Empowering mothers with knowledge

How do you know when it’s time to say goodbye to your pet?

His humans gave him everything they could during his lifetime: a comfy couch to sleep on, trips to the cabin to swim and lick fish, and all the snuggles and belly rubs they could muster.

But in death they felt they had failed him. Years after Rocky’s passing, they still feel guilt, afraid that he suffered in the end rather than experiencing a peaceful passing.

Saying goodbye to our loved ones is never easy. Some people say losing a pet is the most difficult pain they’ve ever endured.

Choosing to euthanize a sick pet might be one of the toughest decisions you’ll ever make. So when they can’t tell you it’s time to go, how do you know when it is?

Signs to look for at the end of your pet’s life

Though we may hate to acknowledge them, there are signs that will tell you your pet might be suffering. Remember, you know your pet best. You know their behavior and personality better than anyone else you may turn to for advice.

Signs to look for include:

  • Pain: Are they in pain that can’t be managed by current medications? Are you able to afford the medication?
  • Eating: Are they still eating on their own or willing to eat?
  • Going to the bathroom: Can they still go outside or get into their litterbox? If not, can the reason be fixed?
  • Interacting with others: Are they still present and interacting with you and others, or are they hiding?
  • Mood: Are they happy or still taking pleasure in their favorite activities like toys or walks?
  • Quality of life: Is their quality of life still good? Are they still thriving?

You know your pet better than anyone else. These are all points to consider when making a decision. And if any point, your pets disposition or health is in question, visit your veterinarian for a medical exam. Proper medical intervention can add years to your pet’s life.

How to know when to say goodbye to your pet

There are a few things you can do to help inform your decision.

  1. Think about your pet in their best health. Sometimes changes are gradual and hard to notice. Look at photos or videos of your pet before you noticed a change in their health or behavior.
  2. Track good and bad days on a calendar. Each day, or morning and night if you prefer, make a note of their condition. It could be as simple as a smiley face or a frowny face. If the bad days are more common than the good ones, it might be time to talk to your veterinarian about next steps.
  3. Track their favorite activities. Write a list of three to five of your pet’s favorite activities. Again, keep track of how often they enjoy these activities. When they can no longer enjoy them, talk to your veterinarian about next steps.

For more ideas about what to look for in your pet, check out this guide from The Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center.

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