Is It Time?
Words of wisdom from Dr. Sandra
This is one of the hardest questions for anyone to answer. Part of the difficulty lies in that what’s right for one family, or even person, isn’t necessarily what’s right for another. I’ve helped families where I would have made the decision sooner and other families where I would have waited, but it’s not my decision to make. I don’t live with that pet. I don’t wake up with them 4 times overnight. I don’t have to cook 5 different things just trying to get them to take one single bite and shed a tear when they don’t. I don’t have to worry all day at work wondering what I’ll come home to. The decision to euthanize is a very personal one. I always encourage people not to ask coworkers, friends, or outside family what they think, unless they have a similar bond with that pet. It’s often much easier for an outsider to pass judgement, but remember, they’re not the one living with the pet, you are.
I’ve seen families divided over this question, with the pet stuck in the middle. What I can assure every family is that no one wants to see their family member suffer and no one wants to take away time from them that may be acceptable or even good. I’ve had families say in the same appointment, even the same sentence, that it’s too soon, but maybe we waited too long. I think it’s important for families to understand that there are feelings of guilt on both sides of the equation. No one wants to deprive their pet of quality time, but they don’t want to see them suffer. What’s most important is that you keep your pets quality of life your number one priority. As long as whatever your decision is has that as the number one goal, you’re making the best decision. The longer I help guide families through this time, the more I find families feeling a sense of relief when their pet is at peace. They often don’t realize the amount of stress they are under knowing that the time is coming or the amount of caregiver fatigue they themselves are suffering from. As important as your pets quality of life is, don’t forget to keep yours in check too. It’s normal to feel frustrated, sad, angry, and defeated.
My final input is to remember the “right” time is not a moment. It’s not black and white, but a gray zone and for some that gray zone may be a few hours and for others, potentially years. When their quality of life falls into the gray zone or is approaching the gray zone, it’s appropriate to start considering euthanasia. If you’re still unsure, that’s ok and very common, as I said before, it’s a very difficult decision. There are a number of resources listed below that may help you get a better idea. If you feel you would benefit from a one on one discussion, an in home consultation may be just what you need to get a clearer picture of where things stand medically and what to expect going forward. We are here to help during this difficult and confusing time.
⦁ The Ohio State University How Will I Know It’s Time?: https://vet.osu.edu/vmc/sites/default/files/import/assets/pdf/hospital/companionAnimals/HonoringtheBond/HowDoIKnowWhen.pdf
In this day in age, the word “natural” is often associated with “healthy”. However, natural doesn’t always mean healthy. It’s important to understand that natural death is not necessarily one without suffering. Natural death is better defined as a biological death and it is often not as peaceful as we would hope, and rarely quick.
I hear time and again people say “I wish they would just go in their sleep so I don’t have to make this decision.” I couldn’t agree more! Whereas this is an understandable statement and a sentiment that just about everyone shares, this desire is more about us, than our pet. Pets live on survival instinct, so they keep going, often with discomfort, anxiety, and even suffering until their body gives out – biological death. Keep in mind our pets don’t live in the “natural” world, they live with us, their guardians, and often under ideal circumstances – a temperature-controlled home with free access to water, an abundance of food, and often medical interventions. If our pets did live in the “wild” they would not survive nearly as long as they do under the comfort of our care, as they are vulnerable to nature and the elements. We often see this vulnerability arise when pets start to decline. The pacing, panting, restlessness, anxiety, and “sundowner’s” signs that we very commonly see in an ailing pet are often them feeling increasingly vulnerable and less able to protect themselves.
Yes, some pets will simply close their eyes and never wake up, but alas this is more the exception than the rule and important to keep in mind when hoping for a “natural” death