While our pets are a source of happiness and companionship, we often have to confront the reality that we are going to outlive them. When your pet gets old, sick or is unexpectedly injured, you must sometimes consider making one of the hardest decisions a pet owner can make – putting down your pet.
In certain circumstances, you won’t have much of a choice, for example, if your pet is suffering from an unrecoverable injury or medical emergency. More commonly, pet owners will have to make the decision to put down their pet when they are sick or old. Since we can’t ask our pet, we must rely on observable criteria and advice.
Quality of Life
The bond we develop with our pets helps us to recognise when they are happy and healthy and when they are miserable. Due to changes in technology, animals live longer and are more capable of surviving injuries and illnesses. However, when the time comes, pet owners will have to make a decision based on their pet’s quality of life.
Consider the following:
- Does your pet have trouble eating, drinking going to the toilet?
- Are they as active, affectionate and/or playful as they were?
- How is their mobility? Can they still sit, stand and walk around?
- Are they neglecting themselves? (e.g. grooming)
- Are they interested in activity surrounding them?
- Is your pet visibly tired, withdrawn, lethargic or in pain?
- Does your pet appear to be happy?
- Are they having more good days than bad days?
Of course, you should also consider the medical aspect of the situation. Does your pet have a malignancy, terminal condition or serious injury? Have you explored all possible treatment options with your vet? Is there a reasonable possibility that they will improve?
What Others Say
Some pet owners find it difficult to be honest about the situation. If you think you might be holding on too long, consider what your pet would want and speak to others about your options.
- Vets – A specialist vet can assess your animal and can advise you on all options. The opinion of a trusted vet is invaluable as it can help guide you towards the right choice. If you’re still unsure, get a second or even a third opinion.
- Friends and family – Your loved ones can offer some valuable perspectives on the situation, especially if they also know your pet well. Just remember not to bow to any pressure and discard any advice that doesn’t sit well with you.
Coping with the Loss of Your Pet
Each of us mourns differently, some more privately than others and for different lengths of time. Some pet owners find great comfort in acquiring a new pet soon after the loss while others find the suggestion offensive. Having friends and family around you so you can talk about your feelings and laugh about the beautiful memories of your pet can help a great deal when coming to terms with your loss.
You may find that others have experienced the same painful process. Talking to these people can also be helpful. If death is sudden or unexpected, you can find yourself very distraught and you have difficulty deciding how to dispose of the body. It’s best to make this decision early and discuss options with your vet before your pet is euthanised.
Remember that life will be different after our companion has gone. We will have more time on our hands that we used to dedicate to spending with them. Use this time to do something you enjoy, whether it is a new hobby or more socialising. Be kind to yourself and find peace in knowing that your beloved family member is no longer in pain and that the love and care you gave them meant the world.