When is it the “Right Time”?
Dear Dr. Florez,
My 20 year old cat, Garfield, has deteriorating vision, arthritis, and advancing kidney problems but he seems happy enough in his own little world. He’s pain free and in no discomfort, but several people have told me that I’m cruel to keep him going. What is your opinion?
Pauline Dewberry (UK)
Quality of life is the primary consideration when we are deciding whether a patient is “old” or simply has the normal aches and pains of anyone who is geriatric. For example, a cat that is 20 years old is equivalent to a person who is approximately 95 years old.
I have several patients that are over 20 years of age and they are doing just fine. You need to be sure that your cat is seen regularly by a veterinarian to monitor kidney levels. You may also want to consider taking steps to control Garfield’s arthritis and pain if necessary. Be sure to speak with your veterinarian in regards to any supplements or medications that could be used to treat arthritis pain. Also be sure that Garfield’s food is a prescription diet which is specifically formulated for the kidneys. Your veterinarian can recommend a good food to try. (Be sure to follow your veterinarian’s recommendations when changing food if you choose to do this, as rapidly changing a pet’s diet can disrupt their digestion system. It is best to make this change gradually, over a period of time.)
When it becomes obvious that a pet is no longer enjoying its life – not eating, drinking, or doing things that they normally enjoy doing, then it is time to think about euthanasia. Of course that is a very personal call. You should take time to speak with your regular veterinarian so that they may assist you with this decision. While they will be able to give you medical advice and recommendations, Garfield will ultimately be your best source for the answer to this difficult question.
Diego Fernando Florez, DVM