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Not sure if this is the right time?

The human-animal bond develops differently for everyone, but for many of us the loss, or impending loss, of what is considered a member of the family, is heartbreaking. Their lives are shorter than ours and at some stage we will experience this loss.

For anyone witnessing a decline in the quality of their pet’s life, whether through illness, age, or pain, this is a very distressing time. Many owners wish their pet can pass away suddenly in their sleep when it is time. In my experience this rarely happens, and we elect euthanasia to avoid prolonged suffering.

But when is the right time? If we extend their life as long as we can, we may end up with a major, sudden deterioration, resulting in an emergency vet visit. The pet is often very distressed, as is the owner, and these experiences of panic form the last memories of their loved one. Alternatively, make your pet’s quality of life as good as you can, then choose the time of euthanasia that will spare them the pain or distress around the corner.

Many conditions affect quality of life. For example, pain – some conditions such as bone tumours, severe arthritis etc. are known to be overtly painful. Dogs and cats will rarely whine in pain and rarely go off their food, but will show a reluctance to get up to greet someone at the door, limp, shorten their walk, or reduce their activity. Terminal medical conditions (eg kidney failure and cancer), age and degenerative conditions (eg dementia, spinal disease) and sometimes caregiver limitations (illness, death, or financial constraints).

As a rule of thumb, in assessing Quality of Life, consider if your pet is:


Navigating and enjoying the environment

Is comfortable

Is able to toilet appropriately and maintain their dignity and hygiene


Is able to eat and drink independently


Has reasonable cognitive abilities – doesn’t lose sense of where they are


Be mobile – able to get up and down without the risk of falling

Have joy in their daily activities

Of course, not every day will be the same. As pets age, they may have a day they don’t feel like a walk and they may need a change in medication or nursing care, but if there is a trend that there are more bad days than good days, or their good days are not as good as they used to be, think about their quality of life.
It is a difficult decision and one I can help you with, but I always believe that, in the end, you will know. The decision will not be easy, but you make it because you love them. It will come with a terrible sadness, but you will know.


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