It is a time that every pet owner dreads. We hope it never happens, but the truth is that most pet owners outlive their animals and will someday need to play a part in deciding when it is time for their beloved family friend to rest. Saying goodbye to a pet is never easy, but it can be a little less painful if you know how to tell when it is the right time to let go.

Quality of Life for Pets

When we are caring for pets of any age, it is important to ensure that they are leading an enjoyable, happy life. Good quality of life is essential, and your pet may need your help achieving this as he or she ages.

Ways to improve your pet’s happiness and well-being include:

Providing pain management when appropriateManaging and/or treating medical problems as they ariseProviding good wellness careImproving accessibility (providing ramps, eliminating stairs, etc.)Ensuring social and mental stimulationProviding good nutrition and maintaining a good body weight

Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, though, our animals can get to a point where we are unable to provide them with an acceptable quality of life. When this happens, it is important that we remain strong and consider if humane euthanasia might be the best option.

Knowing When It’s Time

Pets are often stoic and lack any self pity. This means that they are not always good at letting us know when they are hurting or sad. This can make it very difficult to know for sure when it is time to say goodbye. Pets need to be able to perform some basic functions to be happy and healthy. It may be time to consider letting go when your pet can no longer:

Move around easily on their ownEat or drink enough to sustain themselvesGet up to eliminateSleep comfortablyShow excitement for things that once were a source of happiness

A pet who is struggling in one or more of these categories is one who is likely to be experiencing decreased quality of life.

Of course, if a pet is experiencing uncontrolled pain, continuous vomiting, or trouble breathing, that is a marked decreased in quality of life. If you are having trouble knowing if it is time, we are always happy to help you assess the situation in an objective manner. Of course, you know your pet best but it can be hard to see beyond your own fear of loss to what is best for your pet.

Saying Goodbye to a Pet

Saying goodbye to a pet is always hard, and even more so when you must play an active part in the decision about when it is time. We all wish our pets would pass peacefully in their sleep at home due to old age, but this seldom happens. It is often necessary for pet owners to be brave and allow their pet to pass peacefully and without suffering.

When it is time, it is important for all family members to understand and accept the decision. Have a family meeting to discuss the decision and be sure everyone has a chance to say their goodbyes. It may be helpful to broach the topic with younger children using books such as When a Pet Dies or Remembering My Pet.

It is also important to decide whether or not you would like to be present. This is a highly individual decision. For many it is important to comfort their pet during his or her final moments, but for others the moment is too emotional. Carefully consider before allowing children to be present as they may not fully comprehend the gravity of the situation.

Euthanasia is generally a very peaceful procedure. An injection is given into the vein that causes your pet to lose consciousness within a few seconds and the heart to stop in a few minutes or less. There are few ways to go that are more dignified and peaceful.

The caring staff at Union Lake Veterinary Hospital is very attuned to helping our clients through this transition. We have a grief counselor on staff who is available free of charge to comfort you through your loss, resources to help you honor your pet’s life, and onsite cremation services with an option for a private ceremony.

Saying goodbye to your beloved pet is not the easiest part of pet ownership, but is an important part. Allowing your pet to leave the world with some dignity and end any suffering is an amazing privilege that is not to be taken lightly. Hold on to the memories that your four-legged friend has left on your heart and cherish the good times that you shared together.