How To Know When The Time Is Right

Euthanasia is the medical term used to describe putting an animal to sleep. The word euthanasia comes from the Greek words “eu” (good) and “thanatos” (death). At Fond Farewell Vets we do everything we can to make “good death” a reality, free from pain and suffering. The decision to put your much-loved pet to sleep will likely be one of the hardest you will ever have to make. Sadly, it is a decision that most pet owners do have to make, as it is quite rare for a dog or cat to die peacefully in their sleep. It can be very difficult to know when the time has come to say goodbye, especially when we so desperately want them to stay.

One of the most important factors to consider is your pet’s quality of life, essentially are they feeling happy and taking enjoyment from life: Some signs to look out for are:

  • Changes to their breathing, eating and drinking
  • Difficultly walking or standing
  • Excessive panting or shaking
  • Persistent crying or yelping
  • Changes to their toileting habits
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Regular vomiting
  • Changes in behaviour, becoming withdrawn or quiet
  • Avoiding human contact and activities they once loved

It is always important to consult your Vet about any concerns you may have as soon as you are able, as some signs of old age such as arthritis, can be treated effectively and lead to many more happy years together.  However, in some cases your Vet may no longer be able to keep your cat or dog comfortable with medication, and you might have to consider having them put to sleep.

If your pet has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, such as cancer, and their condition is only going to get worse, euthanasia may well be the kindest option. In these cases, euthanasia can prevent unnecessary suffering and provide a peaceful end to their life.

Choosing euthanasia will never be an easy thing to do, but the important thing to remember is to look at it from your pet’s point of view.  Talk to your Vet, your family and friends, and trust your own instincts as no one knows your pet better than you do.  Simply put, it is usually a question of whether your dog or cat is having more bad days than good.  It is normal to agonise over the decision, and to feel guilt over whether it might be too early or too late, this is part of the grieving process and is natural, because you care so much.

There is a very useful tool to evaluate quality of life, created by The Ohio State University. It is used by Vets and owners alike, and allows us to step back a little from our emotions to understand how our pets are really doing. It can be reassuring to use the tool and find that things are not as bad as we feared.  It also allows you to track quality of life as old age progresses.

You can download a copy of the questionnaire here.


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