How to Decide When to Put a Pet to Sleep

Take comfort in knowing you gave your pet the best life possible.
Take comfort in knowing you gave your pet the best life possible. (Image: Apple Tree House/Photodisc/Getty Images)

There's only one thing wrong with having pets -- they don't live long enough. Making the decision to euthanize a beloved, furry family member is one of the most difficult things a pet owner must do. However, the alternative is allowing a suffering pet to remain in pain with little quality of life. Your veterinarian can help you make this tough decision. Sometimes the look in Fido's or Kitty's eyes tells you it's time.

Making the Decision

Sometimes, making the decision to euthanize your pet doesn't involve a lot of soul-searching, because the animal is so sick or badly injured that there's no humane alternative. It's more difficult to decide when to put your pet to sleep if he's going downhill, but hasn't reached the bottom. You don't want to prolong his suffering, but you don't want him to lose him too soon.

Quality of Life

When assessing whether it's time to put your pal to sleep, examine objectively his quality of life. Is he in pain, or is any pain easily controlled with medication? Is your pet mobile, or is every step a struggle? Can he participate in any of the activities he loves? Can he still eliminate outdoors or in his litter box, or has he entered the "pooping and peeing in the house" stage of life? Most important -- is he eating and drinking? It's not uncommon for elderly pets to have good days and bad days. When the bad days outweigh the good days, it's time to say goodbye.

Your Own Needs

While it might seem selfish to consider your own needs when making the decision to euthanize, remember that you are the caregiver and your pet depends on you. If you have a small dog who requires help up the stairs or needs frequent carrying, that might not be an issue. A large breed dog is another story. It might become physically impossible for you to continue caring for your pet. It's also possible that veterinary costs for your ailing pet truly strain your budget, or the time required to care for your sick pet affects your job or your family.

Ask Your Vet

While your vet can help you make this decision, you must be honest with your vet. Some owners are willing to do anything and pay any price to keep an old or sick pet around a little longer. That might not be in the animal's best interest, if his remaining weeks entail pain and suffering. Ask your vet what she would do if this were her dog or cat.

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