The Hardest Question

One of the hardest questions I get asked by pet owners is, “What would you do if this was your pet, doc?”

Why is it so hard to give a truthful answer to this?

Well, sometimes it isn’t so hard because I’ve been in the same situation with one of my own pets. Or the pet is clearly suffering and euthanasia is the only humane choice.

Other times, I really don’t know what decision I’d make. I may have never been faced with a similar medical condition or prognosis in one of my own. I believe that sometimes there really isn’t a right or wrong answer. For many quality of life decisions, the pet owner is a far better judge of this than I can possibly be in the 20 minutes I’ve known the pet.

The hardest time to answer this question though is for those cases where I know the pet owner won’t want to hear my answer. Let’s say you bring in your geriatric cat who has been losing weight and not eating well for 3 weeks. This cat is extremely thin and has now been vomiting for the past 5 days. At the hospital it is too weak to stand, looks pale, and has obvious jaundice. The prognosis isn’t good, and I don’t know if the cat will even survive the night.

I present the options for advanced hospital care and a big workup, which will be expensive. The client doesn’t have a lot of money they can spend but they really need to save their cat.

“What would you do if this was your cat, doc?”

“I would have brought my cat in for care 2 and a half weeks ago.”

Yeah, I bet that answer wouldn’t be appreciated even if it’s true.


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