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How to Know When to Put a Dying Pet to Sleep

Updated on December 14, 2020
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My wife and I have been lucky enough to have more than a dozen older rescue dogs and its is never easy to know then to let them go.

How to know when to euthanize a pet

It can be the most agonizing decision that you will ever make when it comes to your pet. Knowing when to say a final goodbye and allow the vet to euthanize a beloved pet can be extremely hard, to say the least.

If your pet is suffering from a chronic condition that is causing them extreme pain, such as cancerous tumor, or liver or kidney failure it is often more humane to put them "to sleep" as it is so euphemistically called.

If you can imagine the kind of pain that your pet may be feeling you know in your heart this might be the right thing to do. Unlike a terminally ill person, your pet does not fully know what it is that is happening to them. Other than calm words and a gentle touch, your pet cannot be told things that make the pain more bearable. You can give your love to them but even their disposition, which has always been pleasant may change. Their behavior may even start to become aggressive, especially if a disease such as cancer is beginning to affect their brain.

Even if you still feel a strong bond with your pet and feel that they respond to your affection, there may be little you can do about their pain since medication can only do so much.

While veterinary pain killers can be quite strong and even in some cases more effective than those for humans, this is no way for a dog or cat to have long term quality of life, especially if they are unable to do the kind of things that have always brought them pleasure.

At this stage of life it may be more humane to choose euthanasia, rather than allow them to keep feeling the pain and confusion they are dealing with every day. At the point your pet can no longer walk on their own, potty without help or enjoy the world around them, their quality of life has gone and they are merely existing.

If this is the case it might be a selfish act to allow them to feel so much pain, simply to have them around for your own emotional needs.

Veterinarians now have drug combinations that work quickly, without pain and which can allow your beloved pet to leave this world and the pain behind without prolonged suffering. While the process itself is quick and painless, the decision process leading up to it can be one of the hardest things you've ever done in your life.

Veterinarians that offer these services also, in most cases, offer counseling before and after for owners. Before making the decision think about it, consult with your spouse and have a talk with your children, as hard as it may be. In the end, euthanasia may be the kindest choice you can make for your dog or cat.

The more people that you consult with, the better able you will be to make a good decision. Don't ever be afraid of hurting your vet's feelings by getting a second opinion, most would welcome it. Having the opinion of another qualified vet can make the decision to pet your pet to sleep less difficult.

Finding Comfort Afterwards

You will need the support of friends and family after putting your pet to sleep. Afterward is definitely not the time to be alone so seek out the comfort of friends and family to help you with the grieving process.

Books such as "Chicken Soup For The Animal Lovers Soul" can help you through the grieving process, however no book can ever make all of the pain of losing a beloved family pet.

My wife and have adopted and raised nearly a dozen rescue dogs over the past 20 years and unfortunately we've had to make this difficult decision more than once. In each case, we have struggled both before and after with our decision, even know we know in our hearts that it was the best thing to have done.

Some say "you'll know when it's time" and sometimes that's true. In each instance, before making that hardest of decisions, we've noticed a change in our pet, such as the look in their eyes that was always there being gone, or some other indicator that their joy has left them and that they are just hanging on, sometimes only for the sake of their humans. It's not easy and it never will be, but in many cases you will just know. I hope this article helps give those of you in such a difficult position some things to consider, however the decision must ultimately come from within, as you know in your heart that "it's time".


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