End-of-life decisions concerning animals

This is going to be a whine and ramble post but I want to stop spamming everyone on facebook and twitter so that’s why I put it here. Three rats are in our care, Mr Grey Rat, Mr Spotted White Rat and Mr Spotted White Rat But With A Slightly Different Nose (not their real names, of course).

Mr Grey Rat was diagnosed this morning with an apparently fatal tumor. The vet recommended euthanising him in 1-2 days.

Of course I want a second opinion. The worst of it is, I can’t judge whether it’s true, whether Mr Grey Rat  is feeling bad or not, I can only see that he’s tachypneic and that’s it.

If he were only human… Then I’d be able to look up the prognosis, treatment options, etc. etc. And then palliative sedation would be a viable option. Like, if a human being is suddenly diagnosed with end stage cancer, you don’t say ‘let’s just euthanize them’ —you make them comfortable, give them pain meds AND sedation and make sure they die peacefully at home. At least, that’s your goal.

So why is it completely acceptable to give animals a couple of shots and let them die just like that? I can’t believe that improves their quality of life. And yet, palliative care in animals is completely unheard of.

Yes, I’m completely antromorphizing Mr Grey Rat — but I don’t see him as an accessoire but as a ‘companion’,  someone who is completely dependent on me for their care. I committed myself to giving him a good life, in return for the fun and joy of playing with him and watching him & his friends play — I took this responsibility and I’m not about to relinquish that just because he’s got cancer. If he’s truly that terminal, why don’t give him a few anti pain shots and let him die with his friends near?

And of course, the decision making process is completely different now. The vet said that an operation would cost about 150 euros (no problem for us!) and that the prognosis was <50%. Well, in humans with cancer, we go to the end and accept much lower survival rates. Of course, there is the question of adhesions etc, but why shouldn’t we try? The most difficult part is that I can’t use my medical knowledge because I simply don’t know whether Mr Grey Rat is suffering or not. I can’t predict what his quality of life will be afterwards etc…

He isn’t an expendable item, he isn’t meant to be thrown away and replaced immediately. He deserves only the best of care — but will I be able to provide that?

I’m afraid Mr Grey Rat will end euthanized in a few days, just because I don’t want him to suffer and have to trust the vet’s word on this. Unfortunately. I desperately hope that there’s a vet out there who is willing to spend some time discussing the above options, otherwise I’m afraid I’ll keep feeling as though I did the wrong thing.

Why isn’t there something like ‘veterinary medical ethics’?


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