What Would You Do - Treat or Focus On Quality of Life: Reader Question and Suggestion From Our Vet

by Paul
(Jacksonville, Florida)

Recent picture of me and Salvador

Recent picture of me and Salvador

For the past few months, I'd noticed my 15-year old chow/golden mix male dog (Salvador) having increasing difficulty with his bowel movements. During a recent visit to my veterinarian an exam was performed, including x-ray, and a "mass" was found outside of the colon, against the spine, pressing in on the colon. He has otherwise been healthy.

The vet suggested that, although there are specialists who could address this issue, it might be better (with the dog's advanced age and position of the unidentified mass) to focus on making his remaining time as comfortable as possible instead. In other words, the better ultimate path would be to avoid a traumatic surgery.

My "quality of life" instincts agree somewhat, but I am curious as to your thoughts on this topic. If it would require surgery, what kind of recovery time and effort would be involved? There are many factors still unknown, which I understand, and I would take your response with that in mind.



Suggestion From Our Veterinarian

Hi Paul,

Oh my, Salvador sure is handsome and based on the picture you sent, I can tell the two of you share a very special bond.

I do understand where your veterinarian is coming from. Fifteen is quite old for a dog of Salvador’s genetic background and the thought of putting him through some avoidable and not insignificant stress and pain at his age is worrisome. That said, he may have several more good years left (I had a dog live to almost 18 with very good quality of life) and it would be a shame to cut that time short.

I think you need more information before making a decision. Just because you set up a consultation with a specialist does not mean you need to move forward with surgery or other forms of aggressive treatment. The specialist (and perhaps some additional, minimally invasive diagnostic tests) should be able to give you a better idea of the likelihood of adverse effects with different treatment options and Salvador’s prognosis and likely recovery time with each. Hopefully, the path forward will be a little clearer once you have more information to work with.

Best of luck,

Jennifer Coates, DVM

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