Q. Sugar, my Shih Tzu is almost 15. He coughs often from having a grade 4 heart murmur. He doesn't eat everyday and drinks even less. Is it time?

A. I would encourage you also to seek the advice of a vet who can treat your dog's heart failure, if you haven't already. Diuretic therapy can be extremely effective in helping to rid the body of the excess fluid that's likely causing his cough. In addition, there are newer drugs like vetmedin/Pimobendin that can reduce lethargy and fainting spells. There's quite a lot that can be done to improve the quality of life for dogs in heart failure.

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A. If he is lethargic, disinterested in his surroundings and not responding much to you, then yes--it is probably time. On the other hand, if he is still engaged in the activities of the house, he may not be ready to go quite yet. Once you see him shutting down, an easy passing will be the final gift you can give him.

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