Old Cat

When Is It Time to Say Goodbye?

Written by: Shireen Haynes

The benefits of pet ownership are endless.  Pets can comfort us when we are sad.  They make us laugh with their funny antics or weird quirks.  We spend hours with them just doing nothing.  They weave their way into the fabric of our life and they are family. They bring us joy simply by being themselves.

If you are lucky, your pet will grow old with you. Of course as animals age, their health status may decline and owners are faced with that inevitable question, “When is time to say goodbye?”  For many people, deciding to euthanize a pet is one of the hardest decisions to face.  It’s something that many people do not want to think or talk about.

Rosie Smith, a veterinarian in the United Kingdom, writes “The Good Vet and Pet Guide” blog.  She developed a scale that can help pet owners assess their pet’s quality of life.  The scale covers eating and toileting habits, mobility issues, interest in daily exercises, breathing capabilities, happiness and mental health among other things.  Normal functions are rated “10” and abnormal rated “0”.  For example, mobility can be rated “10” for normal movement and “0” for unable to stand.  A rating in between may mean that your pet still has an acceptable quality of life but that you should pay attention to its extra needs.  Some conditions may be treatable with medication or veterinary care.  Others may indicate that it is time to think about hard decisions.  “I feel it is often better to let a pet go while it still has dignity rather than hanging on to the bitter end which means unnecessary suffering for the pet and owners left with memories of their pet’s last days being painful, stressful and unhappy,” says Dr. Smith.

The scoring system could also be used to monitor progress over time.  Just like people, pets will have good days and bad.  Keeping track of your pet’s essential functions can help you to discuss the timing of euthanasia with your vet.  It can also help if there is disagreement among family members.  A decreasing score may warrant setting a time limit to prevent unnecessary suffering for your beloved pet.

Dr. Smith writes, “Owners often ask for my advice and I am happy to give what help I can but there are two things to remember.  First, in most of these cases, there is no “right” time for euthanasia as determined by a vet.  Secondly, you, the owner, are the person who knows your pet best, who sees how it manages day to day.”

“It is all a question of acceptable quality of life.  There is no definitive score that means you should let your pet go or let it carry on.  The exercise is to help you think about things with a clearer head rather than letting emotion cloud your judgement.”

To read Dr. Smith’s checklist for yourself, please click here:  http://www.goodvetguide.co.uk/blog/rosie-the-vet-blog/how-will-i-know-when-its-time-to-say-goodbye-by-dr-rosie-smith.

When the time comes and you do say goodbye, remember that feelings of loss and grief are normal.  There is no time frame on grief.  People can find comfort in many different ways.  There is no defined way to mourn your pet.  Our pets have ways of burrowing into our hearts and we hold them there forever.