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Euthanasia: Evaluating When the Time Is Right

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Allison Rohde Newgent, DVM
Garden State Veterinary Specialists


Deciding when to say goodbye to a beloved pet is an individual and personal decision. Sometimes, it is said that families will just know when it is time. However, this is often not the case. In some instances, it may be clear when a pet is suffering and owners may feel comfortable coming to the decision on their own. However, families can often struggle to identify when the time is right. When combined with the advice of a veterinarian, a more objective analysis of a petís quality of life can often help in these situations.

Several quantitative scales have been developed that can help to objectively evaluate a petís quality of life. In their simplest form, this may simply mean keeping a daily record of whether a day was good or bad for the pet. When the bad days consistently out-number the good, it may be time to consider euthanasia. This simple scale works well for pets suffering from chronic disease for which there are few or no treatment options. However, it is still subjective and may not provide sufficient feedback in more complex situations.

Another manner in which quality of life can be evaluated, begins with making a short list of a petís favorite activities. If the animal is still doing and enjoying the majority of the items on the list, their quality of life is likely still good. When the pet ceases to engage in a number of the activities, it may be time to discuss euthanasia with a veterinarian. This type of evaluation provides tangible parameters for evaluation, yet it is still simple and versatile.

Other, more sophisticated quality of life scales can be easily found online. These often involve evaluating multiple parameters on a numerical scale. The numbers for each parameter are added to reach a final quality of life score. Parameters evaluated often include, but are not limited to, pain, hunger, behavior, hydration, stool quality, breathing, hygiene, mobility, etc. This type of scale provides a much more in-depth analysis for the detail-oriented owner.

Ultimately, it is important to discuss euthanasia in advance with family members and with your veterinarian, if possible. While veterinarians cannot make the decision for their clients, they are a valuable asset for helping guide pet owners through the process. Your veterinarian can discuss their practiceís euthanasia protocol with you, so you know what to expect when that day comes. Options for taking care of your petís remains can also be discussed. Your veterinarian may be able to direct you toward other resources, such as at-home euthanasia options, hospice care, or pet loss support groups.

Letting go of a wonderful companion is an extremely difficult decision and is never easy. However, when performed at the right time it can be a very comforting process. It allows pet owners to control how their pet feels in his or her last moments and to know their pet is not suffering. In some cases, euthanasia is one of the best gifts we can give them.


This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for the professional advice of your veterinarian.

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