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How Do We Know When It’s Time?

Sunday, June 12, 2016
posted by Jim Murphy

SADDOGOwning a pet is a very rewarding, loving experience. They become part of our families and provide unconditional love for many years. Unfortunately, their life expectancy is much less than that of a human. There always comes a time when our pet becomes old and ill. We do our best to keep our pets around as long as possible but there comes a time when the pet’s quality of life declines and we have to make one of the most difficult decisions in our lives—-when to put our beloved pet to sleep. The suffering of the pet should be our primary concern. How do we know when it’s time? Is he still eating is dog food or cat food? Does he still enjoy long walk and playing with his dog or cat toys? The answer is our pets tell us. We need to know what to look for. Web MD has put together some helpful guidelines to follow.


What to Look For

When you’re home with your pet and the vet isn’t there, how can you tell whether he’s worse this week than last?

Andrew D. Nguyen, DVM, veterinarian at Columbia Pike Animal Hospital in Annandale, VA, says to think about all of this while your pet’s still healthy.

He suggests making a list of your pet’s five favorite things. Running to the door to greet you when you get home? Fetching? Treats? Catnip? Toys?

Next, tune in to how your pet interacts with his environment. Know that one day he won’t be able to enjoy his favorite things.

Plan Ahead

The key, Nguyen says, is to create guidelines ahead of time. That way, when your pet’s health declines and you’re upset, you can check the plan you made when you were more clearheaded.

Is it time to say goodbye when he no longer enjoys two of his five favorite things? Or three of the five? Or all five? It’s your decision.

“It’s whatever feels right to you and will be most compassionate for your pet,” Nguyen says.

There’s a wrinkle, though. Often, an aging or ill pet doesn’t suddenly lose his ability to enjoy walks or treats. Instead, the changes come little by little. Then it’s time to think about his quality of life. Does he enjoy treats or walks 30% of the time? 50% of the time? Or not at all?

Put Yourself in His Paws

Think about how your pet feels, Nguyen said. Their organ systems are a lot like ours. So it’s likely that kidney failure in a dog feels about the same as it would for a person. Ask your vet what your pet is feeling.

“Imagine yourself super thirsty — so thirsty that you’re constantly nauseated,” Nguyen tells pet owners. “People can relate to that. That often helps them make their decision.”

Sometimes it’s clear that it’s time to let your friend go. You just know. He doesn’t eat. Or he can’t control when or where he poops and pees. Maybe all he can do is lie there. And due to his illness or age, you know that none of this will get any better. It’s a bleak outlook, but it makes the decision easier.

Gray Areas

But what if signals are mixed?
A pet that has severe arthritis can seem happy and hearty, even if his joints have given out and he can no longer walk.

“Those are the most devastating decisions to make — when the pet is still bright and alert, and their organs are fine,” Nguyen says. “To help, I let patients know that I view the musculoskeletal system as another organ system that is a requirement for life. When your legs go out, and you can’t move, that’s not a good quality of life.”

Remember, your pets count!

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