It’s that time of year again, the snow has fallen, it’s getting darker earlier, and the houses are brightly decorated. It is also the season of pet euthanasia. In my experiences I have always noticed a spike of them around the holidays, I have never been for certain why this seems to the the case, is it because its cold and older pets are having a harder time getting around, is it the stresses of the holidays, is it because the family is all home? I really don’t know, but I have some tips to help you decide when it may be time to say good bye to your beloved.
First off, I have NEVER had a client tell me they wish they would have waited longer, in fact many people at the end tell me they wish they would have done it a few days sooner. In my experience euthanasia is the last kindness we can give to our pets, we have the ability to end a series of never ending suffering.
Keep track of the good days, try not to focus on the bad days. Bad days seem to stick out in our memories more clearly so we need to figure out, are there really more bad days than good days, or is that just our perception. Buy a calendar and put a gold sticker on the good days. What does a good day look like? Ultimately that has to be up to you, a good rule of thumb is to think of 3 things your pet LOVES to do. Were they able to do those things? Did they soil themselves or soil in the house? Were they able to move around comfortably?
We usually discuss quality of life in the later years of our pets lives. What I think is often overlooked is your quality of life. And it is not selfish, if you as the caregiver are stressed it is not a good situation for anyone involved. If you are turning down invites from the people in your life because you are afraid to leave your pet alone to long because they will have an potty accident or they will be too stressed it may be time to consider your quality of life. Obviously we all want to do everything for our fur babies, but at some point we have to consider our own life as well.
Food and water. If they are no longer interested in eating or drinking, this is a huge sign. Yes, o course some illnesses cause our pets to stop eating for a short period, but if you are using medications to get your pet to eat every day for days on end, it might be time to consider if that is really worth it. Food is a pleasurable thing for every one and when you can’t do that one thing its not much of a life.
Pain. There are many wonderful medications we can use to help pain in pets, I encourage people to let their pets have them. We all want to live a pain free life! But when those pain medications stop working, or you are needing an excessive amount to control the pain, its probably time to let go. That is a gift we can give them, we can completely take their pain away.
Soiling themselves or in the house. If your cat can’t make it to the litter box anymore because they are too weak or in too much pain, or your dog can’t make it outside anymore, your rat or other small critter is soiling them selves, it is time to consider the end times. Nobody wants to sit in their own waste, not even animals. Especially domestic pets that are trained to go in a specific place, it is embarrassing for them to have accidents. And when they lose control of their bowel and bladders they don’t want to have to wear a diaper, they are uncomfortable and can be a source of skin irritation and/or infection.
The best thing you can do is find a veterinary clinic you trust. Veterinarians and their support staff are there to help you through good times and bad. We completely understand how much you love your animals and we want to make sure that any decision you make for them is the right one. Most likely every one in the clinic has been through it personally and can help you through that very tough, but very loving decision.