This is a tough question. I have found that every situation and every circumstance is different and that each of us come to this decision at different times for different reasons. For me, euthanasia is a gift. It is the final act of love that you an can extend to a suffering or ill pet. But that doesn't meant it is an easy decision.
Recently, my husband's grandmother passed away. Prior to her passing she was placed in hospice care. The hospice staff was very kind and compassionately cared for her over the 3 days we watched my husband's grandmother leave us. Those days will forever be ingrained in my memory. I kept thinking, as I watched our family hold her hand and agonize over every breath and groan, that we are far more kind to our pets, than we ever are to their human counterparts. Everything in me those few days truly struggled with what I was watching unfold. I just wanted to end the suffering for her, for her family and my husband.
Making the decision to end a life is a decision that is not to be taken lightly. And while it may be a very heavy decision, I think sometimes we place way too much guilt on ourselves when making it. It is so important to remember that having the strength to take away suffering from a beloved pet is a courageous and selfless gift. Sometimes though, the heavy grief that comes with this decision can cloud perspective on whether or not we are truly making the right decision for our pet.
I try to counsel all my clients that are struggling with this decision to take account or your pets daily routines and activities. What I love most about our pets is they really are simple creatures. They have very basic needs when you really think about it. They want to enjoy our company, enjoy meal time and enjoy activity that is appropriate for their stage in life. They don't worry about the things we as humans worry about. They don't fear death or even know that they have cancer. They are simply simple. And that is why they need us. They need us to know when the hurt becomes more than they can manage or understand, that we have it in us to be kind enough to say goodbye and end their suffering.
When your pet begins to show signs that his life is no longer one of quality, it is time to take notice. Does your pet still greet you and other family members? Or, do they spend most of the day retreated or hiding? Is your pet still interested in meal time? Or, do you find that they are skipping meals or worse, not eating at all? Can your pet get up and eliminate normally? Or does he have frequent accidents in the house? Is you pet showing signs of pain, like struggling to rise or go for walks?
When your pet begins to have more bad days then good days, it is time to have a real conversation with your veterinarian. Even if is not time to make that final decision quite yet, if you begin the conversation early, you will find it easier to make the decision when that time does come.
Finally, remember that this decision, while very difficult, can also bring much needed relief to a family who has been watching the decline of their beloved pet. I have had many clients tell me that they strangely feel much better after the decision and truly have peace with making it. I don't think it is strange at all. It take a lot of courage to be that selfless and I think once on the other side, there is a peaceful tranquility that comes with knowing your beloved pet is no longer suffering.