When is It Time to Say Goodbye to a Pet?
Saying goodbye to a pet is never easy. It can be one of the most painful things in the world for a pet parent to see your companion in pain and know that your time together is coming to an end.
As pet parents, our role is to keep our pets comfortable and relieve their pain, but it’s incredibly difficult to let them go. End-of-life pet care can help your pet transition with comfort and dignity and help you process your decision.
This post will help prepare you for making this difficult decision for your pet, and offer all the resources you need to make an informed decision.
Understanding the Pet Quality of Life Scale
A pet’s health condition can be gauged using something called the Pet Quality-of-Life Assessment, which assigns a numerical value to a pet's level of physical health, mental health, natural functions, and social functions. Factors can include things like family interactions, sleep patterns, breathing patterns, mobility, and appetite.
A pet with a score 30 and over has a normal quality of life, while a score between 20 -30 indicates that a veterinary consultation is recommended to see if medical intervention might be helpful or necessary. Pets with a score below 20 are experiencing issues impacting their quality of life, like aging or illness, and may need to consider more advanced treatments or end-of-life care options.
Since our furry friends can't talk to us, recognizing issues can be complicated. Some signs of pet pain are subtle and some are more obvious. But pets who are suffering from a decline in quality of life do usually show some symptoms like:
- Decreased appetite or thirst
- Lack of interest in normal activities
- Stressed or aggressive behavior
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Labored breathing or excessive panting
- Frequent or uncontrolled urination or bowel movements
- Mobility problems or falling
- Visible signs of discomfort including limping or whining
The Importance of Veterinary Guidance in End-of-Life Care for Pets
A qualified veterinarian is trained in gauging your beloved pet's level of pain and assessing their discomfort. Our veterinarians pick up on signs and symptoms that may not be apparent, and based on their quality-of-life score, will be able to outline a treatment plan to address your pet's specific needs.
What’s more, your pet can be examined in the comfort of home, eliminating the need for disruptions like car rides, carriers, and clinic waiting rooms.
In particular, pets with chronic illnesses or senior pets in health decline should be monitored closely for symptoms. Quality-of-life care can help provide your pet with the best plan and environment to address any mobility issues, as well as provide options for pain management.
Your veterinarian is also able to tell you if it's time to consider hospice care or humane euthanasia for your pet. As painful as it is, if those options are in your pet's best interest we'll carefully walk you through the best way to support your pet during their last stages of life.
Exploring Euthanasia and Hospice Care for Pets
If your veterinarian determines that palliative care is the best option for your furry family member, pet hospice services ensure that their final days are spent as comfortably as possible at home.
When it's time to say goodbye to your pet, in-home euthanasia is a peaceful process. Our compassionate veterinarians take the time to explain the process and what to expect, supporting you and your pet every step of the way.
We always take utmost care to ensure that your wishes are respected and that you are ready to go forward. Pets don't feel pain during the euthanasia procedure, and the process is much like falling into a deep sleep. In-home euthanasia allows you and your other family members to surround your pet during their transition over the Rainbow Bridge.
Aftercare and Celebrating Your Pet's Life
Saying goodbye to a cherished pet stirs up deep emotions of grief, which can be long lasting. There are a number of options to honor your pet, which also may help process your feelings of loss.
Some people find comfort in holding a formal or informal funeral ceremony, keeping water bowls, favorite toys, or other pet memorial keepsakes, mementos, photos, or may choose a day to celebrate their life every year.
In the immediate aftermath of your pet's death, you can arrange for cremation or burial. You can take your pet's ashes home or choose a home burial so that they'll always be with you, or bury them in a pet cemetery so that you can visit them whenever you feel the need.
Emotional Support for Pet Owners and Coping with Pet Loss
Pets are family, and their loss can be emotionally devastating. It’s important to acknowledge that feelings of loss and grief are completely valid. Take your time to grieve the loss of your pet like any other family member, and seek out support if needed.
You may find support and comfort from speaking with others who have experienced losing a pet. Many parents can benefit from pet loss support groups on sites like Facebook or Reddit.
Considering children and pet loss is also important, as kids may not fully understand what happened to their friend. Parents of children dealing with the loss of a pet can choose how to best communicate the concept of death, but usually it's best to avoid euphemisms and be up-front that a pet has died. There are children books available that can also help during the grieving process.
Assure children that it's okay to feel strong emotions about the loss of a pet, including sadness or anger. Many people also find comfort in telling their kids that their pets are in heaven or no longer in pain.
Exploring options for end-of-life care and euthanasia is a difficult but necessary part of pet parenthood. Lean on the support of your family, friends, and veterinarian, who can help support you through the process. It's important to give yourself grace during this time and let yourself come to terms with your loss.
If you think your pet’s health is declining or it might be time to consider humane euthanasia, our veterinarians can help you make the best plan for your pet.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know it's time to consider euthanasia for my pet?
If you notice your pet's quality of life declining, which might include chronic pain, changes in appetite, behavioral changes, or mobility issues, consulting with a veterinarian can give you clarity about whether it's time to consider euthanasia.
What should I expect during the euthanasia process?
Your veterinarian will typically first inject a medication to sedate your pet and prevent them from feeling any pain. They'll then administer a second injection which will cause your pet to lose consciousness and pass away painlessly and peacefully.
How can I cope with the grief of losing my pet?
You have every right to grieve the loss of your beloved pet deeply. It can be helpful to explore options to celebrate your pet's life or seek support from friends, family members, or even strangers who are also navigating pet loss.
What are some ways to memorialize my pet?
Keeping mementos like water bowls or favorite toys, framing photographs, visiting gravestones, cremation keepsakes or keeping ashes can help honor and remember a beloved pet.
How do I explain pet loss to children?
It's best to be up-front with children about the loss of a pet. Avoid euphemisms and explain to children that a pet has died and that it's okay to grieve or be angry.