Euthanization, or “putting a pet to sleep” as it is commonly called, is a gift of kindness when a pet is suffering or not enjoying a good quality of life. Making the decision and then knowing “when” to choose euthanasia are among the most difficult decisions we, as pet owners, must make. These are individual decisions and often there is no right or wrong answer.
One of the key factors in making the decision is determining when your pet’s quality of life is significantly diminishing with little to no chance of improvement. Since our pets cannot speak, we must evaluate their quality of life by the changes we see in their behaviors. Illness and/or aging often compromise a pet’s ability to perform normal everyday functions and the ability to participate in their favorite activities. You know your pet and his or her habits better than anyone else so you are ultimately the best judge. However, we are here to help you through the decision-making process and may be able to assist you in objectively evaluating your pet’s health and well-being. Answering the questions below may help you gauge your pet’s quality of life:
- Is your pet able to participate in his or her favorite activities?
- Is your pet eating and drinking normally?
- Is your pet able to urinate and defecate normally? If assistance is needed, do you have the time and physical ability to do this?
- Is your pet coughing or having breathing problems?
- Is your pet in pain or having difficulty moving?
- If your pet is having any of the above problems, has he or she been examined by your veterinarian to determine if there are treatable causes?
- Are treatments or medications no longer helpful?
- Is your pet wanting less contact with you, your family, and/or the other pets in your home?
- Has your pet been diagnosed as suffering from an illness or disease in which recovery is not likely?
- Is your pet having fewer ‘good days’ than ‘bad days’? When bad days outnumber good days, quality of life is often compromised. Keeping a daily record is helpful.
Quality of life and pain scales (see links below) are also valuable resources in assessing when saying a gentle goodbye may be the best thing for your pet.
Quality of Life Scales
Finally, another important consideration in your decision-making process is the impact your pet’s declining health and abilities is having upon you and your family. You should not feel guilty if you can not meet the physical or financial needs of your pet as his or her health and/or aging issues progress.