This is most likely the hardest decision that any pet owner will ever have to face with regards to the care of their pets. The most difficult part about this question is that there is seldom a right or wrong answer, but more a feeling that your loved one is suffering. As I face this decision about one of my own pets, I would like to share some of the things I consider in deciding when is the right time to say goodbye.
It is important to remember that by definition euthanasia means “a good death”. We are trying to help our pets by relieving their suffering when considering euthanasia. Most of the time, euthanasia is considered only in terminal cases or where the treatment may be very prolonged/painful and the prognosis is poor.
The hardest part is deciding how much suffering is too much. Sometimes it is clear, but in other cases, pets will seem to have good days and bad days. As a rule of thumb, if the bad days outnumber the good days, you should have a consultation with your veterinarian to consider euthanasia. If your pet is on pain medications and they no longer seem to be working, then this is another indicator that quality of life is deteriorating. Many pets have a passion in life, whether it is their favorite toy or treat or it is following their person around. If your pet no longer finds joy in their passion, it is probably time to say good bye.
As veterinarians, we are here to help you come to this decision, and to guide you through to process. We often have quality of life consultations, which are aimed at determining if/when it is time to consider euthanasia or if there is more we can do to provide relief. We are here to help, but ultimately, as the person who spends the most time with your pet, your evaluation in their quality of life is going to play the biggest role in deciding the right time. Making the decision to euthanize your beloved pet is one of the most unselfish decisions you can make. The last gift that we can give to our beloved pets is to not prolong their suffering and give them a peaceful end.
- Jacquie Preston, DVM