When is the right time to put my dog down?
Is it too soon?
Did I wait too long?
Making the choice to euthanize a beloved pet is one of the most difficult things we'll ever have to do. Relieving their suffering by helping them pass peacefully is a great gift, but one that may come wrapped in doubt, confusion, and guilt. Sometimes we "just know" when it's time, or there's a very clear point of decline that makes the decision for you.
For pets with slowly-progressing illnesses, or are very old without a specific ailment, it can be much harder to make that call. Taking a holistic approach to determining your pet's quality of life helps you evaluate physical, emotional, and behavioral changes. Always consult with your veterinarian to diagnose issues, evaluate your pet's needs, and create a plan of action. Understanding how a certain disease progresses will help you know what to look for, and you'll be better equipped to determine your pet's quality of life.
You're with your pet every day; you know their routines, and can best determine what's "normal" or not.
Armed with data, professional help, and your own intuition, you can be better equipped to make the best decisions for your pet.
Think about your pet's favorite activities, favorite foods or treats, and what a typical day looked like when he was healthy. How does that compare with today?
Questions to evaluate your dog or cat's quality of life:
- Does he seem to enjoy his life, or does he appear depressed?
- Is he interested in playing or interacting with you like he used to?
- Has he been eating and drinking normally, or is he refusing food?
- Can he walk or stand without assistance?
- Is he able to get himself to the potty area and eliminate comfortably?
- Is he trembling or panting, even when resting?
- Does he seem anxious or afraid?
- Is he showing signs of pain?
- Do current treatments cause undue stress?
- Does he seem to be breathing ok, or is it more labored?
- Has anything changed abruptly, or has he been declining over time?
- Is he having more good days than bad?
How are YOU doing?
- Are you able to meet your pet's needs?
- How well are you coping with the impending loss?
- Can you realistically afford continual treatments or medications?
It's our responsibility to do what's best for our pets, from the moment we bring them home, to the moment we say goodbye. Delaying the inevitable because we don't want to let them go may cause unnecessary suffering.
Enlist some help
It can be difficult to do this on your own, and there's no shame in asking for help.
Many veterinarians offer quality-of-life assessments, or even hospice care plans. Getting a professional opinion will help you understand the options and make informed decisions.
You might consider animal communication to gain some guidance and peace of mind. It's not for everyone, but learning what your pet may be feeling, or whether they're ready to pass on, can help you feel more confident.
Even asking a trusted friend or family member for their opinion can bring clarity. Someone who doesn't see your pet every day can more easily notice a decline in their appearance and demeanor.
Document their days
Things can change day by day, so carry a small notebook or use a smartphone app to quickly jot down anything that seems out of the ordinary. Look at a week or two worth of data to get an idea of whether they're improving, declining, or staying the same.
Free Quality of Life Scales you can use: