How Do I Know When It’s Time?
Many pet owners have the question of when to know when it is time to euthanize their pet. There is no right or wrong answer to this. Since pets cannot speak for themselves, we must make careful observations of their habits and behavior.
- Spend time watching your pet. Does she get up slowly from a lying position? Does she no longer jump? Does she move with a limp? If so, these are signs of musculoskeletal pain. This may mean she has become arthritic or has had prior bone or joint problems that are now causing inflammation. A pet with these signs should be evaluated by a veterinarian and administered pain relieving/anti-inflammatory medications. Over time, these medications fail to work and your pet may become very slow or even stop getting up at all. If this occurs, this means that your pet’s condition is very severe and your pet should not be left in this state. Prolongation will result in sadness, depression, soiling on one’s self, and lack of dignity.
- Is your pet sick? Is she vomiting or having diarrhea? (Pets can have subtle signs of this by licking their lips or drooling as a way to show nausea or straining to defecate to show diarrhea or constipation). Skipping meals for more than one day? Refusing water? Don’t let your pet continue on without action. These signs indicate that something is severely wrong. Either have your veterinarian run tests to diagnose and subsequently treat the problem, or choose euthanasia. Your pet will not bounce back on her own and she will feel ill and miserable until a decision is made for her.
- Does your pet have a terminal or progressive condition? These disorders can include chronic kidney disease, congestive heart failure, or cancer, to name a few. This can also include cancer that may be treatable with surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation that you elect not to have performed. It is ok if you don’t go forward with treatment for cancer. Factors that may affect your decision can include prognosis, other concurrent medical conditions, the effect treatment may have on your pet, and cost. Terminal or progressive conditions always worsen with time and eventually the pet succumbs to them. Thus, if your pet is acting ill or is in pain, delaying euthanasia will only make things worse.
- Is your pet exhibiting anything abnormal? This may include drinking a lot, urinating a lot, eating less, fever, weight loss, distended abdomen, or growths and masses on the skin, to name a few. Or, it can show up as avoiding activities they once enjoyed, isolating themselves, hiding, or suddenly acting “aggressive” by growling or snapping. If so, she should be seen by your veterinarian. It is ok if you decide not to put your pet through tests due to her age. But, once those conditions cause her to have more bad days than good (and they will), then euthanasia must be performed.
- The bottom line is that a beloved pet should never be purposefully kept alive when she is in chronic pain, she constantly feels ill, she is wasting away due to rapid weight loss, she is barely eating and drinking, or if all she is doing is existing or being kept around because it’s too hard for her family to let go. Our pets deserve us to be strong for them and not feel guilty about making a loving decision to relieve their pain or misery. You want to avoid waiting too long to make the decision, as this leads to undue suffering. If you are not sure if it’s time or not, do your pet a favor and ask your veterinarian or contact Peaceful Endings for advice. Veterinarians always have your pet’s best interests in mind, they are trained in medical aspects of your pet, and will advocate for them.