There is never a good or easy time to say goodbye to our beloved pets. It's often one of the most difficult decisions you may be faced with making but when old age progresses, or unexpected injury or terminal illness hits, our four-legged friends have no choice but to depend on “Mom” or “Dad” to protect them from needless suffering. Despite this weighing heavily on us, no one wants to say their goodbyes too soon or too late. This often makes knowing when it's time very distressing.
As painful as it is, just know that you’ve got this. You can and will make the right decision for your pet. Take a deep breath and get your heart and mind working together. The decision is ultimately yours, but you are not alone—there are many professionals and resources to help you think it through. Alongside your general veterinarian, we are always here to be your compassionate companion. You can contact us here for a phone consult.
Be sure to discuss the timing with your regular veterinarian. This is crucial because your vet not only has a wide range of medical expertise they can also assess factors such as your pet's age, disease condition, availability of hospice care, financial ability, and caretaker considerations. Your regular vet's close understanding of your pet's medical history allows them to help you understand your options to possibly extend your pet’s life versus palliative care to keep your furry friend as comfortable as possible during their remaining time. As your regular vet, their job is to advocate for your animal, and while they cannot make the decision for you, they can provide a guidance armed with intimate knowledge of your pet's history.
Many factors figure into your pet’s quality of life, so look at the bigger picture when you evaluate whether or not your pet is still able to enjoy life. For example, is your pet having more good days than bad days? You can take our pet quality of life questionnaire here to help you assess your pet's current quality of life.
Your pet cannot tell you in words, “I need you to end my suffering” but the following checklist provides specific benchmarks to help you know when the most loving thing you can do is to help him or her pass peacefully.
Your pet can no longer experience the things he or she once enjoyed.
Your pet cannot respond to you in his or her usual ways.
Your pet appears to be experiencing more pain than pleasure.
Your pet continually exhibits signs of anxiety such as excessive panting unrelated to exercise or weather, pacing, drooling or continual whimpering or whining.
Your pet is terminally ill or critically injured.
Your pet has more bad days than good days (Don’t rely on memory but keep a log of good and bad days for a couple of weeks).
The financial or emotional cost of treatment is beyond your means.
Think through each statement carefully, then next to each number, either choose “true” or “not true.” Most people find it useful to do this on paper and date their answers. If the answers indicate that your pet is still enjoying a decent quality of life, that’s great! If your pet seems to be declining after your initial assessment, refer back to it and make notes to indicate any changes. Continue using the checklist until your assessment indicates that your pet needs you to take further steps to face this decision and always remember to consult closely with your pet’s regular veterinarian.
Regardless of the other answers, if your answer to the last question is “yes,” it’s worth checking to see if there is a local animal hospices in your area. Many pets are able to live out the rest of their lives peacefully because of these wonderful charities.
What’s best for your pet will be affected by what’s best for everyone concerned. While your pet is under your care, their tiny (or sometimes large) paws touch many lives. This can be a lifeline for you as you take the time and effort to do all you can to make this difficult decision. Often times, you can't include everyone (such as young children), but their companionship along your decision making journey can help you face the challenges ahead. In some cases though, your cat or dog may require more treatment and tending than you are able to provide. In such cases, pet euthanasia might well be the kindest choice.
It may help you to know that while most people feel torn about making this final decision, it’s unlikely and rare for people to feel that they did it too soon. When a pet’s quality of life is seriously deteriorated pet parents are more likely to regret not having ended their suffering sooner. Putting the decision off for too long could result in a crisis that clearly and suddenly calls for euthanasia, which can be extremely stressful for pets, pet parents, and families alike. If you are opting for in-home euthanasia, we will do our best to meet you and your pet’s needs. You can schedule an appointment here when you're ready.We understand that this can be a lot to process, but again, as you think through these six steps, there’s every reason to believe that you can and will make the right choice for your pet. If you are unsure of this decision, and would like to understand how to better assess your pet's quality of life, please take our pet quality of life questionnaire here. If you feel you need to speak to someone even after reviewing some of the resources available on our website, please know that we are only a phone call away and will be happy to consult with you about your beloved cat, dog or other furry friend. You can contact us here for a phone consult.
Pet quality of life scales are used to determine a more objective measure of your pet's quality of life based on how your pet is feeling. A quality of life questionnaire helps you address different aspects in your pet's life to assess their overall comfort and happiness. These aspects can include mobility, appetite, presence of anxiety, and breathing difficulties. These questionnaires are typically used when a pet has a terminal illness or is at an end life stage.
When considering the answers, try to limit the time frame for your pets symptoms to within the last 7 days or less.
It is strongly recommended to take the questionnaire at least 3 times at different times of the day to get a better assessment, or have a family member or friend who understands your pet's daily activity help to complete the questionnaire as well.
If you feel ready, the Quality of Life Assessment questionnaire is a tool designed to help you make a more objective assessment of your pet's overall quality of life.
Remember to consult closely with your pet’s regular veterinarian. They can evaluate your pet’s condition, estimate the chances for recovery, and discuss any potential disabilities, special needs, and long-term problems. Ask questions. Take time to review the facts, and then discuss them with your family and friends before making the decision. Expect to feel a wide range of emotions during the process. Sadness, anger, guilt, numbness, inability to focus are all very common and understandable. You may be hit with many of these feelings at once or you might cycle back and forth through them. Unfortunately, working with this questionnaire will not alleviate these feelings, but know that thousands of pet parents who have been in your shoes have found quality of life scales extremely helpful.
Please review other common frequently asked questions here.
"We were saying good buy to our dog. She had been a daily part of out lives for 15 years. Needless to say there were a lot of tears and emotions involved. The Dr could not have handled the situation any better. He explained step by step what was going to happen. Then gave is the time to say what we needed to say both before and after. At no point were we rushed. She went so peacefully. She was the last of 3 dogs we had from young to old. The previous 2 we had euthanized in a clinic setting. And even though i was literally holding them they were still stressed when the time came. She didn't have to feel that at the end. "
"I cannot say enough positive about my experience...making the decision was difficult but once I did, Dr. Gary made the rest easy for me, perfect for my family and most of all for Feeny...I received so many positive words and helpful quotes about grief from Dr. Gary...I have already told the story and recommended Dr. Gary and CodaPet to so many friends...a heartfelt thank you for your home service and your compassion..."
Dr. Sarah was incredibly kind in a very sad situation. Incredibly professional with a personal bed side manor. Thank you
Here are our frequently asked questions to help you feel fully informed and at ease.