Monday, February 15, 2010 1:15 PM

When it's Time to Say Goodbye

Anyone who has ever owned a pet knows the feelings of loss when the beloved animal dies. Even though we all know that no one lives forever, it still hurts when our pets pass on. More often than not, pets do not die in their sleep, as we would all prefer (even for ourselves!), but continue to decline in health until we take the initiative to end their suffering. Unfortunately, this issue often causes both pets and their owners unnecessary stress and discomfort. How can one be sure that the right decision is being made?

Very seldom is anything certain in life. However, I believe that responsible pet owners do not make the decision to euthanize their cat or dog lightly. I have seen people agonize over the decision, with the end result that the animal suffers more than it would have had the action been more decisive. People who are worried about making a rash decision to euthanize too quickly paradoxically wind up causing their pet more discomfort by postponing the procedure. Therefore, if you are considering putting your pet to sleep, I would bet a box of donuts that you are reading the situation correctly.

Still, we worry. We wonder if veterinary science might not be able to save the animal, no matter what the cost. Or we convince ourselves that the animal is not suffering, is still "enjoying life", as I've heard it put. An old, chronically ill animal that cannot see, hear or control his bladder and/or bowels is not having a good time! I have seen pets that could barely walk and had lost so much weight that they looked like skeletons. The owners still maintained that the pet was doing fine. Only when the animal couldn't get up or eat a single morsel did they throw in the towel. To my mind, the act of euthanasia was long past due.

If you have a trustworthy veterinarian, he or she will give your animal an exam and honestly apprise you of your options. Some vets encourage their clients to pay thousands of dollars for treatments that do not work and only prolong suffering. My husband has a friend that traveled 100 miles once a week for chemotherapy treatments for his dog. He did this for 6 months. The end result? The dog died anyway, and this man was out several thousand dollars.

But, how do we know it's "time"? Tomorrow, we'll take a look at how an owner can determine with a reasonable amount of certainty that an animal's time has come.
Chat later!

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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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