How to know when its time to say goodbye to a pet

Julia Dicconson
Content Manager
January 8, 2021

Deciding when to euthanise a beloved pet can be truly heartbreaking, but making the call is a responsibility many owners are forced with. We love our domesticated companions, but as a society, we also tend to overprotect them. Consequently, that means we might hold on to our pets longer than what’s in their best interest. 

Some families need time to come to terms with their pet’s deterioration, while others make a decision quickly to prevent unnecessary suffering. Either way, deciding it’s time for a vet to put a pet down can be gut-wrenching. It’s often hard to know when is the right time to say goodbye, but you owe your pet a peaceful passing. 

So, let’s shed some light on this difficult responsibility. 

Weighing up the decision to put down a pet

If you’ve been to a vet and received a diagnosis that your pet is declining, you may be given options to either alleviate the symptoms with pain relief; treat the condition with medication or surgery; or to have the animal put down. 

It’s time to consider if you value extending your pet’s life over their quality of life. You’ll also need to weigh up the practical aspects of the diagnosis. There will likely be an increased responsibility for vet visits, in addition to providing medical care and emotional support as your pet deteriorates. 

Treatment can be expensive, so you’ll also need to consider if you can afford the costs involved, particularly if your pet has an ongoing need for medicine. If you aren’t able to provide ongoing treatment, will they suffer without it?

How to track your pet's quality of life

When an older pet shows signs of slowly declining, it can be difficult to determine the right time to put them down. This is because animals generally have a strong drive for survival, making it hard for us to tell the difference between a rough patch and their end of life. To help, there are a range of quality-of-life scales and assessment tools to track a pet’s happiness and comfort over time. 

Monitoring a pet’s health and behaviours and looking for trends over time will give you a more accurate picture of any gradual decline. This will provide a more valuable indication than a snapshot of a good or bad day. 

The common categories to monitor in a pet are:

  • loss of appetite;
  • nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea;
  • signs of pain: panting, whining, moaning, immobility and decreased activity;
  • inability to maintain normal grooming habits;
  • happiness: does your pet still enjoy their favourite activities, or do they appear anxious or depressed?

Consider five things your pet loves to do. If they struggle to do three of those things, it may be time to put them down.

While it’s helpful to monitor these behavioural changes, it’s important to consult a vet for a professional assessment so that they can deliver a medical prognosis. 

Read our article Pets and Pain: is my pet suffering? for more tips on determining a pet's quality of life.

How to decide when to have your pet put down

Deciding when to have a vet euthanise your pet can be a hard and complex decision. But being a pet owner comes with responsibilities, and that includes making difficult choices on your best mate’s behalf.

It’s important to monitor your companion’s quality of life over time and if their unusual behaviour continues, seek advice from a vet. If you're not comfortable with your decision making, you might find reassurance by checking in with people close to you who know the animal well. But ultimately, owners know their pets better than anyone else – even vets. 

A pet’s final days should not be the worst days of their life. If a pet is left to deteriorate to a point where they require urgent euthanasia, their suffering would have unfortunately gone on too long. If your pet is experiencing a poor quality of life and having trouble enjoying the things they used to love, it may be time to put them down – as difficult as it may be. 

The decision to have a vet put down your pet is a deeply personal choice. But letting your companion go peacefully and ending their suffering is the last gift you can give them.

We’re here for you

At Goodbye Good Boy, we provide home euthanasia services to support loving owners in providing a peaceful passing for their beloved pets.

The team at Goodbye Good Boy offers individualised support to help you and your family navigate this difficult time by providing quality-of-life checks, in-home euthanasia, cremation and aftercare services, and personalised memorialisation options. 

To learn more about our pet end-of-life services, give our team of passionate pet lovers a call on 1800 953 619.