Deciding When It’s Time: Euthanasia and Your Pet

Euthanasia is the hardest decision a pet owner may have to make.  Due to the difficult nature of the decision, we often have owners ask how they are to know when is the right time to put their pet to sleep. This is a very personal decision, and it is based on your pet’s quality of life. We can put an end to suffering for our pets who are ill or in pain, something we cannot do for our human family members.  Here’s some of the frequent advice I give:

Think about (at most) three things your dog needs to do to have a GOOD day.  For some pets, it means they will need to eat a full meal without prompting.  For others, it means they must be able to run around the yard or walk upstairs to the bedroom unassisted.  If your pet can’t have a good day, it may be time.
Consider that if your pet is ill, if you can’t handle the next thing which might happen, it may be time.  Example, if your pet isn’t eating well, this means they will start to lose weight.  It’s OK if you don’t want to see your pet looking wasted and weak.  Or if your pet can’t make it outside anymore, they may start urinating or defecating on themselves.  These are things that often can tilt the scales for a decision to euthanize.
The phrase I often use as a touchstone in these situations was given to me by a fellow veterinarian when my own pet was diagnosed with a terminal illness.  “Better a week early than a day late.”  We often see owners regret allowing a pet to suffer for too long.  I’ve never seen a pet owner regret putting an animal down who they knew had suffering in his or her future.

Euthanasia means “easy death.”  We pride ourselves on helping animals with minimal stress or discomfort.  If you want more information on the euthanasia process or want to talk to a veterinarian about your pet’s quality of life, don’t hesitate to contact us.

written by Sandra J. Platt VMD