Saying Goodbye to Your Pet

The decision to put your beloved pet to sleep, known as euthanasia, can be one of the hardest decisions you will ever have to make.

Although it is a very personal decision, it does not need to be a solitary one. At VetHQ, we are here to help you understand your pet’s condition, and decide on what is best for your pet, but also for you and your family, when the time comes.

In what circumstances is euthanasia appropriate?

Euthanasia may be appropriate in a number of circumstances. These include chronic illness, where the animal no longer has good quality of life; a sudden (acute) injury or illness that is likely to result in death or severe disability; or an injury or illness that cannot be treated, or requires more care, or money, than you and your family can provide.

In some cases, euthanasia may be considered for medically “healthy” animals in situations where a pet has become vicious or dangerous, and there is a fear of harm to you or your loved ones.

Does my pet have good quality of life?

The quality of life of your pet is an indication of how much they enjoy living. Unfortunately there is no concrete checklist that distinguishes “good” from “poor” quality of life. It will be very individual for your pet. We use a combination of veterinary and owner experience of a pet’s normal behavior and characteristics to make this decision. We must consider physical traits such as pain (often extrapolated from similar human conditions), as well as psychological factors such as ability to interact with owners and overall demeanor (“happiness”).

It is important to consider a pet’s quality of life rather than his/her length of life. We don’t just want animals to live for a long time, we want them to live happy lives where they are able to do some (if not all) of the things they enjoy.

How will I know when it’s the “right” time?

One way to consider the timing of euthanasia is to ask a number of questions:

  • Is there anything that can be done to make my pet more comfortable (eg with medications) and am I willing to do it?
  • Is my pet still able to enjoy the things they previously enjoyed?
  • Is my pet having more bad days than good?
  • Has my veterinarian recommended euthanasia, or discussed it as an option?
  • Is it possible my pet will deteriorate suddenly, and distressingly, if I leave the decision too late?
  • Is there a “line in the sand” that would be the final straw to you deciding (eg loss of appetite, loss of joy in seeing familiar people, not wanting to go for a walk, unable to go for a walk)? This is usually something to discuss with family, so that you are all in agreeance when the time comes.

Remember to take yourselves into account too. Even though you want what is right for your pet, your own quality of life is just as important. Sometimes this means making the decision before you might otherwise, and that is okay too. Try not to feel guilty about considering your own needs in conjunction with your pets.

How can a vet help me?

Your vet can examine and evaluate your pet’s condition, estimate the chances for recovery, and discuss any potential disabilities, special needs and long-term problems associated with their specific illness/injury. We can also explain medical and surgical options as well as risks and possible outcomes, to help you make your decision.

Vets can give you an idea as to whether considering euthanasia is appropriate or fair in the circumstances, but the ultimate decision is up to you.

Your vet will talk you through the process, cost and cremation services available.

My experience with euthanasia

I personally see euthanasia as a very kind end to the love and life of our pets. It is a very peaceful, pain free passing. Although the decision seems almost impossible at the time, it is often the kindest thing we can do for our beloved pets when the time comes.

If you are considering putting your pet to sleep, you may wish to make an appointment with one of our vets to discuss quality of life, or to organize an in-clinic or home euthanasia that is as stress free as possible for you and your beloved pet. We are with you every step of the way.

Resources

  • “How Do I know When It’s Time” – A Quality of Life scale from Ohio State University that I often hand out to clients who are considering euthanasia
  • Pets and People – A support network for grieving pet owners in Australia

Dr Liz Rowland BVSc (Hons I)