When It’s Time to Say Good-Bye

Saying goodbye to a loved one is never easy. Oftentimes, when it comes to our pets, this grief is compounded by feelings of guilt at having to make the difficult decision to end our pet’s lives. As pet owners, this is often the hardest decision we are faced with. Our pets have always relied on us as guardians to provide the best care we can, and when the end is drawing near, this is especially important.

When faced with the consideration of euthanasia, the term “quality of life” is often used. This can be a somewhat vague concept, as one’s quality of life is different at different stages of the aging process. These guidelines will hopefully be helpful in assessing the quality of life of the pet, and may be helpful in determining when the time is appropriate to let our friends go.

Our pets are entitled to the “Five Freedoms” which should be the right of all living creatures. These freedoms are:

  1. The Freedom from Hunger and Thirst: Is your pet able and willing to eat and drink?
  2. The Freedom from Physical and Thermal Discomfort: Is your pet able to be in a comfortable environment? Can he/she move about on their own when left alone? If your pet were to fall when no one was home, would they be able to get up and not be stuck in an uncomfortable or painful position?
  3. The Freedom from Pain, Injury and Disease: If your pet is at the end stage of illness, or suffering from any other painful condition, are the medications he/she is being given able to control pain and discomfort adequately?
  4. Freedom from Fear and Distress: Is your pet able to go outside or use the litterbox to relieve him/herself as opposed to soiling himself? The inability to do this can be very distressing to our pets.
  5. Freedom to Express Normal Behavior: Is your pet able to do some of the things he/she has always done?

Additionally in assessing our pet’s quality of life and expressing normal behavior, it is often helpful to make a list of a few things that we as owners perceive our pets enjoy doing, and then review that list periodically to see if our pets are still able to do these things, even in moderation.

  • Does your pet greet you, seem happy to see you?
  • Does your pet seem aware of his/her surroundings?
  • Does your pet still enjoy their favorite treat(s) or toy(s)?
  • Does your pet still enjoy previously pleasant interactions such as being groomed, petted, etc?
  • Does your pet enjoy walks or outings, even short ones?