Owning a pet is one of the best joys in life, they bring us so much happiness with years of love and affection. These times we want to be endless, however we all know this sadly is not the case, and our dearly beloved fur babies are not immortal. This is the hardest part of owning a pet.
All animals grow old, and with age can come changes to our animals health. These can be slow and chronic, or fast and acute. If these changes impact on our pets quality of life, we can try ways to make them more comfortable, for example giving medication or introducing diet changes.
However, some health changes can be debilitating for example, older animals are more likely to develop chronic changes to their kidneys, and liver. Neurological deterioration can cause confusion, anxiety, seizures and mobility changes. These changes can be treated with medications; however they are usually progressive in nature and can lead to our pets' health deteriorating. It can also mean they can be suffering unnecessarily. Sometimes medications that are prescribed can cause side effects which can affect our pets negatively, these need to be discussed with your veterinarian.
Daily normal actions taken by our pet should be fulfilled for a good quality of life. Unaided, they should be able to eat, drink, urinate, defecate, move – walk/run/play, clean themselves etc.
It isn’t always older animals, unfortunately it is all too often we see our younger pets being hit by ill health, be it a disease process, or from acute trauma. Either scenario old or young, if our pets quality of life, which is defined by our pets physical and mental well-being, has reduced and they are suffering unnecessarily which cannot be resolved therapeutically, by adapting their environment, or you cannot provide the nursing they need to be supported daily, then we may have to make one of the hardest decisions of our lives, the option to stop their suffering, by opting for euthanasia.
To help determine our pets quality of life and health status, we can ask ourselves some questions.
Is your pet feeling pain?
Are they still playing?
Can they move unaided, or do you need to help them get up, help to walk, or need to be carried up stairs etc
Are they sitting differently, are they fidgeting more or restless - can they get comfortable?
Can they still get into the normal position to urinate, defecate and to clean themselves?
Are they able to partake on their normal walk, or refusing to go or stopping more on walks?
Are they limping?
Are the whining or crying more?
Are they eating?
If your pet is a cat, are they still able to jump, or climb, or are they still able to reach their normal places?
Can your pet urinate or defecate normally
Do they pass motions regularly and normally
Do they get constipated or get diarrhoea frequently
Can your pet eat normally
Is your pet able to eat unaided?
Has their appetite reduced or changed?
Have they had weight loss despite a normal or increase in diet?
Are they frequently vomiting, or have episodes of diarrhoea?
Has your pets behaviour changed
Are they confused ? Do they seem dazed? do they sit in random places or get ‘stuck in corners’
Are they still responding to you when you call them?
Are they becoming incontinent – are they toilet trained, or are they starting to toilet in the household or are they aware they are toileting, are they doing it in their sleep?
Are the ‘unlearning’ previously taught commands?
Is your pet panting more than normal? Are they panting even at rest?
Does your pet seem dull/depressed?
Has your pet been diagnosed with a progressive, uncurbable disease?
Are they still able to take their medications?
Are they showing signs of side effects to the medications?
Are their medications working for what they are prescribed for?
Are financial limitations prohibiting treatment?
Is palliative care exhausted, or not an option?
Has the veterinary team recommended euthanasia?
With the help of your veterinarian, you can discuss your answers to these questions. While the decision of euthanasia must come you, the pet owner, veterinarians can help you determine whether time of euthanasia has been reached.
Some helpful tips to assess if euthanasia may need to be discussed:
Try and remember how your pet looked and behaved prior to illness. These changes can be slow and hard to notice at first. Look back through photos or videos prior to illness.
Take note of good and bad days, mark these on the calendar If bad days outweigh the good days, it may be time to discuss euthanasia.
Create a list of five things your pet loves to do, when your pet is no longer able to enjoy these things, it may be time to discuss euthanasia.