Pets and Pain: is my pet suffering?

Julia Dicconson
Content Manager
January 8, 2021

When a pet is in pain, it can be hard for owners to understand that they are suffering. Animals don’t have an emotional attachment to their pain like humans do, so they don’t express the feeling in the same way. Consequently, this can make it difficult for owners to identify the warning signs of a pet’s decline.

Know when it’s time to have a pet put down

So how do you determine the difference between a pet’s bad day, or gradual decline? Let’s take a look at the aspects of a pet’s end-of-life journey. 

Anxiety vs pain: What’s worse?

Pain and suffering are major factors when deciding when it’s time to have a pet put down, but owners should be equally concerned about their companion’s anxiety.

When a pet is deteriorating or at advanced age, visits to the vet become more frequent. Consider how your pet behaves when they go to the vet. Do they get nervous or anxious? Now think about the last time they were hurt. Did your pet brush off a scraped paw as if nothing was wrong?

When an animal is suffering, for example, if they have end-stage arthritis, they usually pant or cry. But these are often symptoms of anxiety and distress due to their condition, rather than the pain it’s causing. Weigh up if prolonging their life is worth putting them (and your family) through the emotional trauma.

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

Waiting too long

Deciding to euthanise a beloved pet is a heartbreaking experience. It’s so difficult that some pet owners will put it off until the very end. Sometimes they’ve waited too long, and only prolonged the pet’s suffering.

Owners can be fearful of putting a companion down too soon, instead allowing their pet the chance to not give up without a fight. Consequently, the battle can drag on for days, weeks, or even months, resulting in prolonged suffering, anxious trips to the vet and painful procedures that don’t improve their quality of life.

If your companion no longer enjoys their normal activities, prolonging their life might be more for your sake than theirs. As difficult as it is, it could be time to say goodbye rather than put a beloved pet through more suffering than necessary.

Natural death

In some circumstances, animals can pass away naturally without euthanasia, but a peaceful death without suffering is rare in domesticated animals.

In the wild, an animal at their end of life would usually separate themselves from their pack while waiting for their natural death to come. Our domesticated dogs, cats, rabbits, horses and pocket pets rarely have this freedom. The reduced quality of life can cause them much anxiety. 

If a family is against euthanasia or decides to wait for their sick or deteriorating pet to die on their own, it can often end up being an upsetting and regretful experience for all involved. 

Our best mates depend on our kindness and wisdom to help them die peacefully. We owe it to them to ensure that their last days aren’t their worst days.

Deciding when to have a pet put down

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. 

Of course, the responsibility of deciding when to put down a pet is a sad burden to bear. But it’s important to consider that a natural death for a declining animal can be a long, painful, and avoidable experience. Elderly or sick animals don’t survive long in the wild, so we owe it to our domesticated companions to provide them with a peaceful end-of-life journey. A compassionate euthanasia is usually far less emotionally painful, both for your pet and your family.

Ultimately, owners know their pets better than anyone else – even vets. So, the decision to have your pet put down 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

Don’t wait until the very end. It’s important to consider your pet’s end-of-life journey early, so that you, your family and your pet are all supported through the process.

When the time comes, we’re here for you. Goodbye Good Boy provides a range of end-of-life services to make the difficult process of saying goodbye a little easier. 

We offer quality of life assessments from qualified vets, specialist grief counselling, at home euthanasia from dedicated end of life veterinarians, as well as cremation services and memorial options to help remember your pet for their unique character.

We are with you at every step of the journey.

To find out more, you can call our team of passionate pet lovers on 1800 953 619.