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Latest health and behavior news and advice from the veterinarians at Tufts University.

Expert Advice February 2013 Issue

Dear Doctor

Letters to Tufts Veterinarians

Is it time for euthanasia?

Q We rescued a fun loving 10-year-old dog who had spent her former life suffering on a puppy farm. But six months later she had a stroke. She is now deaf and blind and walks in circles for hours on end, bumping into objects as she goes. Furthermore, our local veterinarian has identified numerous tumors, although he says that none of these is giving her any pain. He says, as well, that the dog has healthy internal organs and not to be concerned about the circling. We also have a two-year-old dog with whom we go everywhere, and this dog is very integrated into our lives. What words of wisdom do you offer regarding how to deal with the older dog? Do we euthanize her or just let her be in what appears to be her own world?

Michael Macy

Sunnyside, Washington

Dear Mr. Macy,

AThere are some key questions to ask when trying to decide whether to choose euthanasia. Has she essentially stopped eating? Has she completely ceased to enjoy interacting with her human family, including no longer enjoying being petted or having her people nearby? A dog who doesn’t show any interest in eating along with exhibiting no interest in engaging with other members of the household is probably in about as much physical distress as a dog can be. Such unbearable physical suffering with no hope of let-up (as confirmed by a veterinarian) could very well mean that it would be best to put her out of her misery.

We don’t have enough information to weigh in. But we’re not getting the sense from what you have told us that she is in unbearable physical pain. If she knows where her food and water bowl are and seeks them out; if she enjoys the touch of your hand and perhaps likes the feel of the sun on her back or the smell of something interesting (after all, she still has the senses of smell, touch, and taste), her quality of life may very well be high enough to keep from deciding on euthanasia.

Granted, it may be difficult to see her in her diminished capacity, and it may be time-consuming to take care of your two dogs differently. But it is to be hoped that those changes alone won’t constitute the tipping point.

Comparing flea and tick prevention products

Q We have two Golden Retrievers on whom we have always used Frontline Plus for flea and tick prevention, and it has worked very well. This year we have seen many ads for other brands that claim to be just as effective but are less expensive. These include Pet Armour, Adams Flea and Tick Control, and Hartz. Can you give us some information on these other products? I am tempted to save some money by changing brands.

Marlene Davies

Marysville, OH

Dear Ms. Davies,

ATufts veterinary dermatologist Lluis Ferrer, DVM, recommends any of the following products for flea and tick control: Frontline Plus, K9 Advantix, Activyl Tick Plus, or a combination of Comfortis (works against fleas) and Scalibor Collar (works against ticks). The companies that manufacture these products have proven safety and efficacy with scientific studies that have appeared in peer-reviewed journals.

That doesn’t mean that no other products are as safe or effective. We just couldn’t find the evidence. For instance, Pet Armor is essentially a generic Frontline and theoretically should work as well. But we were not able to find any information that would allow us to assess the company’s quality control during the production process. And Hartz is based on a chemical, phenothrin, for which we couldn’t find peer-reviewed studies demonstrating efficacy, particularly for the dose and application schedule suggested by the manufacturer.

Note that the proven products often cost more precisely because it takes money to test them. Again, that doesn’t mean the other products don’t work. It simply means that, as far as we can tell, they have not been subject to the scrutiny of and therefore have not received the approval of the scientific community at large.

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