It's not easy to say goodbye to cherished pets, even those that have lived long, happy lives. Although you may hate the thought of life without your pet, euthanasia can be the kindest decision you can make when your friend is suffering.
Making the Decision
If your pet has been seriously injured in a horrible accident and is not expected to recover, euthanasia is clearly the most humane option. The choice is not always so clear in other situations. Ups and downs are common when pets suffer from chronic diseases, which can make the decision more difficult.
Evaluating Quality of Life
Does your pet still enjoy life, despite the illness or condition? If your pet is in constant pain or discomfort, despite medical treatment, and does not seem to get any enjoyment out of life, it may be time to consider euthanasia. Signs that your pet may have a poor quality of life include:
Pain That Cannot Be Controlled with Medication. In many cases, pets can continue to enjoy life if their pain is relieved by medications. When medication no longer helps, it may be the right time for euthanasia. If you have difficulty gauging the pain level, ask your pet's veterinarian for input.
Constant Gastrointestinal Issues. As your pet becomes sicker, vomiting and diarrhea can become daily occurrences. Not surprisingly, these issues can cause your furry friend to lose weight and become dehydrated and lethargic.
Difficulty Breathing. Is every breath a struggle for your pet? Trouble breathing can be very uncomfortable and even painful.
No Interest in Favorite Activities. Seriously ill pets often lose interest in their favorite activities, such as playing fetch, taking walks through the neighborhood or snuggling up next to you on the couch.
Prognosis. Have you talked to your pet's veterinarian about his or her prognosis? In some cases, even aggressive treatment will not save your companion, but will prolong suffering. When your pet's prognosis is poor, euthanasia can prevent unnecessary suffering.
Incontinence: At some point, a seriously ill pet may no longer to control its bladder or bowels.
Inability to Walk: As your pet becomes weaker, walking can become an issue. Mobility can also be an issue if a stroke or other condition affects your pet's hind legs. Slings can help older dogs get up and navigate short distances and specialty designed wheelchairs can help pets with limb immobility and may be a good choice if your pet is in otherwise good health – be sure to ask your vet about options.
Who Should Be Involved in the Decision?
Including all family members or other members of your household in the decision can prevent hurt feelings during an already emotional time. Explain that your pet will not recover from the illness or condition and is suffering, despite the excellent care you have provided. Even younger children can be involved in the discussion if you use age appropriate language. Although immediate euthanasia may be needed to prevent suffering in severe circumstances, the procedure can be delayed long enough to allow enough time for everyone who cares about your pet to say goodbye in most situations.
What Happens Next?
After you make the decision, you will need to contact your pet's veterinarian to make arrangements and ask any questions you may have regarding euthanasia including at-home options. You will also want to consider burial and cremation options.
Are you facing a difficult decision regarding your pet's health? Call Happy Tails Emergency Vet and we can help you consider all of the options.
American Humane: Euthanasia: Making the Decision
The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement: Euthanasia of a Beloved Pet
ASPCA: End of Life Care