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Deciding on the right time to put your pet to sleep.

When it comes to pet euthanasia, many pet parents find theselves at a crossroads. Here are some factorsthat can help you understand when it is best to make the decision.

Euthanasia literally means good death. The decision to put our much loved pet to sleep is never an easy one. It is usually performed to prevent pain or suffering that can't be cured or sufficiently managed. Although an emotional time in many ways, the most important thing to most people is to do right by their pet.

It is inevitable that the decision will no doubt cause great sadness to you as an owner and you may feel very conflicted at this difficult time. I will do my best to make the process as smooth as possible, so that you will hopefully gain comfort from knowing they passed away peacefully without fear or pain.

Many people struggle with deciding when the time is right. This is particularly the case with older animals, who are gradually deteriorating but there is no defined point at which to make the decision.

My advice to many clients over the years has always been "Better a couple of days too early, than a day too late". Both I as a veterinary surgeon and you as a pet owner want what is best for your pet and my primary aim is to prevent suffering.  I feel that when you look back on events as an owner, I want you to take comfort that your pet didn't deteriorate too far that they began to suffer. It is always better to have a euthanasia that is pre-arranged so that those who want to be there can be, and there's time to take things slowly, rather than feel rushed and in a panic because a pet has suddenly taken a turn for the worst. 

Here are some points that I have found useful over the years in helping owners to decide regarding quality of life and when it is best to make the decision.

  • Good days Vs bad days - This is particularly useful in animals that are gradually deteriorating but fluctuating day to day. For example looking back over the preceding week, if the number of bad days was greater than the number of good, that can be useful in helping you to decide it's time to make the decision to let them go.

  • Appetite - Some pets will gradually stop eating and this may be accompanied by vomiting and/or diarrhoea

  • Pain - Unfortunately, despite all the advances in veterinary medicine, sometimes we as vets are unable to adequately manage pain.

  • Urinary/faecal continence - most pets are house trained from a young age and may find it distressing if they are soiling indoors. They may also get sores on their skin and in the summer time may be at risk of fly strike and maggot infestation, particularly if mobility is poor.

  • Breathing - It can be very distressing for pets if they feel like they are having to struggle to breathe.

  • Mentation - Dementia is becoming more of an issue as pets are living longer. This can manifest itself with many of the symptoms discussed in the above, also night time vocalising, loss of training, aggression or depression.