The decision to help your pet with euthanasia is not easy and may be one of the hardest decisions you have had to make. So many factors play a role in whether or not euthanasia may be the best option for your pet, and if it is, one of the most significant challenges can be deciding when to say goodbye.
Sometimes our pets show that they are ready and are clearly suffering, making the choice to help with euthanasia, though heartbreaking, a bit easier for their owners. More often though, quality of life indicators are less clear, and signs and symptoms can be quite complicated to navigate. Many pet owners will hold on to the fact that their dog may still be eating or their cat purrs when they enter the room, or that their pet doesn’t appear to be in pain. Often, when we see our pets every day, it can be difficult to see a decline in their quality of life, and quite frankly, our pets are really stoic creatures and can often hide how they’re feeling very well.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed when considering your pet’s quality of life and the many options available to you. It can be even more complicated when a pet’s condition changes week by week, or even throughout a day. Sometimes we become so focused on one behavior or symptom that it is hard to take a step back and see the big picture of their overall quality of life.
The decision to help your pet with euthanasia is not easy When this is the case, we often encourage people to keep a journal or daily notes about their pet’s daily life. Asking yourself questions and keeping record of things such as how much your pet ate or drank today, if they seem to be feeling better or worse than yesterday, and if they did anything they enjoyed today can all be good places to start.
As part of the big picture perspective, you may want to consider whether your pet has had more “good days” than “bad days” this week, or whether they have done things they typically enjoy each day. Reading through your journal may help give you a different perspective and widen your view. Some people even find that reading written notes helps to give more of an “outsider’s perspective” – if you were hearing these notes from a friend or family member about their pet, how would you feel? What would you say to them?
It can also be helpful to include “what if’s” in your journaling. What if my pet can no longer walk and I am unable to carry them or help them up? What if my pet shows signs of distress in the middle of the night? What if I need to leave my pet in someone else’s care for a weekend? Considering these “what if’s” can help you develop a plan and feel as prepared as you can in case your pet’s condition worsens suddenly or your personal situation changes. Sometimes, considering the potential emergency or worst-case scenarios helps you see your pet’s situation in a new light. We have found that many of our clients feel that it is often better to make the decision a bit “too soon,” rather than a moment too late.