Tuesday, February 16, 2010 9:51 AM

How to Know When it's Time to Put Your Pet to Sleep



How does one know for sure that there is no hope and it is time to euthanize one's pet? People that are very close to their animals can tell when something is wrong. Very often, they know also when their pet's time has come. When making this important decision, consider the following circumstances and issues; after taking everything into consideration, you will feel more secure about taking this merciful but irreversible step.

Your pet is very old and/or chronically ill. A very old pet, particularly one with health problems, is not going to improve. They are at the end of their lives, and you must come to terms with that. How old is old? A 2-year-old cat or dog is equivalent to a mature human of 21-25 years. The new math then adds 4 years to each year after that. Therefore, a 7-year-old cat is considered to be 21/25 + (4x5) = 41/45 human-equivalent years old and just moving into middle age. A 10-year-old cat or dog is therefore about 53/57 human years old; this is considered the beginning of old age (at least for pets!) and you can usually start to see changes in your animal in their tenth year. Of course, some pets seem to age faster than others (hence the wiggle room in the numbers) and large dogs age more quickly than small ones.

Remember, too, that these newer numbers represent an animal with the best care and a healthy youth and middle age. An animal of 10 years who develops diabetes or kidney failure is not going to live to a ripe old age. Talk to your veterinarian, who will help coach you as to what to look out for when your pet's age and health problems are keeping it from living comfortably.

Your pet is no longer eating and cannot stand up. An old and/or sick animal that just stops eating needs to be euthanized. Very quickly, s/he will be unable to move, and you don't want it to get to that. Cats should not be allowed to go completely without food for 2 days or more anyway, as organ failure can occur. A young animal with anorexia (no appetite) is one thing; a sick, elderly pet, another. Either way, get to the vet and have the situation assessed.

Your animal has sustained serious trauma or has cancer. Often, animals hit by cars (this doesn't happen to indoor cats, hint hint) can recover and live many more years. In other instances, however, the pain and expense involved in taking that chance isn't worth it. The same goes for cancer. I know people who have had surgery and chemotherapy done on their pets to gain 6 months to 1 year of extra life. Think about the healthy animals you could adopt from your local shelter if you instead said "goodbye". Alternately, you could make a donation to a shelter in your pet's memory. Either way (or both), you'll do more good for more animals!

Remember that the grief you feel is only for your own loss; your pet is now no longer suffering. Time will pass, and you'll recover. The sure-fire method to get over your grief fast? Get another pet (or two)! Believe me, it really works!
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Amanda
Amanda has worked with animals for many years and has always had cats in her life. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two excellent cats.
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