From the day you first met, you knew it was love. Whether you bring your new pet home at eight weeks old or adopt a senior pet in need of a fur-ever home, eventually your journey together will end. When you start your life together, you always plan to do what is best for your friend but with clear heads and full hearts it’s often difficult to think of the end. Having a plan in place well before the decision needs to be made can help bring peace to your family when the time comes.
One of the worst aspects to pet ownership is saying goodbye to a pet that has become a member of the family. No matter the circumstances, whether after a long battle with an illness or something unexpected, the decision to let your companion go peacefully can be agonizing. How do you know you’re making the right choice? What if you should have waited longer for him to get better? What if you waited too long? There is never an easy answer to these very emotional questions, but there are some things you can do to help come to terms with what should happen.
“Fido has always loved chasing his ball. Even after being diagnosed with cancer, he would ask to play fetch with pep in his step. Over the last few weeks, he will turn away when we try to get him to play. Fido is still eating though, so he’s not ready to be put down.” Quality of life is a very important gauge to use when making this decision. Just because your pet is going through the motions of daily life, doesn’t mean that they have the quality they once did. If you notice a decrease in your pet’s willingness to participate in once favorite activities, this could be a sign that age or illness is getting the best of them.
“I can tell that Mittens is struggling with daily life. She isn’t eating well and has trouble walking, but I’m just not ready to let her go!” Unfortunately, sometimes a beloved pet will deteriorate and nothing can be medically done to “fix” them or bring them back to an acceptable quality of life. In these circumstances, it is sometimes beneficial to ask for outside opinions. You live with your pet and may not notice the more subtle changes that happen over time. Asking a friend or family member to objectively evaluate the changes in your pet may help you appreciate the reality of the situation.
“Buster is in bad shape. I know this is the end but I would rather have him pass away peacefully at home than have him put to sleep. He never liked coming to the vet anyway.” It may get to the stage that you know your pet is at the end of their life but you may feel that letting them pass naturally at home is more humane. Sometimes an animal’s body will continue to perform the basic functions of life even if their will to carry on is gone. Regrettably, in these instances, discomfort or suffering can go unaddressed as it is expected that the pet will pass away soon. At times, the pet will hang on longer than anticipated and not have the benefit of palliative care.
Your veterinary staff can be another valuable resource in helping to make the best decision for your pet. Setting up an appointment with your pet’s doctor for a quality of life exam can be a good starting place if you are still unsure what you should do. A history on the pet’s behavior and attitude will be collected, and an objective exam will be performed. Options will be discussed if the doctor feels that your pet’s quality of life would be improved with medical management, but they will also let you know if medical management doesn’t seem like a viable option. Moving forward, the final decision is ultimately up to you, the animal’s caretaker. Still, always feel free to ask for advice from your veterinary staff. We are here to help pets (and their people!) live their best lives, including their last days.
One of the best last gifts you can give to your faithful companion is to let them rest with peace and dignity. There are several options available at our clinic to help make saying goodbye as smooth as possible. Some people don’t feel that they are able to be present when the euthanasia is performed, and some people prefer to be there until the end. Once a pet has passed away, you can take them home for burial or you have the option of private or communal cremation. If you elect private cremation, you will receive your pet’s ashes back in an urn, while with communal cremation, no remains are returned. Whatever option you choose, be assured that you and your pet will be treated with love and respect.
It is never enjoyable or easy to contemplate the end of a cherished pet’s life. It may give you peace to know what options are available well before it comes time to make that final decision. If you are concerned about your pet’s quality of life or would like more information on the end of life services available here, please don’t hesitate to call.
In memory of all the wonderful animal companions who have touched my life.
Katy – CSR