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Saying Goodbye: The Right Time to Euthanize Your Pet

one of the most difficult decisions you will ever have to make is deciding to

euthanize your dog or cat just how do you know that the time is right of

course we don't want to make the decision too early but far worse would

be to leave our pets suffering too long delaying any decision for our benefit

and that's having our beloved pets in our lives for longer rather than it

being in their best interest well it is a fact of life that unfortunately our

beloved pets very rarely pass away peacefully in their sleep without having

been suffering from a serious illness for some time before that this means

that as owners we are likely to be put in a difficult position of deciding to

euthanize or put to sleep our dog or cat our pets quality of life is paramount and

the moment this starts to slip we need to strongly consider what is best for

our individual pet it can be very difficult to know when the right time is

and ultimately every animal is different there are no definitive definite

clear-cut rules there are however a number of questions that we can consider

to help give us a better idea of our pets quality of life and so decide if

they are suffering and they're continuing to suffer or not are they in

pain is your dog or cat in any pain are they on pain killing medication and if

so how well is this controlling the pain being in constant pain is a terrible

situation to be in it may well be that currently your pet is pretty comfortable

with whatever medications and whatever management strategies that you have in

place but we must be mindful of the fact that any chronic pain condition such as

arthritis they only tend to get worse with time so you need to be aware that

their pain levels will change over time it may be that additional treatment is

available but if reasonable pain is a constant feature with no realistic

potential for improvement then we must consider if it is fair to

put our pets through this the next is is your pet eating for many people if their

