Pet Euthanasia– Knowing When It’s Time

Pet Euthanasia– Knowing When It’s TimeI was having a discussion with our office manager, Lisa, the other day. Her longtime friend and family dog, Monty, had recently died. I mentioned the fact that many of us at Longwood Veterinary Center had lost pets over the previous year, myself included. For the first time in 16 years, our family was without a Corgi as our final two had passed away just months before. Lisa smiled at me sadly and said, “Not a club I’m happy to be a member of.” I had to agree, it was a membership I had no interest in either. Seeing that we are in February, a cold and snowy month with a Hallmark holiday smack in the middle where we yearn for spring but take the time to appreciate those we love and care for, it seemed appropriate to talk about what it means to love and to lose a pet.

Providing Basic Care for Our Pets

When we first bring a new pet home, be it a puppy, kitten or more mature animal, we focus our minds on the immediate needs of our new friend. Most of us do not worry about the tough decisions we may be forced to make about that pet in the future, such as pet euthanasia. Early on in your pet’s life we focus on health management practices and a lifestyle that will extend the time spent with the new pet. Routine exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, providing dental care, staying up to date on vaccines, and providing preventative medications and yearly exams is crucial to their early care. Socialization and ensuring your pet knows basic commands, such as calmly walking on leash, make your pet more enjoyable to be around, and a more engaged and appreciated member of the family.

Our Pets As They Grow Older

As our pets begin to age, our focus begins to shift. Although we continue to provide good preventative care, we also begin to worry about how comfortable they are. We begin to notice and worry about changes in their behavior or habits. During these years, veterinary visits and input become even more important. We try to slow down the passage of time, and keep our pets happy and pain free. We monitor blood work at least yearly, and notify our veterinarians if we have any concerns.

Ultimately, and all too quickly, time marches on and our pets advance into old age. We focus on their comfort, and making life easier for them. Our walks are slower, and time spent together eases into a place of calm and quiet. More emphasis is spent on “being” than “doing.” Inevitably, we are faced with the decision of whether or not to put our pets to sleep.

I never viewed this as a bad thing, difficult yes, but ultimately the final and most important act of love we can show our pets. Making the decision to euthanize a pet involves input from many sources, and often requires a soul-searching analysis and honest assessment of your pet’s quality of life. Sometimes there are acute, life threatening issues that give one little choice but to put an older pet to sleep. Usually, however, the opposite is true. We find ourselves faced with a pet that is slowly fading, and no longer responding to treatment for certain chronic diseases or can no longer be kept comfortable.

Longwood Vet is Here to Support You

What information do you need to help you decide when “the time has come” for a dear old friend? In part, the decision will be made from a gut instinct on your part. Remember, no one knows your pet better than you do. An honest assessment about your pet’s comfort and quality of life is critical. Does your pet struggle to comfortably engage in activities you both once loved? Do they sleep all the time because they are no longer comfortable walking around? Do they still desire to spend time with family or do they often isolate themselves? Is your pet frequently missing meals or eating much less than normal? Financial concerns and time constraints must also factor into your decision. Honestly, can you afford to treat your pet’s cancer or other chronic disease, do you have the time to dedicate to a seriously debilitated pet? If a pet has a serious, incurable disease, sometimes the kindest care you can give them is humane pet euthanasia. Being honest with yourself about your situation is so important.

When the time comes, you can count on the fact that we will be there for you. At any point along the way our doctors will be happy to meet with you and your pet, set realistic expectations for treatment and prognosis, and give you our honest opinion based upon personal experience and compassion. There is nothing more wonderful than sharing your life with a pet. There is nothing more difficult than losing them. Keeping their best interests at heart is the truest act of love and the best gift we can give them.

–Dr. Corrina Snook Parsons