Goodbye My Friend
At home pet euthanasia services

How Do I Know It's Time?

Making the decision to euthanize one's pet is painful, heartbreaking and often the hardest choice that a pet owner is faced with.  Through the past 13 years, I have helped hundreds of families through this decision making process.  There are no right or wrong answers, there is no "perfect" time.  When I was an emergency/critical care resident I had to make this decision for my own cat, Midnight, who had both hyperthyriodism and chronic renal failure.  I had always hoped that he would pass away in his sleep and I would come home to find him curled up on my bed.  This was not the case.  I came home from my night shift and found him in the same spot that he had been in when I left 15 hours before.  He had barely touched his food and was too weak to walk to the litter box.  When he didn't lift his head when I arrived home, I knew it was time.  For Midnight, my decision was an easy one.  For some pets, it may not be as clear.  Below are critia I often recommend my clients to take into account when making their decisions.

                                                                                                                                                                                         Dr. Jenny Rutan





Lack of happiness

Pain

Loss of mobility

Loss of housebreaking

Respiratory difficulty

Not eating or drinking

Progressive weight loss

Disease progressed beyond medical or surgical management

Severe behavioral disorders

Uncontrollable vomiting or diarrhea

Severe trauma

Pet having more bad days than good days

Stress of caring for pet or financial hardship impacts family's ability to care for pet

 

Is my pet happy?
    Does your pet enjoy the things she/he used to?  I don't expect an older pet to walk as far as they used to, run as fast, or play as much as when they were younger.  As pets age, it is common for them to slow down.  If they still enjoy walks, being with the family, socializing, and your affection they still often have a good quality of life.  For pets that refuse to participate in what they used to enjoy, seclude themselves away from the family or do not want to be touched, they may have a serious underlying condition or pain.

How do I know if my pet is in pain?
    By nature, most pets are very good at hiding pain.  Even though we have domesticated our fuzzy friends, the tendency to hide illness from others is still ingrained.  Common signs of pain are hiding, lameness, difficulty getting up and down, restlessness, not sleeping well, excessive panting, not eating, relieving bowels in the home or where the pet is laying down.  Some pets will guard an area or try to bite when touched or picked up.  Others compulsively lick at a wound or joint.  If you believe your pet is painful and he/she is not currently under care for pain, please consult with your pet's regular veterinarian for an exam and pain management options.  There are some cases where the pet is on pain medication and either it is not effective, or the pet is having undesired side effects from the medications.  In these cases, uncontrolled pain is a significant criteria for euthanasia.

Mobility
    Mobility plays a significant role in our large breed dogs.  As they age, larger dogs may develop arthritis or spinal disease making it difficult for them to get up from the floor.  They slip on slick surfaces and may fall in uncomfortable positions.  Large dogs may be too heavy for owners to be able to pick up and help outside so they may go relieve themselves.  When these gentle giants have trouble at home, it is also difficult to bring them into the veterinarian's office for euthanasia.  It can be difficult to get them into a car and across the hospital floor.

Loss of housebreaking
    Pets may urinate and defecate in the home for numerous reasons.  Pain or inability to get to the litterbox or to the door.  Disease conditions or medications may cause the pet to drink more and produce more urine.  The pet may leak urine or not be able to make it through the night and have accidents.  In some cases, the pets will defecate or urinate and not be able to move away leading to skin infections.

Respiratory difficulty
    It is normal for dogs to pant when excited, exercising or if they are warm.  It is not common for pets to pant excessively at rest or have trouble sleeping because of difficulty breathing.  Cat do not pant unless extremely stressed.  Open mouth breathing or panting are signs of severe respiratory distress in cats.

Eating and drinking / Uncontrollable vomiting, diarrhea
    Medical conditions may cause the pet to exhibit nausea which effects the pet's ability to eat and stay hydrated.  If the pet is unable to consume enough calories or water, he/she slowly wastes away and becomes progressively weaker.  Vomiting and diarrhea lead to loss of fluids and nutrients.  Other conditions, such as cancer, also rob the pet of nutrients and they are unable to maintain weight.

Severe behavioral disorders
  Common behavioral disorders such as aggression or separation anxiety may pose a physical risk to family members, friends, other animals or the pet itself.  Some cases may be so severe that behavioral counseling and medical management is unable to help the pet be a safe addition to the home.   

Stress and financial hardship
  Pet owners love their pets.  It can be a daily strain to watch a pet in pain, not eat, not be able to walk, etc.  Stress of caring for a pet, or the responsibility of managing medical care financially can wear on a family.  There can come a time where the joy and companionship of owning a pet is lost and replaced by sadness.  For some families, the condition of the pet has a negative effect on young children or the pet may be snapping at them when approached.

More bad days than good days
  In general, if an owner truely believes that the pet is having more bad days than good days, it may be time to consider euthanasia.  If the last thought a pet owner has before bedtime is that they hope their pet passes in their sleep during the night, it may be time.






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