One of the most difficult aspects of my career as a veterinarian is advising my clients and helping them to feel at peace with saying goodbye to their pets. It has always been so hard for me, and I must say, it has not become any easier with time. Our pets are family members, and the bond with them is immeasurable. Very often, it is so difficult for my clients, and even myself, to know when it is time to say goodbye. I am always asked when is the right time, when will I know, and am I making the right decision? I try my best to guide my clients and help them come to their own decision with a sense of peace and comfort. Here is what I offer to my clients when the time is coming near. I hope this helps you on your journey.
The first question you want to ask yourself is, “is my pet suffering from a disease and if so can medical intervention improve the quality of my pet’s life or will it just prolong a poor quality life?”
Assessing our pets pain and suffering is very difficult and, at times, can be impossible. Pets are stoic, they hide illnesses extremely well, and they may not exhibit obvious signs of pain or suffering. Speak with your veterinarian regarding subtle signs that pets may exhibit to indicate they are in pain or discomfort. I tell my clients to reflect back on all the things their pet loved to do in their lifetime. Whether that be playing fetch, watching TV on your lap, sunning on the windowsill, or eating their favorite treats. If your beloved pet is not engaging in 70% of these activities, they may not be enjoying life as they used to. Some other things to look for include respiratory distress and paralysis. If your pet is having difficulty breathing and it is due to a non-treatable condition, this is a form of suffering. Also, when pets spent their lives running around, chasing balls, and they can no longer walk or move around, I feel this is a form of suffering.
This is a personal choice that you must feel comfortable with.
Knowing when it is time to say goodbye is a very personal decision. People have different beliefs, lifestyles, and opinions. I am always telling my clients, you know your pets the best, you have lived with them for years, and you know their interactions and personalities. Your veterinarian’s role, always, is to sympathetically guide you in your decision, and to never push or make you feel uncomfortable. Many people do not believe in humane euthanasia and want their pets to go naturally at home. I am always here to support and help in my client’s final decision. Ask your veterinarian for medications or other treatment options that can help pets not suffer at home.
Make your decision based upon the pets well being and not as an act to avoid personal grief and despair.
I think always when making this final decision, it comes down to a terminal disease and not wanting our pets to suffer. When facing end-of-life issues, your pet needs to come first. They spend their lives devoted and loyal to us and give so much to us in their short lives. When the time is near, make sure you think of your pets best interest and wellbeing.
Saying goodbye is so hard and the tears never cease to come every single time I help my clients with this difficult decision. What provides me with comfort and solace is knowing that we are ending unnecessary suffering and pain. Our pets are so loyal and amazing to us and give us immeasurable joy, love, and happiness. Saying goodbye to them in a dignified, painless way, and easing their suffering, is a gift we can give back to them. I hope this helps on your journey and as I always say, thank you for providing our beloved pets with an amazing, loved family and the best life. They give so much to us and deserve the same in return.