When to Put a Pet Down

When to Put a Pet Down

How Do You Know if it’s Time To Put Your Pet Down?

As a pet owner, there is no tougher decision you will ever face than the one that comes at the end of your pet’s life. While some dogs and cats are taken by illnesses or injuries that cannot be treated or cured, many must be euthanized with their owner’s permission. Deciding whether it’s the right time to euthanize your pet is a difficult task with no clear guidelines — every pet is different and every owner is different.

Your veterinarian will be an incredible asset in this trying time and he or she can explain your pet’s future quality of life along with available treatment options, but in the end it will be up to you.

Common Reasons for Euthanasia

There are several common reasons you may face euthanasia as an option for your pet. In most cases, it presents itself when a dog or cat is afflicted with an illness or injury that surgery or therapy cannot realistically repair. Dogs with advanced cancer, for example, may be rapidly losing quality of life with no turnaround in sight despite the best efforts of veterinarians.

The key phrase here is “quality of life.” Many pets can be diagnosed with terminal illnesses but continue to lead happy, fulfilling lives for months or even years. It is up to you to determine whether your pet’s current condition has reached a point where he’s living in constant pain and can no longer accomplish daily functions like eating, drinking, or using the restroom.

There is another, more challenging scenario where euthanasia must be considered: Medical emergencies in which invasive surgery or aggressive medical treatment may save the pet, but cause great stress and a long, painful recovery time in the process. While humans have the opportunity to consider the pros and cons of subjecting themselves to a given procedure, dogs and cats do not. It is up to you to determine whether the potential benefit outweighs the potential downside and all of the negative side effects that come with it.

If you’ve found yourself considering euthanasia for your pet, here are some questions you should ask that can help guide you along the decision-making process:

  • Is my pet in constant pain? (But recognize that may pets do not show their pain.)
  • Is she still acting like a “pet?” (ie…Does he still run to the food bowl when his favorite meal is being served?)
  • Is there a medically sound method for prolonging his life without prolonging his suffering?
  • Can I afford to support this pet financially through extended expensive treatment plans?
  • Am I treating my pet to avoid losing him, or because it is in his best interest?
  • Is my pet truly living a happy life?
  • What is my pet’s prognosis? Can he recover, or is the condition irreversible?

No one can answer these questions for you. And some, like the one about finances, are particularly difficult to answer. However, working through those questions will give you a better understanding of your options and help you to clarify exactly how you feel about euthanasia as an option.

It is never easy to say goodbye to a pet. Most people who choose euthanasia continue to question whether it was the right decision for the rest of their lives. However, making this decision is part of the deal you make with your pet when you take him into your home. It is up to you to act in his best interest, no matter how difficult that may be.


About the Author: Craig Davis  is the founder of Vet Organics, a company which produces effective and safe natural remedies for dogs and cats.