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Tough choices for an aging pet


sashi.jpgI recently visited my mother and her dog, Sashi, adopted from the Providence Animal Rescue League.

Sashi is now 13-1/2 and has been  taking medication for arthritis for the past several years. Last week she temporarily lost the use of her hind legs. The vet said it was due to spinal inflammation and gave her a steroid shot, which got her walking again, and she continues to improve.

Then I read Julia Szabo’s NY Post column about her arthritic dog’s stem cell regeneration procedure.

The treatment worked so well for her 14-year-old pit bull, it got me wondering whether it would help Sashi. I did some research and, sure enough, the therapy is being studied for use in treating spinal problems and has shown remarkable results in many arthritic dogs. BUT it costs $2,000-3,000 — enough to support any number of shelter pets who need homes — and it’s unclear how long the results will last.

Of course, when it’s your own pet, decisions don’t just come down to pure economics. Sashi is still bright, alert and healthy, and how can we, in good conscience, deprive her of a treatment that could spare her pain when she still has many years of life ahead of her? Still, $2,000 is a lot of money, and Sashi has had 13 happy years in a loving home, while there are pets in shelters at risk of euthanasia who have never experienced what it’s like to lie in a sunbeam or enjoy a tummy rub.

Realistically, we would never end Sashi’s life simply because we didn’t want to spend the money to treat her pain — but for many people, the cost is prohibitive and the question is more complicated. Readers, what do you think? Have you ever been faced with a similar situation?

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