Putting down your animal friend, a difficult but necessary decision

Tigger, ten years old.  "I beg your pardon, but did you have a question for me?"
Tigger, ten years old. "I beg your pardon, but did you have a question for me?" | Source

Our pets, Our friends...

With many of us our animals aren't just pets, they are our best friend, our confidant, our pride and joy, and our comfort. I have owned many animals in my lifetime and each one has been a special friend. Yes, animals have their quirks and their behavioral oddities, but they also have a vast capacity to love. No matter what type of animal you may have as a pet, when you love and care for them, they love and care right back.

My favorite animal, at least for the moment, is the cat. They are sleek, individualized, clean, easy to care for, and exceptionally communicative. They can win me with a rub against my leg or a paw reaching out for my attention. They crawl up in my lap, purring with adoration for me. They play with me with gentle swats of their paws or love nips with their teeth which don't hurt. They chase a laser light around the floor until they can't stand up because they have worn themselves out, but they always come back for more. And I can't help but laugh at their silliness.

Take the pet poll:

Does you pet act like a member of the family? Does he/she:

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Salty, four years old.  "What'cha want, I need my beauty sleep?"
Salty, four years old. "What'cha want, I need my beauty sleep?" | Source
Mittens, three years old.  "Hey, you wanted something?  Can ya turn the lights down a bit.....?"
Mittens, three years old. "Hey, you wanted something? Can ya turn the lights down a bit.....?" | Source
Dusty, four years of age, "I'm not goin' down there.......Are you?"
Dusty, four years of age, "I'm not goin' down there.......Are you?" | Source

We love our animals and don't want them to die

Once an animal has gotten that close to you, the last thing you want to think of is 'putting them down'. We don't want to say good-bye. We don't want to feel the sadness of burying them. We don't want to have to watch the other animals mope around looking for their playmate.

When we face the issue of possibly putting down an animal that we love, we must search our hearts for the best answer. Not the best answer for us, because that would be to let them linger, possibly in pain, possibly with great suffering, so that we don't have to suffer their loss. We must think about the best answer for the animal. Animals get sick, they suffer pain as we do and they can get broken bones or bad joints. When you discover your animal is sick, the first thing you might think of is: "Let's get them treatment." But that might not be the best thing for the animal.

Remember when you were little and you stubbed your toe or fell and scrapped your arm? It hurt so bad that you thought you were dying. You would run screaming for your mother and pointing to the injury while crying as you told her what happened. It didn't feel better until you had a bandage and perhaps a kiss from mom.

Animals, when they hurt or feel ill, can't tell us about it. They can't run screaming to us and tell us what happened. They can't say they feel like vomiting or that they swallowed, say, a pin. All they can do is the best they can under the circumstances. They try to survive because that's what their instincts tell them to do. And most animals survive in silence. There is no crying, no moaning and no "mommy (or daddy) make it better".

Charlene (Charlie for short) nineteen years old, suffered from Kidney disease.
Charlene (Charlie for short) nineteen years old, suffered from Kidney disease. | Source

We all know when something is wrong, but what should we do?

You can see the difference in the animal when something is wrong. You can see the slower movements, the lack of playing, the dull coat, the sad eyes, even the limping, or difficulty walking. We can feel in our bones that something is wrong. We can see it in the animal's behavior and we dread taking them to the vet for that final verdict because it might be very bad. When we do finally take them, we convince ourselves that the animal has nothing but a cold or something similar and it will be a simple shot and all is well.

Take a moment to imagine yourself in your animals situation. Would you want the suffering to continue until your body finally gave up? Would you want to have pain treatment with medicines that taste awful and do very little? Would you want to have to try to survive without food or water because your body can't process it anymore? Or would you prefer to be held by your beloved companion while the vet gently eases you into a permanent sleep where pain is gone and survival is no longer required? While you ponder these questions, keep in mind that your pet cannot tell you the medicine is not working or is making them nauseas. They can't tell you what they would prefer either.

Louie, Fifteen years of age, suffered from Diabetes.
Louie, Fifteen years of age, suffered from Diabetes. | Source

I have been there, watching, waiting, wondering....

I have had to put many animals down and I have hurt deep down inside for weeks afterwards, but I know that I did the right thing for them. One had Kidney disease and couldn't process water anymore. One had diabetes and couldn't process his sugars and carbohydrates anymore. Another had Lung Cancer and could no longer breath.

Those are just three of the ones I have had to put down. Don't delay the decision you have to make. Don't let your pet suffer. Get them to a vet quickly and discuss ALL possible avenues before you make your decision. The vet is your best source for all avenues for your pet and he/she can help you decide what is best for your animal. The one and only thing you can do is the one thing that is best for your pet's health, welfare, and quality of life. If treatment can not guarantee their return to health, then let them go and remember them in your heart.

Get your pet to the vet as soon as you notice something different about them.
Get your pet to the vet as soon as you notice something different about them. | Source

Watch for troubling signs...

I had a cat that had been terribly abused as a kitten. She was a beautiful black and white angora with a loving disposition. After I had her for seven years, her behavior radically changed. She would cuddle up to me purring away and then suddenly become enraged and rip me to shreds trying to get away as if I had been hurting her. The other animals wouldn't go near her except to attack and growl. She hid in a corner of my kitchen and refused to move even to eat or use the litter box. I took her to the vet thinking she was in pain for some reason.

The vet told me that she was, basically, insane and that badly abused animals often spend the remainder of their lives 'looking over their shoulder expecting the abuse once more'. He also told me that they usually don't live past five years of age. What were her chances? None, she had lost her mind and could not be treated. I had to put her down.

Look for danger signs in your animals: unusual behavior, not eating, refusing to use the litter box, hiding, dull coat, dull eyes, suddenly refusing to let you pet them, scratching, growling, or biting when they are usually quite gentle, or sudden ill relations with the other animals. These can be signs that your beloved pet is ill or injured in some way. Don't hesitate to bring them to the vet. Don't wait to get them relief. Don't let them suffer in the silence of the pet world. Let them know you love them and want the best for them. Ease their pain the best way you can. And remember them in your heart forever.

For a bit of relief from the sadness of this article, watch the video below. You won't be able to stop the smiling.

© 2011 Cheryl Simonds

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I would love to hear from you! 5 comments

Lucky Cats profile image

Lucky Cats 5 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

Appreciation for this loving & very sensitive hub. Thank you a thousand times over.

cherylone profile image

cherylone 5 years ago from Connecticut Author

Lucky Cats, thank you for commenting on my hub, I think I fell behind in answering. My animals are nearly as important as my kids to me. :)

Ali 5 years ago

Thank you for this post. I am only 15 and my dog is being put to sleep tomorrow. After crying all afternoon but this is the first thing that has made me feel any better. Thanks again

cherylone profile image

cherylone 5 years ago from Connecticut Author

Ali, My thoughts are with you. I am so glad I was able to make the decision easier on you. Blessings.

cherylone profile image

cherylone 3 years ago from Connecticut Author

Lynn, I am so sorry to hear about your loss. Our animals do worm their way deep into our hearts and then we want to have the best for them. I often wonder if we are giving them the best by taking them in and cuddling them because they are natural hunters and survivors. But then I look at my babies and think "They are so much better off in here with water, food, and a warm soft place to sleep". I have faced the money issues with vets in the past and I was so angry because my cat ended up dying a terrible painful death because the vet wouldn't wait two days for our check to come so I could pay for putting my baby down. How can they be so uncaring? RIP Lily and all of the other Lily's and Spots and Fluffy's of the world.

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