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My Pet World: Quality of life for chronically ill pets is a balancing act

Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

I am writing about our beloved 15½-year-old cat who was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in 2015. Over the past seven years, we have given him 1/4 of an atenolol pill twice a day and an aspirin every third day, hiding the meds in his treats.

Unfortunately, he has been giving us a tough time about the aspirin for the past few months. He sniffs the treats and refuses to take them, even going so far as to turn up his nose up at the treats containing the atenolol. This situation has stressed him and us out, so we decided a couple of weeks ago to stop giving him the aspirin.

Is that a terrible decision? Does he really need it? He seems much happier now. He takes the other medication without any problem, so I wonder if the aspirin might have been upsetting his stomach. We also don't want to alienate him in his senior years. It's a quality-of-life issue. We would be grateful for your perspective.

— Stacy, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Dear Stacy,


I am not a veterinarian, so I couldn't tell you the health risks of his not taking the aspirin. But a 15-year-old cat's quality of life is certainly something to consider. When people are in hospice, they don’t receive medication for their illnesses anymore. It’s just palliative care. Certainly, you could do that if you felt your cat was at the end of his life.

I would take him to your vet though, to get checked out. Whenever there are behavior changes, it could indicate a new health problem. The vet may recommend another medication or, at the very least, tell you what could happen to your cat as a result of discontinuing the aspirin. Then you can make an informed decision about how to care for your beloved kitty.

Dear Cathy,

Thank you for the article on sedation before euthanasia. I had the same experience as L.L., Riverdale in New York. My 20-year-old cat had gotten so weak that he would topple over and then look at me pleadingly for help getting back on his feet. I decided it was time for euthanasia. I called my vet's office only to be told my regular vet had left the practice for a new location.


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