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When to Say Goodbye to Your Dog or Cat

Updated on April 3, 2010

No doubt about it, saying goodbye to a beloved pet is hard. In fact, it is one of the most difficult things you will ever do. Deciding when it is time for your dog or cat to be euthanized is, well, for lack of better words, awful. When is the right time to "put your pet to sleep?" How will you know when that time has come? I have always said that my pet will tell me when the end is near. There will be signs and he will let me know.  

 Obviously, you will want to consult with your veterinarian before making any decisions about euthanizing your pet. They will give you professional and humane advice. Prolonging a dog or cat's life just because you cannot face saying that final goodbye is not the right thing to do. Though it hurts (kind of like a knife in your heart) sometimes saying goodbye is the only answer. If your pet is no longer enjoying life because of a long illness or cannot partake in daily activities, then the time to think about saying goodbye is near.  If you are struggling with the decision, ask yourself the following questions (and remember…answer each question HONESTLY!).

Questions to Ask Yourself

  • Is your pet able to eat and drink without pain and or vomiting?
  • Is your pet in constant pain and or distress?
  • Has your pet lost his or her ability to walk without staggering and or falling?
  • Is your pet having difficulty breathing?
  • Is your cat or dog able to hold their head up on their own?
  • If your pet is really sick, are there treatments available that will aid him (improve his quality of life)?
  • If your pet is really sick and there are treatments available, will these treatments cure him or simply prolong his or her suffering?
  • Does your pet no longer enjoy life (such as eating)?
  • Has your pet become unresponsive?
  • If your pet is sick and there is a treatment…can you afford it? I HATE to put a price tag on a pet's life, but unfortunately, it is a question that must be asked.
  • If your pet is sick and you can afford treatment, what will your pet's quality of life be after the treatment has been administered? This is a question you should ask and discuss with your veterinarian. This question is especially important if you have an elderly pet.
  • If your pet is ill, how will his illness affect your other animals (if at all?).
  • Does your pet suffer from repeated convulsions that cannot be controlled with medication?

Obviously, there are other important questions to ask and signs to look for. Before you go to the veterinarian, make sure you write down EVERY QUESTION that you have. Don't be afraid to speak up! If it will make you feel better, get a second opinion. Making the decision to have your pet euthanized is very difficult. The more you know about your pet's condition and quality of life, the better.

If you do decide that saying goodbye is best, do not feel guilty and allow yourself time to grieve! Losing a beloved pet can be similar to that of losing a human family member or friend. In fact, most people view their pets as family…so know that these feelings are completely normal and natural! Surround yourself with other animal lovers who understand what you are going through. Losing a pet is tough and making the decision as to whether or not to euthanize your beloved friend is one of the most difficult decisions you will ever face. Know that you will make the best, most educated and informed decision that you possibly can and also know that no matter what, your friend will forever live in your heart.

I miss the little wagging tail;

I miss the plaintive, pleading wail;

I miss the wistful, loving glance;

I miss the circling welcome dance.

-Henry Willett


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    • profile image

      pattie 6 years ago

      my cat is 16 i think and she has been throwing up for 3 days now smells like rotten eggs, she has diarria that smells like death. i do not want to prolong her death she sits with me and pees on me so sad. i hate going thhrough this i had to put one down last april cause she coun't walk anymore and was peeing and pooping on her self so sad why cann't god just take them by pattie

    • MercyGrace profile image

      MercyGrace 6 years ago from USA

      Well written and good advice. I have had 2 dogs really tell me it was time. I didn't think I'd make it through the last one. They can really steal your heart.

      But it is about them and what is best for them. We just have to do what is right and live with the beautiful memories they have given us.

      Thank you for making me feel the decision was the right one.

    • profile image

      dj 7 years ago

      i said goodbye on friday to my darling staffi and i miss her so much. i am doubting my decision purely from a selfish perspective. she was nearly fourteen with an ever growing tumour, she had lost a considerable amount of weight but i cant help but but wonder if its what she needed because her tail was still wagging maybe i could have bought her more time? was it reproach or thanks in her eyes guess i'll never know. i will miss her every day.

