When It’s Time

Discussing when to say goodbye to your pet is the most important conversation a veterinarian ever has with a family. Empathy, openness, and compassion are at the heart of what we do. It is an honor and a privilege for us to be able to be with your pet and your family during this difficult time.

By now you have probably heard the term “quality of life”. This can be subjective and is dependent on your pet’s experience, personality, and your personal beliefs.
Just like humans, every pet will experience and react to changes differently. This is also highly dependent on the disease at hand, which is why in-depth discussions with your veterinarian are important.

Making the decision to euthanize a pet can be overwhelming. It is easy to forget euthanasia is something that, when used appropriately and timely, prevents further physical suffering for the pet and emotional suffering of the family. Making the actual decision is the hardest part of the experience.

As veterinarian professionals, our job is to assist your family in the decision-making. There is no perfect moment in which to make that ultimate choice. Rather, there is a subjective time period in which euthanasia is an appropriate decision to make. This period could be hours, days, weeks, or even months. Before this period of time veterinarians may refuse to euthanize a pet because a good quality of life still exists. After this period, however, may push for euthanasia due to obvious sustained suffering. During this larger subjective time it is truly dependent on the family to make whatever decision is best for them. Some owners need time to come to terms with the decline of their pet while others want to prevent any unnecessary suffering.

Pain is one of the most important topics that we discuss regarding euthanasia. Animals do not have an emotional attachment to their pain like we do. Your pet doesn’t know they have a terminal illness, and thus have a very different reaction to a cancer diagnosis for example, than people.

Often, anxiety is worse than pain in animals. When discussing the decision to euthanize, we should be just as concerned about anxiety in our pet as we are about pain. These signs of anxiety usually appear worse at night. The body is telling the dog that he is no longer at the top of the food chain; he has been demoted and if he lies down, he will become someone else’s dinner.

Occasionally pets peacefully fall asleep and pass naturally on their own, but just as in humans, this is rare. Many owners fear their pet “passing alone” while others do not. Some families decide to let their pet pass on their own. Inevitably, most people regret doing this. A natural death can be difficult to watch, most people can watch a human family member in pain much more easily than they can their pet. We can talk other humans through physical pain or discomfort, but there is no comforting a suffering animal. For this reason, we do our very best to suggest euthanasia when appropriate, and prepare families for a worst-case scenario should they chose to wait.

You may call us or email us at either clinic or fill out a form to request an appointment on our website.

Unfortunately death is difficult to predict; but the more notice you can give us, the better we can accommodate your schedule and your pets. Remember that we want to make the process as peaceful as possible.