You’ve successfully nursed your pet through days, weeks, months, maybe even years of illness, but now you’re noticing a failing of health. It might be subtle or it might not be. But you feel the time has come to rethink your goals for you and your patient.
There are so many factors to take into consideration when deciding the best time to let go our loved one. Although we have much more freedom in end-of-life decisions for our pets, normal confusion and emotional pain are still associated with the process.
‘Am I making the right decision’ is a question that constantly plagues us. Should I wait another week until Sally comes home from college to say goodbye? Should I try another doctor? Should I add in another painkiller? Is there anything else that I can do?
Every one of those is a reasonable question.
I think it all comes down to Quality of Life.
Let’s review what constitutes basic life qualities for our pets. There’re the easy necessities like eating, drinking, sleeping, eliminating, and being interested in life. I think if even one of those is missing from my pet’s daily life, I have to question how much fun they’re having today.
And then there are the pastimes specific to each of our individual pets. For my pets: Shadow relishes leaping up to her window-mounted perch and watching the world. Sam lives to chase his ball. Katie Mae would hate to miss her daily walk. Bangles loves to climb that horizontal branch and play king of the jungle.
Basic life activities are a given. Without those, we can almost be sure quality of life is lacking.
But what about those extra daily activities that provide enrichment, distraction, exercise, and, well, happiness? If your pet is unable to perform what previously gave them joy, it may be time to reassess the situation.
Each pet parent should know best what constitutes quality of life for their own beloved critter. It’s hard, period. And yet, it’s also tough to watch your pet suffer through each day lying on their bed, uncomfortable, not eating, unhappy, unable move much, maybe urinating on themselves, and in general, just not participating in day-today existence.
You have to take a tally of whether the pet is living or existing.
Paramount to all this decision-making is ensuring your pet’s pain is controlled while the struggles are worked through. If the painkillers rendered your patient inappetant or sluggish, are they worth continuing? Yes. While you make your decision, you must control pain. If your patient stops eating due to the painkillers, you may want to explore adding alternative treatments. Would a hemp extract high in CBD’s allow you to reduce the amount of appetite-killing opioids, increase the appetite, and also provide a mild sense of wellbeing? Would acupuncture or herbs help alleviate your patient’s pain at all? Would massage help? These are all options open to you.
…And still, the illness progresses and your heart is burdened with questions. There’s no easy answer. We all have our own way of working through the steps to euthanizing our beloved pets. We make our lists of quality of life items. We decide missing even one of the basic life markers is unacceptable. We review what activities made our pet happy. We consult with our veterinarian about how our pet’s illness might have progressed to the point there’s no more ways to help.
But realize, please, that the gift of ending our pets’ lives without the end-of-life struggle to death is one we should treasure and use intelligently. Helping our special friends to a humane, love-surrounded death is a brave decision. And don’t feel like you have to travel that path alone. Home euthanasia services are available and affordable. Engage your veterinarian or his technician for help with your decision. Ask them to assess your pet’s comfort level if you’re unsure of this yourself or the any questions about your pet’s situation.