Deciding when it’s time-the quality of life discussion

posted on July 02, 2019 by Dr. Jamie Hartman

One of the worst part of owning pets is that they don’t live as long as we do, so at some point it will be time to say goodbye.  However, we do have the ability to end a pet’s life with dignity and to relieve suffering.  But many people aren’t sure when it’s time.  We here at Heritage Animal Hospital have recently had to make these decisions for both our clinic dog and cat, so we understand what you’re going through.

First of all, if you are unsure, you can always make an appointment or call us to discuss.  As veterinarians, we are trained to look for signs of suffering, pain, and diminishing quality of life in our pets, so we are often a more objective source to help make the decision.  Second of all, if you feel it is time for whatever reason, we will not second guess or judge you for this.  You know your pet the best.

Things we often recommend looking at include is the pet eating/drinking, is the pet able to move on it’s own, and is the pet still interacting with you.  Does it enjoy the things it used to?  (Note-a 15 year old dog is the equivalent of a 90 year old person, so it may not enjoy frisbee anymore, but might still get enjoyment from being outside or going for a walk).  Is the pet having accidents, and is it able to move out of them or is it covered in it’s own feces and/or urine?  Is the pet in pain, and if so, are we adequately controlling it with medications, supplements, etc.

Pick a couple things that make your pet special.  Are they still doing those things?  A pet that always greats you at the door and suddenly won’t get up when you come home, or a pet that follows you from room to room suddenly stays in it’s bed alone in a room are signs that it may be time.

Because this decision is very difficult, it can be hard to balance emotions with reality.  Using things like penny jars for good or bad days/events, marking a calendar, or using scales like the one below can help give you a visual, concrete representation of how your pet is doing.

Ultimately you know your pet best, but we are here to help you make these tough decisions, and can help by telling you when we think it may be time when you can’t make this decision on your own.  Please let us know if we can help.

In Loving Memory of Jack and Harry