A Hard Decision

Fair warning, despite usually trying to keep this blog positive and fun, this post is not really either of those things. Since October or so, we’ve been battling an auto-immune disorder of some sort in Lily that has not been responding well to any of the treatment plans we have tried. What started as a little bit of vasculitis on the end of her ears (basically not enough blood flow to her extremities, which resulted in some scabby sores on each ear) that was probably the result of seasonal allergies. From October through January, the problem was just with her ears but wasn’t getting better, and she also developed two ear infections in December and January.


When the problem started to spread to her shoulder, our regular vet referred us to a dermatologist. The new vet determined that the vasculitis was likely more of a symptom that the actual problem, and gave us a pretty aggressive treatment plan which included an immunosuppressant to stop her immune system from attacking her little body.

After several treatment plans and several more months, she’s made a few steps forward, but huge leaps back, and her entire chest, shoulders, neck, ears, feet joints, and patches on the rest of her body are covered in sores and scabs. At some point, she developed staph and the scabs would fall off only to leave behind gross goop underneath that just turned into new crustiness.



In the past two weeks, we’ve scrapped almost all of our treatment plan and we’ve switched to new meds and a topical cream usually used for burn victims. This was a last ditch effort to get her better, but our vet set the expectation that since nothing else had worked, the prognosis wasn’t good. Though she’s not out of the woods at all, she’s finally looking a little bit better, and after having no appetite for months, and losing 2 lbs (which is a lot when at 7.5 lbs you’re on the squishy side of healthy), she’s starting to eat much more and have a little bit of personality again.

Joseph gets more tail wags out of her than I do right now, but the fact that she’s wagging her tail at all is progress. Her skin has finally stopped looking like it’s infected, and it even looks like there’s new skin growth replacing the unhealthy skin.


At this point, we’re evaluating things on a week-to-week basis. As of two weeks ago, I was ready to make the hardest decision in my life to date, but she’s suddenly pulling through a little, and that almost makes this harder. When I know she’s miserable and suffering, ending that still hurts, but it more-or-less feels like the right thing.

Now, I’m afraid that nothing will feel like the right choice. Since she seems happier than she has, we’re continuing to try to treat the problem and I talk to our vet several times a week to touch base. We still have the option to do some more invasive–and expensive–testing, but our vet was honest with us, and told us she didn’t think it would change anything–even if we did find something like cancer–other than to confirm that she might not get better. If she goes downhill again, I’ll be faced with that decision again: Do we keep trying even though she’s unhappy and not been herself for months, in the hope that we’ll finally land on the right treatment–if there is one, or do we let her go?

I’m still not sure what the answer is, but I’m praying I’ll be able to make the right choice if  it comes down to that.


**I’ve chosen not to share any photos of Lily in her current state on here, but if you are curious or have any suggestions and want to see photos, feel free to reach out at thegraduatedequestrian (at) gmail (dot) com.


19 thoughts on “A Hard Decision

  1. I’m so glad she’s comfortable and perking up! Sending good vibes your way.

    I know you’ll make the right decision regardless- you know her better than any veterinarian and are doing everything in your power. I’m a 4th year veterinary student so if you ever want to shoot me an email and bounce ideas off of me or vent, let me know and I can give you my e-mail.

  2. B

    Long time lurker, but I just wanted to chime in and give you my support. It’s a hard situation, and I wish you and Lily the best. I really hope she improves with the new treatment.

  3. Ugh I was hoping the situation was better than the last time we talked about her. Listen to your gut. Making a decision like this with a pet is NEVER easy, and even when it’s the RIGHT choice you’ll probably second guess yourself. However, it sounds like she’s doing a lot better so good to be thankful for that right now. For me, I always pay attention to food + joy. If the dog is eating some and has some joy, to me that’s a life worth living. If either of those gets depleted, than I won’t let them suffer.

  4. Jenn

    I don’t really have any amazing advice one way or the other, so I’ll just send positive thoughts and ((hugs)) across the interwebs. <3

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