YOUR PET, YOUR DECISION TO EUTHANIZE
BY KARI TROTSKY, D.V.M.
PEACEFUL ENDINGS FOR PETS
Can you believe that even I have been on the receiving end of a family member and later, a friend, telling me that it was time to euthanize my pet? I felt angry and hurt that they would imply that I’m holding onto my pet too long and allowing her to suffer. I believe they meant it in a caring way, but I still remember it to this day. Three years ago, a friend who also happens to be a veterinarian, came over while I was at work to let my dogs out while I was away. My arthritic senior dog was walking in her normal, yet stiff, gait in the morning, but had somehow injured her leg by the time my friend stopped by. She was limping pretty badly, and my friend told me I needed to consider euthanasia. But, she didn’t have the whole story. She didn’t see my dog walking relatively well that morning, she didn’t know what medications my dog was taking, and she didn’t take care of my dog day in and day out. That dog is still alive today, and if I had listened to my friend’s advice, I would’ve made a terribly wrong decision. This is what prompted me to write about this. If I wasn’t a veterinarian, would I have taken her advice?
I find that many people with an elderly or sick pet are given unwanted advice about when to euthanize. I believe these people have good intentions and are trying to help, but they haven’t been with that pet when it was just a couple months old. They haven’t tended to every need of the pet, ranging from medical care to nutrition to playtime, every day of its life. They may mean well, fully believing that everybody, when facing their pet’s death, will not make good decisions because they are too emotionally attached. And, while this may be true for some, I believe that the majority of pet owners will not let their pet suffer needlessly because they have a difficult time accepting the loss of the pet.
There are some pet owners that cannot see past their grief to make good decisions, and gentle discussions can help that person know that their inaction is causing more harm than good. And, there are pet owners who feel they are not looking at their pet objectively and seek advice from family, friends, or veterinary professionals. But, for the people who fully understand their pet’s situation, being on the receiving end of unsolicited advice can be very hurtful.
You may be judged by neighbors who see your dog being supported by a harness when outside. You may be judged by friends and family. You may even be judged by your veterinarian. But, only you can make that ultimate decision, and if it’s not the right time for your pet, you have to rise above other people’s judgement. They don’t take care of, nor spend time with your pet. They don’t know what treatments are being given or how happy your pet is, despite its medical condition. Only you know and only you should make that decision. If someone does suggest you euthanize your pet, you should thank them for their genuine concern, but let them know you will make that decision when you feel it’s right and that there are a lot of factors they don’t know about. Never feel pressured by anyone if you know it isn’t the right time. Check in with yourself from time to time and take a step back to make sure you are still being objective about the situation. But, ultimately, just remember it’s your pet, and your decision to euthanize.