Pets -- they’re here for a good time, not a long time. As difficult as it might be to accept, the majority of pet owners will outlive their pets and, in cases where the pet becomes sick or debilitated, will have to make that final call to bring a pet’s life to an end. It’s a difficult process to go through, but it can be made a whole lot easier with honesty, pragmatism and an acceptance of advice from others.
Speak to Your Vet
Your vet will be able to give you two very important pieces of information. Firstly she’ll be able to advise on whether your pet’s health is likely to improve. Secondly, she can also make a good guess on the likely pain or discomfort your pet may experience based on his condition. Use this information to inform your own decision on when the right time to say goodbye to your pet might be. Oftentimes, the assurances from a vet that your pet is unlikely to improve are comforting, as they remove that dreadful doubt from your mind that you may be acting too hastily. Your vet will also be able to advise on whether pain medication can make your pet more comfortable.
Monitor Your Pet’s Behavior
You know your pet better than anyone else. Therefore, only you can judge whether he is truly himself. If your pet is unable to behave naturally and follow his instincts, it may be kinder to consider euthanasia. Animals can tolerate discomfort to a point, but many veterinarians recommend using the ability to perform basic natural behaviors as the determining factor for deciding on euthanasia. For example, if a dog is unable to walk, eat or relieve himself, it is typically kinder to bring his life to a peaceful, painless end rather than prolong his suffering.
Keep a Diary
All pets have days when they’re sick and, sadly, as our beloved pets age, these days become more frequent. But even in cases of chronic or terminal illness, this doesn’t necessarily mean the end is in sight. A good way of determining a pet’s quality of life is to keep a record or diary, noting the good days and the bad days. If the majority of your pet’s days are spent in pain or without the ability to behave as nature would intend, this may be the time to say goodbye. However, if your pet enjoys as many good days as bad, or perhaps more -- provided he isn’t experiencing a lot of pain -- you might consider waiting to make that decision.
Monitor Your Own Feelings
Caring for a sick pet, especially one nearing the end of his life, can have a huge emotional and financial cost. This can make an otherwise compassionate and loving pet owner agitated, irritable and high strung. It's therefore essential you ensure that caring for your pet is not having an adverse influence on your own health. Don’t be ashamed or feel guilty about considering your own feelings in this difficult scenario.
Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.