    • Cygstarz profile image

      Cygstarz 7 years ago from Maryland


      DO NOT FEEL GUILTY! I know that saying goodbye to a beloved pet is very, very difficult. However, you made the right decision. As humans we know when it is time to end our pet's pain. They depend on us to do so. I have said goodbye to several pets and each time I questioned my decision. But I know that in my was the right thing to do. Trust me when I say that over time the pain will subside and you will once again be able to think of Dudley and all of the happy memories you have of him. Those will never go away. Take care of yourself.

    • profile image

      jean 7 years ago


    • Cygstarz profile image

      Cygstarz 7 years ago from Maryland

      Donna...I am so sorry for what you are going through. Saying goodbye is VERY VERY difficult. I have lost many dogs over the years and it never gets any easier. Know that no matter what decision you loved and cared for Nacho to the best of your ability. He will always be in your matter what. I'll be thinking of you tomorrow and will say a little prayer for Nacho.

    • profile image

      donna w. 7 years ago

      I have a dog named nacho. He has been with me for close to 18 years.He has breathing problems and tumors all over him.(fatty tumors). I have to make the dreaded decision tommorrow to put him to sleep. I am so upset and hurt that i will never see my little angel again. He has been with me through thick and thin. I will never forget him. I love you nacho. daw

    • Str8up Hookups profile image

      Str8up Hookups 7 years ago

      Awesome hub,heartfelt and thought provoking.

      I've been through this with a 15 year old cockerspaniel,it is heartwrenching and I'll probably forever miss her.

      The questions you ask are the same the vet asked before we put her down.

      Even if you have the money for treatment,the results my be shortlived,my dog was 15 years old and I was allowed another 6 weeks but her quality of life was effected.

      Thanks for sharing!

    • Cygstarz profile image

      Cygstarz 8 years ago from Maryland

      Frank: SO SORRY! My thoughts are with you. I too have had to say goodbye to a beloved pet and I can honestly NEVER gets any easier. Take care of yourself and thanks for your posting. Again, well said. :-)

    • profile image

      Frank 8 years ago

      In my previous article I mentioned how the time was nearing when I would have to put my other cat to sleep. Well, today was the terrible day and I had to say goodbye to my "Baby." (my cats name) I don't know what to do with myself because I feel so empty now. I had her for almost 16 1/2 years, but that doesn't seem long enough because I loved her so much. I DID have the opportunity to say goodbye to her as the vet was putting her to sleep and if I live to be 100 years old I will never forget that beautiful little face. I can't tell you how much I miss her, but I will always cherish the fond memories of her. To all you pet lovers; take care of your pets because you can't replace their individual qualities or characterisms. Love them like thay love you -- unconditionally...

    • Cygstarz profile image

      Cygstarz 8 years ago from Maryland

      Frank: Very well said. Thank you.

    • profile image

      Frank 8 years ago

      I had to have one of my cats "put to sleep" on my birthday, 8 years ago, and I still think about him. I cried like a small child when it happened. I'm facing another bad time in the very near future because I have another cat that I have to say "good-bye" to. I'm already crying just knowing the time is nearing, but I can't let her suffer. I've had her since she was only a couple weeks old and could hold her in the palm of my hand, and had to feed her with an eye dropper in the beginning. After almost 17 years, I don't know what my life will be wihtout her. I love her as much as I love my children. She'slike one of my family. My advice to all pet owners is to love your pets as they love you - unconditionally - because you can never replace them.

    • Cygstarz profile image

      Cygstarz 8 years ago from Maryland

      Hi Amber. Thank you for your comment. I have three dogs and one cat and I don't like to think about life without them! I have had pets all my life and the decision to "let go" is always never gets any easier! I firmly believe in making the most of each day! Love the people and animals in your life like there is no tomorrow! Peace.

    • Amber Renee profile image

      Amber Renee 8 years ago

      I dread the moment the time comes for me to make that decision. Thankfully, I still have awhile with my pets before I have to decide to put them to sleep. Both of my pets are still active and playful.

      A few years ago, my Mom had to put my cat to sleep. He had been around for seventeen years before his body started acting up. The treatment/sugery that was available would have just prolonged the suffering. Even though I miss him dearly, I believe my Mom did the right thing. Because no matter how much we loved him and didn't want to say goodbye, we didn't want him suffer. And even though it has been a few years, I still grieve when February comes along. So, thank you for pointing out that grieving for your pet is natural.

    • getpaidtopost profile image

      getpaidtopost 8 years ago from UK

      O' dont want to think about my dog passing away, love the little poem at the end nice touch.