Ask the Veterinarian: Making End of Life Decisions

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Check out the Michigan Humane Society blog on Mondays to see common veterinary questions answered. If you have an immediate medical concern with your pet, please call your veterinarian! If you have a non-urgent question you would like answered on the blog, you can comment here or email us at mail(at)michiganhumane.org.

“What sort of criteria do you use when deciding that it’s time to euthanize an elderly pet?”

Saying good-bye to a beloved pet you have shared your life with can be very difficult. Sometimes illness or a painful condition can help make the decision a bit easier, but no less upsetting. Other times, the signs that your pet is no longer having a good quality of life can be more subtle.

You know your pet better than anyone. You know their favorite foods, what brings them joy, and their unique habits. When you begin to see they are more withdrawn, doesn’t get excited about certain activities like they used to, have trouble getting around or overall just aren’t themselves, it may be time to consider euthanasia. It is important to speak with your veterinarian. He or she can help rule-out any treatable medical problems and discuss possible options to keep your old friend comfortable. If your pet has a specific medical condition, ask your veterinarian what signs may indicate the condition is worsening. It may help to keep a journal of your pet’s daily activities and habits. This will help you identify when the bad days outnumber the good ones.

It is normal to feel grief, guilt and even anger regarding the decision to euthanize your pet. If you are struggling with grief, ask your veterinarian for information on local pet loss support groups. You can also call the ASPCA Pet Loss Support Hotline at 877-474-3310.

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