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I'm in the process of treating an elderly diabetic dog(diabetes in dogs is manifested very closely to the one in humans) and constantly hitting the wall of ethics(in my view) regarding human-dog relations with the veterinarians.

To detail, around 4-5 vets that I have seen in the past months suggest a certain treatment. That consisting of using a certain drug named caninsulin, which fails heavily(in my view) to keep the blood glucose level between 5-10 mmol/L(as humans aim, when they have diabetes). In the human treatment of diabetes, the doctors change the insulin until their patients can keep their blood glucose level between 5 and 10 mmol/L. Poor glycemic control in people has proven to create physical pain(as headaches, thirst, increased hunger) and fatal injury to other organs(his kidneys did not look good on ultrasound).

They would not want to change to another insulin, that I suggest, due to the fact, that they strongly believe that that would ruin my dog's quality of life(we would have to give him 3-4 subcutaneous injections, instead of 2, but that's it). Also, they strongly believe that if I check his blood glucose levels with a glucometer, I'm again ruining heavily his quality of life. I can swear and show to anyone that he is not bothered at all by the glucose tests or insulin injections and rather, I see him very restless when he is hypoglicemic due to the poor glucose control(He is barking his guts of for food, common symptom of hypoglicemia). They are also saying that I'm doing far too much for him, suggesting that I have some kind of mental ilness, and my thoughts on that are that, again, are, that it's a subjective matter, which they are unable to judge due to the lack of information on my interactions with the dog(e.g. memories as a child playing with him).

Today, I've made the statement to one of these vets that their suggestion is heavily subjective(keeping in mind their assesment of the dog's quality of life). The vet immediately replied that it is not a mather of ethics(I suppose that would make his statements true and a good examples of facts of our real world).

Is the suggested treatment a matter of ethics or not?(What is your opinion?)

Are the vets implying that I should see him as subhuman and treat him subhumanely?

Note that my questions points mostly to ethics.

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I think you would need an expert in veterinary medicine to resolve some questions before we can give a sound ethical answer -- also we would need to know what sort of ethical values you have.

For the veterinary side, what I am alluding to here, is that you're drawing a strong analogy between the conditions and experiences of dogs with diabetes and humans with diabetes. It may be the case that the target blood glucose level for dogs is different or has different tolerances before they experience pain or discomfort. We would need an expert to explain. On a merely speculative note, it seems like the vets believe the care level they are providing meets a moral or ethical standard whereas it's not clear you are competent to judge the care from the medical side.

In terms of whether is is immoral, it sounds like the key question you want us to consider is whether providing a level of care to a dog that leaves it suffering is unethical.

On the philosophical side, I will restrict my thoughts to three theories. For utilitarians (especially contemporary ones), morality is the minimization of pain, including animal pain. If we follow such an account, then the question would be whether current care places the animal under the minimum of pain. At the same time, if we are following Peter Singer, we would also deny that there's anything special about any particular life and leave open the possibility that killing a human or animal will eliminate its pain altogether.

For Kant, the problem with animal suffering is that it warps us. Thus, the key issue would be whether we are delighting in it. Clearly, you aren't. So it would be hard to see this as patently immoral on Kantian grounds.

Virtue theories are the hardest to grasp in terms of these sorts of situations, because they look primarily at how this helps you to develop as a moral person who maximizes the excellences of being human. In this case, it seems like providing care for your dog and being motivated for this develops compassion. Assuming that's a good, it's moral for you to care about your dog. And it would be an important task to think about the level of pain your dog is in and what is best for the dog as a form of care.

To answer whether the veterinarians are doing something immoral in their refusal to provide the care you want for your dog, we would really need to know more about the realistic care options available.


There are some other moral considerations that could be brought up, but I will leave off with these.

  • I think you would need an expert in veterinary medicine to resolve some questions before we can give a sound ethical answer -- also we would need to know what sort of ethical values you have. – shooting-squirrel Aug 22 '14 at 6:48
  • My response : You mean a certified person? One of the vets has degrees and worked in many countries, yet did not know how the drug functions(Caninsulin, stating that it is active in the body for exactly 12 hours, but ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9358402 clearly contradicts. The other vet with which I worked clearly said that he does not know and promised to contact the company, after which, he gave the right answer. – shooting-squirrel Aug 22 '14 at 7:01
  • And has been using the drug for a very long time with other patients... --- it's not clear you are competent to judge the care from the medical side. --- When would it be and for whom? This will always be subjective from my point of view or anyone else. Would you make a poll to decide that? Remember, this is philosophy stack exchange, not a comunist political party, where they "truly" tell their kamarads "how life is". – shooting-squirrel Aug 22 '14 at 7:04
  • I thank you for your answer even tough it fails to answer my questions. If you would review them, you may see that one of it asks whether ethics are involved or not in the treatment. For me this is an obvious "yes", while for the vet in discussion, it was an obvious "no". Debating the ethics, which is what you've started to do, is senseless for me... – shooting-squirrel Aug 22 '14 at 7:10
  • In terms of whether is is immoral, it sounds like the key question you want us to consider is whether providing a level of care to a dog that leaves it suffering is unethical. ---- I see that many people would linger on this question, but I do not. From my side, I am convinced that their treatment is by far more painful than mine. – shooting-squirrel Aug 22 '14 at 7:13
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In the West, from it's Abrahamic religious influence, animals are seen as soulless. Only humans have souls; there is a tremendous gap between being a human and being an animal. In a sense, the West is atheistic when it comes to animals.

In the East, all living beings have souls that are evolving through different births. From a Eastern monistic point of view, all beings have the One soul within them, they are just different outer manifestations of that one Soul. There is a solidarity to all life, that in hurting any one I am hurting myself. In helping anyone, I am helping myself.

  • I didn't think of it in this way, tough I appreciate the answer... I thought about it scientifically, in the sense, that by my experience, my dog has behaved as a human being with lower cognitive functions, but not absent of them. And I could, in a rational way, prove that statement. – shooting-squirrel Aug 22 '14 at 4:39
  • I can't answer for Judaism or Islam, but many Christians believe animals have souls -- Aquinas for instance. Also, there's no "East" that covers all of the views found in the East. Confucianism, for instance, has no commitment to "different births". – virmaior Aug 22 '14 at 5:45
  • @virmaior If there are some Christians(as some that I know) that attribute any soul-like value to animals, they do so because they do not fully follow the Christian doctrine. It is clearly stated in the Bible that humans are distinguished from animals on a methaphysical level. – shooting-squirrel Aug 22 '14 at 6:47
  • Yes, from a purely materialistic standpoint they have lower cognitive functions but their minds are also much more attached to their senses; they feel pain more intensely and feel pleasure more intensely. – Swami Vishwananda Aug 22 '14 at 9:20
  • "Also, there's no "East" that covers all of the views found in the East. Confucianism, for instance, has no commitment to "different births"." - Yes, but almost all have a commonality in the transmigration of souls. Confucianism is really a secular ethical philosophy on how to live in relation to other people and society and not a philosophy dealing with man's relation to the cosmos. – Swami Vishwananda Aug 22 '14 at 9:33

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