It's hard to know when it's time to say goodbye to your pet through pet euthanasia.

As pet owners, some of the hardest decisions we ever make are surrounding end of life care for our pets. Sadly, pets never outlive us – so these are conversations and decisions we will all at some point have to face.

Knowing when it’s time to say goodbye to your pet is difficult as well because, of course, our pets can’t talk. It would be so much easier if our beloved friend could say, “it’s okay, I’m ready.” Since we regularly hear the question, “how will I know when it’s time to say goodbye?” we thought it would be a good time to give some guidelines and thoughts on making this difficult decision.

How to Decide When to Say Goodbye to Your Pet

If you’ve been through the decision before, you know that ultimately euthanasia can be a great gift for your pet to prevent suffering. It’s a peaceful passing and we will always help you to prepare, plan, and give your pet the last months, weeks, or days that you wish.

All that said, here are some general guidelines that we have learned over the years as we treat and ease suffering for our animal patients.

Every pet, illness, and situation is different – sometimes, your pet experiences a medical crisis, and the decision to end their suffering is clear. Other times, you and your pet have been battling a known disease, such as cancer or degenerative myelopathy. In these situations, you may benefit from asking your veterinarian at Blue Valley Animal Hospital about the specific disease or injury and what your pet may face in the future. Other times, seeking input from a trusted friend or family member who is not so emotionally involved as you can give you perspective on what is really happening with your pet.

Questions to ask yourself – as with many important decisions, it’s good to take some time to ask yourself some important questions to make sure you’re on the right path. Some questions you may ask yourself are:

  • Why do I think it might be time to euthanize?
  • What fears or concerns do I have about euthanasia?
  • Whose interests, besides those of my pet, am I taking into account?
  • What are the concerns of the people around me?
  • Am I making this decision because it’s in the best interest of my pet, or am I waiting to euthanize because I am not ready to let go?

Assess Your Pet’s Quality of Life

You may have heard this advice before, but how, exactly do you know if your pet has a good or a poor quality of life?

You may like to start with these exercises:

Five things – write down the top 5 things you pet loves to do. Play ball? Run with you? Perch on their cat tree and pounce on their toys? If your pet is no longer doing (or able to do) the things he loves, it may be time to let go.

Pain and suffering – animals are masters at hiding pain, but if your pet is unwell it’s important to know. You can determine your pet may be in pain from the following signs:

  • Hides and/or avoids human interaction
  • Trembles or shakes
  • Cries out or wimpers spontaneously or when touched
  • Avoids moving around or reluctant to get up
  • Diminished appetite
  • Not grooming regularly
  • Has difficulty sleeping or resting

Increasing frequency or severity of these signs indicates that pain need to be addressed. Mild or moderate pain can be addressed by your veterinarian with medications and other therapies, but if pain symptoms persist with treatment, it may be time to consider euthanasia.

Good days and bad days – we all have good days and bad days. But it can be difficult to see how your pet is progressing if they have both good and bad days (where they are not feeling well). Use your calendar to track these, and it becomes clear if your pet is having more bad days than good.

Unfortunately, there often isn’t a clear sign that helps you know when it’s time to say goodbye to your pet. Sometimes your own physical, financial and emotional resources can impact your ability to care for a pet reaching their end of life. Reaching out to us and your friends and family can help you objectively sort out your options. Ultimately, you are the one who knows your pet the best, so trust yourself that you know the right time for your situation.

Remember too that pets live in the present moment. They don’t spend time thinking about the good days behind them, or ponder what they might do with more time. All they know is how they feel right now. Thinking this way can help you to see life through your pet’s eyes, and in the end, that’s the most important thing to think about.