiritually corrupting attitude toward the Spirit of Life that is behind the endemic problems of racism, sexism and classism here in the U.S and around much of the world.

(Send all mail to or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

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