dog or cat is eating then we consider that they must be reasonably happy and

comfortable this is just not always the case though

and so I'd caution against using your pets appetite it's the only judge of

whether your pet is okay or not that being said you can consider if they're

eating well or not and instead do they need actually encouragement

what about hand feeding or you're actually having to syringe food into your pets

mouth or even through a feeding tube next comes

is your pet drinking and well hydrated so coupled with eating well often an

animal felt to be drinking well it's felt to be a good thing in fact the

opposite can be true as many illnesses can actually cause a real big increase

in the amount your pets drink and these include kidney failure diabetes hormone

abnormalities and many more instead we should consider if they're able to

remain hydrated or not if they are becoming dehydrated either despite

drinking lots or because they have stopped drinking then it is imperative

that we act quickly dehydration is likely present if your

pets gums are dry or if their skin stays standing in a tent after being pulled

away from the body this intervention might be to start other treatment

strategies or it might be decide to decide that the time has come to say

goodbye next is your pet able to keep clean and

toilet appropriately is your pet incontinent

in itself this might be not be too much of an issue if you're able to deal with

the mess produced if they're not able to be kept clean though or if they end up

lying in their waste for long periods they are likely to be suffering they may

develop skin sores or matting they're more likely to develop urinary

infections and other complications as well so does your pet seem happy now

this question is obviously much more subjective and you know your pet the

best do you think that they're happy are they interested in what's going on

around them do they still look forward to mealtime

or going for a walk do they enjoy interacting with the family and other

pets in the house or instead do they seem stressed are they bored scared or

lonely are they even aggressive our pets are capable of feeling all of these

emotions and they should not be ignored it is very difficult if not impossible

for your vet to know if your pet is feeling any of these emotions we only

see them for a really small snapshot so go with your gut feeling here what mood

is your pet in the majority of the time so next is is your pet mobile can they

stand up by themselves how well do they move can they still run or does every

step just look like a real struggle now they regularly stumble or fall over

if they need help are you able to provide this for them as often as it

actually needed it can be very difficult to help a large breed dog who is unable

to get up by themselves or cant climb the front steps to get back into the house

pain clearly might be the factor here and an issue that we've already

discussed but there are other conditions that can also cause the mobility

problems and that are not in themselves inherently painful so next is are there

any other concerns do you have any other concerns about your dog or cat are they

breathing easily have they started having seizures or vomiting on a regular

basis the next is are there more good days or are there more bad days

answering all of these questions gives us a snapshot as to how our pets are

feeling and what their quality of life is at that particular moment and clearly

this will change over time so some days they might be better and some days they

might be worse if the number of bad days outweighs the number of good days then

euthanasia may very well be the best decision for your pet and the best

decision that you can make for them so next is what disease or health concerns

does your pet have this is also an important consideration if your pet has

a long-standing disease but it's never going to be cured such as kidney failure

or arthritis they're slowly getting worse despite all

the treatment options available to them being implemented to the best of our

abilities though we need to be realistic your pet is only going to continue to get

worse I know that many pet owners I've spoken to have serious regrets about

holding on to one of their pets in the past too long and when they look back

they wish they had made the decision to end their suffering sooner than they

actually did if your pet is suffering from a condition that can potentially be

cured or the situation greatly improved such as a serious infection or a

traumatic event then it's often much more acceptable to monitor and

continue to push for that improvement even if in the short time your pets

quality of life is currently compromised if things are looking bleak though again

euthanasia is an option so there are a lot of questions here which just

highlights how difficult it can be to know if the time is right to euthanize

your cat or dog your vet will clearly try and help guide you and help you

through this difficult decision-making process but ultimately it is up to you

to make that final call now if all of the above has only made you more

confused then I have three simple statements of my beliefs that might just

help you the first is that it's better to euthanize a week too early than a day

too late the second is that if you are thinking that it might be time to say

goodbye then very often it is there's clearly something significant going on

that is making you seriously think about euthanasia and then the third is that

euthanasia may be the last final act of kindness you can show a sick pet by

ending their suffering so you've made the decision and what happens next well

clearly this can be discussed and it should be discussed with your

veterinarian ahead of time it may be possible for them to visit your pet at

home so that they don't have the stress of a car journey or dealing with a busy

clinic it might be that you can schedule an appointment for a quieter time of day

can you pay the day before or after so that you don't have to think about this

at the time when you'll clearly be very stressed and upset also you'll need to

think about whether you want to take your pet home with you afterwards or

maybe you feel that cremation is something that you'd like for your pet

and you'd like their ashes to be returned to you

it's far better to try and make these decisions ahead of time rather than rush

into anything at the time of euthanasia the procedure itself is generally

very quick it involves injecting a large overdose of an old anesthetic

agent into the vein in the leg if your pet is nervous or very uncomfortable

then they may be given a sedative injection first just to help them relax

they it may also first have a catheter placed into their vein to ensure that

the injection itself is felt as little as possible if you're anxious about the

procedure again ask your veterinarian that will perform the euthanasia about

the process ahead of time the whole procedure will also likely be explained

to you at the time before it's carried out now once given the euthanasia drugs

generally acts very quickly with your pet first falling into a deep sleep

before the heart stops beating once the heart has stopped beating and your pet

has passed away a number of things can then happen they may take some big gasps

they may lose control of their bowels and they may stretch or twitch a little

bit as well and this is just the body letting go it's not to sign that your

pet is still alive and it doesn't in any way indicate that they're in any form of

distress now lastly many people feel guilt after making the decision to

euthanize their companion you may feel anger at having been unable to help them

get better and in fact we grieve for our pets in the same way that we deal with

the loss of a family member or friend and actually it's been shown to be worse

than many close family members when we go through denial anger bargaining

depression and finally acceptance you should never feel ashamed or embarrassed

about grieving from their loss our pets after all they're an integral part of

our family if you're struggling with the loss of your dog or cat then reach out

to your vet team reach out to friends family or seek professional help the

extra support can really be vital for helping us deal with the loss of a

beloved family member so I hope this answers some of the questions that you

might have had about when the right time to euthanasia your pet is remember that

quality of life of your pet should guide all of our decisions about any treatment

or otherwise do what you feel is best for them and you won't

go wrong take care