When is it Time to Say Goodbye to My Pet?

by | Jul 13, 2023

Knowing When The Time Is Right

Knowing When The Time Is Right

This can be difficult and complicated. It is important to consider your pet’s overall comfort and quality of life. Review the medical care options and your ability to provide for their daily care. Often, deciding when the time is right is a process of understanding and acceptance.

The uncertainty and struggle are in finding the balance between keeping the pet for as long as possible and letting it go with some dignity before unnecessary suffering. When the balance is unclear, even slightly, then we become indecisive for fear of making a wrong irreversible decision. Sometimes when a pet’s health improves for even a moment, we may feel guilty for thinking we needed to say goodbye now. So, by default, we make no decision or keep putting it off until there can be no doubt, and this risks prolonging suffering. We all agonise with understanding and then accepting when the battle is finally over.

Things to consider include:

  • the amount of pain and/or distress your pet is in
  • any mobility concerns for your pet and also your personal physical ability to manoeuvre medium to large breed dogs
  • a change in appetite and/or weight
  • the ability to express joy, interest, and playfulness
  • having more unpleasant days than good ones
  • your pet’s ability to withstand continued treatment and therapy
  • affordability concerns associated with medical treatments
  • hygiene considerations including loss of toilet training, diarrhoea, vomiting, etc.
  • your family’s ability to devote the time and care needed to give medication, frequently visit the veterinary practice, etc. due to work and other schedules or commitments
  • the emotional impact on family members, especially if someone has had a similar experience

Everyone hopes for perfect timing, but this is normally unachievable, and when no more options are available to prevent suffering, euthanasia becomes the kindest choice, done earlier rather than later.

It is better to have a plan worked out when you are not emotionally conflicted, and having some benchmarks to guide decisions is often helpful e.g. walks and exercise are no longer possible, tendencies to fall/collapse, when eating is difficult, when there is loss of awareness of their owners and surroundings, mental health including confusion and anxiety, incontinence (both faecal and/or urinary) which is often distressing for the pet, unpleasant for owners, and is unhygienic.

At-Home Euthanasia Dog and Woman embracing

While the pet continues to eat, drink and toilet, there may be a feeling of a need to continue with treatments and efforts to sustain life and it can be easy to lose sight of what is best for pets and unconsciously be blind to the suffering. Many people hope to wake up in the morning to find their pet has died in their sleep, rather than have to make the choice to let it go and “be put to sleep.”

Sometimes, even with all the facts at hand, it can still be difficult to know when the time is right. There may be conflict within your family and other caregivers regarding when the time is right for euthanasia. Think about what is important to you, your pet, and everyone who loves them.

If euthanasia is not acceptable because of religious, spiritual, or personal preferences, talk with your veterinary practice team about animal hospice care. Many decisions usually need to be made going forward and your veterinary team is there to help guide and support you through this difficult process.

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