In over 30 years of practice, and after many euthanasias and quality of life discussions with pet owners, I came up with a simplified algorithm for determining when “it’s time”. Again, this is a very simplified checklist but many clients find it to be a useful tool. Three (or four depending on the situation) questions you should ask yourself about your pet:
- Is your pet happy to see you when you return home? For example, do they get up to greet you; do they appear excited to see you? Are they hiding?
- Is your pet eating? Pets, like most people, enjoy eating and if they frequently turn their noses up at food, their quality of life is probably poor. Occasional force feeding is fine, but to do it everyday just to keep them alive is not a sign of a happy pet.
- Are they in pain? Do they pant excessively, pace at night, cry, act reluctant to move?
- And, as a personal issue, I add urinary and fecal incontinence to the list. If a pet is totally incontinent, it can destroy the human/pet bond in some cases, especially in with a large dog. And most large dogs desperately don’t want to soil their environments, which adds to their mental discomfort.
Veterinarians are now very knowledgeable about hospice compared to 30 years ago, but eventually palliative treatment no longer brings relief from pain and suffering. If you have questions about hospice and palliative care, please call me to discuss your options.