How to Know When It’s Time to Choose Euthanasia for Your Pet
Deciding to Euthanize Your Pet
As a fur mom of two senior felines, soon to turn 17 and 13, it can move me to tears to even think about the end of their lives. Having been through the sudden death of our nine-year-old cat just two years ago, I know the grief of pet loss all too well. We did choose euthanasia for Shadow when it was clear he was in agonizing pain from heart disease and wasn’t going to recover. It seemed like the only choice we could really make.
With the current older kitty residents, Angel and Little Boy, I’m assuming the decision will come down to old age and quality-of-life issues rather than the sudden onset of an illness. However, Angel did become suddenly ill this winter and we, once again, had to face the euthanasia decision. We didn’t expect her to recover at age 16 1/2, but she sure surprised us!
I researched euthanasia options at the time and decided on in-home euthanasia. I even contacted a place and talked about Angel’s situation. While it turns out that we didn’t need their services, I know this is what I will go with when the time does come. In the meantime, I would like to share with you what I learned when I researched how to know when it’s time to choose humane euthanasia for your pet.
If there’s one thing all pet lovers can agree on, it’s that our faithful companions just don’t live long enough. It seems like you just brought that little puppy or kitten home and now it’s many years later, and it’s clear his quality of life is suffering. Is it time to pursue humane euthanasia?
Factors to Consider in the Euthanasia Decision
Your veterinarian can help you evaluate your options and the quality of life of your pet, but he or she should never try to make the decision for you. Below are several questions to ask yourself that can point you in the right direction. It won’t be an easy process, but in the end, you will feel more confident that you’re making the right choice for your beloved pet.
- Does your pet suffer from chronic pain that doesn’t get better with treatment, including prescription medication and alternative therapies?
- Has your veterinarian told you that she has a terminal illness? Do you expect this to be a calm time or one filled with pain and suffering?
- Can he no longer control certain body functions? For example, a dog who can’t navigate the stairs or a cat who is no longer able to jump to his favorite perch both have a reduced quality of life. Difficulty with elimination is also common.
- Will the treatments available only prolong her suffering, or do you expect them to improve her quality of life?
- Are your pet’s gums discolored? This indicates a lack of oxygen.
- Can you afford the estimated cost of treatment? While it might not seem right to bring money into it, prolonging your pet’s life for a few months can leave you with bills to pay for the next several years.
One of the most difficult things to determine is whether you are acting in your pet’s best interest or your own. You have loved him for 10, 15, or even 20 years and saying good-bye is more painful than you ever imagined. It’s only natural that you want to avoid that type of grief. However, there comes a time when you have to put his right to pass peacefully ahead of your own desire to hold on.
Decide What Brings Joy to Your Pet’s Life
Another thing that can be helpful in the euthanasia decision is to write down several things that make your pet’s life a happy one. For cats, it might include snuggling up with their favorite people, watching the birds outside, and batting around a toy mouse. A list for dogs could include going on long walks, riding in the car, and playing fetch. Write down as many activities as you can think of that give your pet a high quality of life.
After completing your list, assess how many of these things your dog or cat can still do without struggling. The inability to walk normally, jump, or see a toy clearly would eliminate all of the above items. If you end up crossing off more than half of the list, your pet’s quality of life is quite poor. At this point, making the decision to euthanize is the most loving thing you can do.
Sad Update on Angel and a Recommendation for In-Home Euthanasia
Our 17-year-old kitty finally succumbed to old age and the effects of cancer, which we didn't know she had until last week. After hearing that she had incurable lymphoma and watching her struggle to walk, seeing her drop almost half her body weight in the past few years, refusing to eat, and crying out in pain, we knew it was time to say good-bye.
An in-home euthanasia service came to our house on September 4, 2019. My husband, two young adult daughters, and I had the chance to say good-bye in privacy and we didn't have to cause additional stress for an ailing, elderly cat by putting her in the car and taking her to the vet. It was extremely sad, yet peaceful and beautiful at the same time. She didn't suffer at all, and the suffering that had gotten so bad over the last week was over for her.
Angel was the sweetest cat ever and we will never forget her. July 2002- September 2019.
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© 2019 Lisa Kroulik