Saying Goodbye: When is it time?

Despite our best efforts, there will come a time when the medicine, the treatments and the nursing care we can provide will not be enough. We are often asked “How will we know it is the right time?” This is the most difficult question we must face and help our clients answer. It is often a very hard decision for a caregiver to make. By encouraging an open conversation with your veterinarian and members of your family, as well as honestly evaluating your pet’s quality of life, we can often make a decision that is best for the animal.

Several questions regarding quality of life are important to answer:

  1. Is my pet painful?
  2. Is my pet able to eat enough?
  3. Is hydration being managed?
  4. Can my pet clean itself?
  5. Does my pet seem happy and show interest in his or her environment?
  6. Is my pet showing signs of loneliness, anxiety or fear?
  7. Can my pet get up and go for a walk without assistance?

Another excellent way to evaluate quality of life is to mark every day on the calendar if your pet experienced a good day or a bad day. When the bad days outnumber the good, or if there have been several bad days in a row, then it may be time to say goodbye.

It also helps to make a list of your animal’s favorite activities from when he or she was in their prime. For example, eating, drinking, going for walks, playing with the ball, doing tricks, wagging their tail, greeting you at the door and getting belly rubs can be included. You then need to decide how many of these activities are still enjoyed, and set a cut off of how many of these activities can be lost before you feel the animal is no longer enjoying their life.

When the time comes to say goodbye, you will have options as to how you want to proceed. You will have options about whether you want to be present or not, whether you would like to administer a sedative beforehand and urn selection options if desired. Discussing these options and the general process with your veterinarian well in advance can help you be prepared for when the time comes. 

The links below offer further guidance and support: