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"How do I know when it is time to say good-bye?"

Updated: Nov 11, 2020

The hardest part of pet ownership is knowing we are going to outlive our pets. If you have ever struggled with the idea of ‘when is the right time to let go,’ you are not alone. It is not uncommon to experience a multitude of emotions when considering end-of-life options for your pet, including guilt, doubt, anxiety, and grief. Here are some scenarios owners may come face-to-face with:


My senior pet was just diagnosed with a disease/condition that requires treatment that I cannot financially afford.

Veterinary care can be costly, especially if your pet requires surgery, specialists, long-term medications, or hospitalization. Some owners don’t have an emergency pet fund to spend on their pets in the event of crisis (though wouldn’t it be nice if we all did?). If your pet has been diagnosed with a condition that is not financially possible to treat, the most important thing to consider is your pet’s quality of life. Can your pet’s symptoms be managed with lower-cost alternatives? Your veterinarian will be able to advise you on all of the treatment options for your pet to ensure they are receiving the best quality care. In some cases, euthanasia may be the only possible option, and that’s okay, too.

How do we know when it’s time?

Whether your pet has been diagnosed with a serious medical condition, or they just don’t seem to be acting like themselves lately, there are tell-tale signs that your pet’s quality of life is starting to decline. Our very own Dr. Christi Linley explains it this way: "Consider the top three things that make your pet…unique! Do they love chasing the ball? Do they always do a little dance before you put their food down, or bark when someone knocks on the door? Once two of those defining qualities are no longer present, it’s time to consider your pet’s quality of life."

Dr. Linley would also like to add that your pet’s appetite is not necessarily the only determining factor. Many may assume that if their pet has a strong appetite, they must feel well. However, this is not always the case, so it’s important to consider other behaviors or changes your pet is exhibiting. Changes in mobility, like not wanting to get up or falling on slick floors are also important signs to watch for, as these events can be very distressing for your pet. If you notice significant changes in your pet, call and schedule a consult with your veterinarian to discuss your concerns regarding your pet’s quality of life.

My vet and I both agree that it’s time, but I’ve never been through the euthanasia process before. Will my pet be in pain?

The single most important factor that is considered throughout your pet’s end-of-life journey is their comfort. Your pet will be treated with the utmost respect and dignity throughout the entire process and will not be in any discomfort as they pass. Your veterinarian will walk you through every step of the euthanasia process so there are no surprises. On the day of your pet’s euthanasia, an IV catheter will be placed to secure the vein and allow the medications to flow smoothly.

Once you are ready, the whole process proceeds quickly. Your veterinarian will first administer a strong sedative. This sedative is comparable to what would be given if your pet was being induced for surgery. Your pet will become extremely relaxed in as little as a few seconds after it is administered. Once the sedative has taken full effect, your veterinarian will administer the final injection, a solution called euthasol, which will stop the heart. This process is as calm and painless for your pet as falling asleep.

As a courtesy for all of our clients and patients, we also provide a complimentary paw print impression, regardless of whether or not you wish to have your pet’s ashes returned to you.

I don’t think I can bear to watch the euthanasia process. Is the euthanasia process different if I choose not to be present?

You do not have to be present for any or all of procedure if you don’t wish to be. Some owners chose to leave once their pet is sedated before the final injection is administered. Some choose to not be present at all, and some choose to be present until the very end. There is no right or wrong answer as to how long it is appropriate to stay. It depends on what is best for you and your family.

We follow the exact same euthanasia protocol regardless of whether you decide to be present or not. The process will be performed immediately by your veterinarian and your pet will not have to wait in a cage. If you are unable to stay during the process, our staff and doctors step in to make sure that your pet feels safe and comforted until the very end. Our technicians will spoil your pet with sweet words, cuddles, and treats until the process is over, and rest assured they will be looked after by our staff as if they were our own.

Does PTAH provide in-home euthanasia services?

Currently, we do not offer in-home euthanasia services. Our euthanasia procedures take place in one of our private exam rooms. The whole family is welcome to come and to be with your pet before, during, and/or after the procedure. We provide soft bedding for your pet so they can be as comfortable as possible throughout the entire process, though you are welcome to bring a special bed or blanket for them.

My vet and I agree that it’s not time to make that decision, but I’ve noticed they aren’t getting around as easy as they used to. What changes can I make at home to accommodate their changing mobility or vision?

There are a number of ways to “senior-proof” your home to make your older pets more comfortable! Older pets, especially larger dogs, may struggle with walking or staying balanced on smooth floor surfaces. You can help them get better traction when walking by laying down carpeted runners making a path they can use to navigate through the home so they can still be included with the rest of the family. Many pet stores and online retailers make special “booties” with rubber grips that your pet can wear to make it easier to walk. Bath and yoga mats also make great runners for slick floors.

If your pet is struggling to make it up stairs, create a comfortable space where they can relax and sleep downstairs if they are too large to be carried up and down the stairs. Alternatively, if your pet is having a hard time getting up on the bed or the couch, a small set of pet-friendly stairs can be used to help them get on to the furniture.

Pets experiencing vision changes in their old age may struggle to see in poorly-lit spaces or may not be able to make out shapes and depth like they used to. Keeping night-lights in the hallways for better visibility at night can be helpful if your pet needs to walk around at night. For pets who are running into things, move furniture to allow larger pathways for your pet to walk through in the most heavily-trafficked areas. However, we recommend you avoid moving the furniture around too much after that – moved furniture can be a little confusing to pets who have a harder time seeing.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us at 972-347-6100.


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