I hear from pet parents every day asking me the same question, “How will I know when it is time to make the decision to let my baby go?” Making the decision to transition (euthanize) your fur baby can be one of the most dreaded decisions you ever have to make. To some it seems like murder and immoral. For many people the death of their beloved fur baby is worse than losing a human family member. They may feel like they are letting their fur baby down for not taking better care of them, or that they may even be the cause of the situation they are dealing with now. What we need to remember is that the ability to humanely transition a loved fur baby is a lovely gift. It can be the final gift of love we give them when we cannot make them better. It is a loving way to remove any physical pain and a peaceful transition to remove the pet parent’s emotional pain.
As a veterinarian specializing in hospice/senior and end of life I am there for to help you make an informed decision and walk down the path to end of life for your baby. Generally there may not be a specific day or hour that the transition needs to take place in, unless the baby is suffering and the pain cannot be alleviated. Every situation is different and each family is entitled to their own decisions and time frame.
Pain is one of the most important issues we deal with in hospice care. Unlike humans, dogs and cats do not show their pain in the same way that we do. They also do not take on the same human emotions that we do when diagnosed with a terminal illness. They do not feel sorry for themselves; they do not even know they have a terminal disease. Usually the more taxing emotion is anxiety. Most fur babies start acting differently due to anxiety rather than pain. Think back to the last time you trimmed your dog’s nails. This was probably more stressful to them then the last time they cut their paw or strained a muscle. Even in the arthritic pet they may start pacing, panting, whining and crying due to anxiety secondary to pain or the inability to get up and go out to potty. This may be more exaggerated in households that have multiple fur babies as the alpha dog becomes arthritic and is losing his status as alpha.
One thing I discus with my pet parents when trying to determine “If it is time”, is waiting too long. It is always to transition a day too soon than a minute too late. The last thing you want to remember is your baby crying out in pain and suffering.
Another option available is natural death. We would all just like our babies to just go to sleep and not wake up but this not usually the case. If euthanasia is not the option you would like then we can usually keep your baby pain free and allow for a natural death by providing hydration, pain relief, and other holistic things available. We must keep in mind that a natural death may not always be as peaceful as we would like. The body does not always act the way we would want no matter the surcomstance. But I am here to walk you thru that path is that is the one you would like to choose.