Deciding When to Euthanize a Pet

Making the decision to put a pet to sleep is the hardest decision a pet owner can have to make.

A sad looking lab poses for a portrat
A sad looking lab poses for a portrat
Image © D Studios Photography

Sometimes it is an obvious and quick choice, such as after an automobile accident or other sudden injury, while at other times, it is a harder decision, as with pets that live into old age or have a slow illness. But due to the short and sweet life span of an animal, it is most likely a decision that an animal owner will have to make at some point.

Unlike humans, animals can’t tell us when they are suffering. Some pets might whine while others will lay around lethargic. Cat’s will often try to hide the suffering. Other animals might act differently or eat less, so it is up to us to pay attention to when our pets are suffering. We must also not use excuses to not act upon our pets suffering, such as “they will get better”, or “I’ll take them to the vet next week.” If we were ill, we would act upon it right away, and we should respect our animals in the same way.

A good source of information is a quality vet. Ask a trusted vet what they think is the right choice. They are able to be removed enough from the emotions of the situation; and just like a human doctor, they are the experts on the animal’s health. They can explain how an animal might be suffering, or how much longer the animal has to live. They can tell us if we are only prolonging the suffering for our own desire to not deal with the loss of the beloved pet. They can also give us a good idea of how much longer the animal has so that we can enjoy the last precious amount of quality time with our pet. If deciding to get a second opinion, that second opinions is usually in the hope that we might get a different response. So, it is important to go realizing we might not hear what we want.

A person should not own a pet if they can’t afford to take proper care of the animal, but that is not always the case. For example, in the case of cancer; chemotherapy can be expensive and drawn out, and the animal might not live through it anyway. Is it better to spend the money or put the animal down? Sometimes people lose income and have to make hard decisions; and sometimes people get pets they can’t afford through other methods such as relatives dropping them off. As such, finances do play a role in deciding when an animal should be put down.

Image for post
Image for post
Image © Milo Denison

It is important to remember that our pets feel pain. (both is fine but you have repeated animals a few times now so might be a good time to mix it up) Even though they might not show they are suffering when they are, they should still be considered when making decisions about the end of their lives. As humans, we can tell others how we feel, we can make DNR decisions, and in some countries, and US states, we even have the right to choose euthanasia. Pets, however, cannot tell us what they want, so we need to be responsible, considerate owners and make the best decisions as to how to deal with the end of their lives.

Milo Denison is a former office monkey, a freelance writer, and his most recent book “How to Manage Your Manager” is out now

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