How to know when it’s Time to Say Goodbye to a Pet.

Via Alex Myles
on Nov 30, 2017
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I’ve recently been dealing with making one of the most difficult and devastating decisions I have ever faced: deciding whether to end or prolong my precious dog’s life.

Even though I knew that one day I would need to say goodbye to her, it never crossed my mind that I might be the one who has to make the final decision as to whether she continues to live, or whether it is time to end her suffering so that she can die in peace.

Being responsible for this decision is even more difficult as she is only nine years old; however, in King Charles Cavalier’s lives, this is considered to be the latter stages of life, and from everything I have read, I’m fortunate that she has remained healthy for this long.

Every pet owner has their own story, as well as a unique bond with their fur-family-member, so despite what we read, are told, or what appears to be the most logical option, no one else understands and knows our pets as we do. This can make it even harder to know what to do, as we are surrounded by all kinds of facts and information, but when we look into the eyes of our pets, we wonder if we will ever be able to live with ourselves knowing that we are the ones that hold that life-or-death decision in our hands.

My beautiful dog has a mixture of illnesses, including cancer, hip dysplasia, and late-stage kidney and heart failure—and although there are ways I could attempt to combat some of them with surgery, such as chemotherapy and daily medication, I am also aware that all I would be doing is prolonging the inevitable and possibly causing more suffering. I also know that the surgery that could save her life could also end her life due to the weakness of her heart, therefore, there isn’t a simple answer—and it makes me wonder, “What would I want for myself if I was in her position?”

Adding to the turmoil is the fact that I only found out about all of this in the last few weeks, so I went from one minute thinking I had a healthy dog who had just slowed down as she’s becoming an old lady, to knowing that she is struggling daily on the inside, and deteriorating rapidly before my eyes. She is now on medication to alleviate as much of her pain and debilitation as possible; however, I am fully aware that sooner or later I will need to make the most loving, compassionate, and humane decision for my dog—not what is best for me, or anyone around me.

Throughout these last few weeks, I have been trying to look at this situation objectively, without being swayed by my emotions, which is far easier said than done. I have put together a general checklist for guidance, so that I could read through this list while monitoring my dog on a daily basis, and hopefully know when the time has come, and thought that it may be of benefit to others who may also be going through this.

One of the most difficult aspects of having a pet is that they cannot verbally communicate what is wrong with them, so the only way to know is by looking out for signs of distress.

I put together a simple chart to rate the extremities of each point below on a scale of 1-10 each day and effectively monitor improvement or deterioration.

Pain.

Whines, groans, yelps, or whimpers: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Panting excessively: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Continuously licks a certain part of her body: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Limps: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Restless, paces, and circling around: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Finds it difficult to move, slow movements, or refuses to move: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Hides and avoids interaction: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Eating.

There may be a number of simple reasons that could explain why an animal refuses to eat; however, it can also be a sign there is something more seriously wrong. It is important to seek professional advice if the animal is:

Unable to eat or swallow food. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Acts excessively hungry. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Will only eat small amounts when hand fed. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Loss of bodily functions.

Unable to stand up, walk up or downstairs, or walk without falling. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Loss of control of when urinating or defecating. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Drinking.

Excessive thirst. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

No desire to drink. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Agility.

Unable to stand up or walk without assistance. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Limbs giving way when walking. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Unable to walk far without sitting down and stopping to rest. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Unresponsive.

No longer responding to interaction. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Unwilling to play or go for walks. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Other signs.

Seizures. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Vomiting. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Diarrhea. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Visible signs of aggression, fear, anxiety, or stress. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Not sleeping or sleeping almost constantly. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Out-of-character growling, snarling, biting. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Cannot get comfortable when trying to lie down. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Weight loss. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

A few other questions that can be useful to ask yourself:

Is medication or treatment improving their quality of life, or maintaining a poor quality? 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Am I extending their life for me or for them? 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Do you feel sorry for your pet when you look at him/her? 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Is the illness terminal—and, if so, how many stages of treatment are you willing to put your pet through? 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

One reason that it can be difficult to know if our loyal companion is nearing the end is they do not understand illness the way we do. They may push aside their pain and sickness and still bound around from time to time. This can become confusing, as one minute they seem fine and the next they cannot stand up, they vomit, or are exhausted due to depleting their energy levels. This is why keeping a written track of their behaviour can help to see their level of suffering more clearly.

The most rational advice I have so far heard is, “Just because you can prolong your pet’s life doesn’t mean you should; the welfare of the animal is what is most important,” and also, as tragic as it sounds, “A day too early is better than a day too late.”

Euthanizing a pet that is suffering is not cruel—it is often a welcome blessing to the animal. Regardless of how much we may agonise making the decision, it is vital to remember we wouldn’t want to live in constant exhaustion, pain, and fear, and neither do our animals. The decision will never be easy for anyone, but it is a respectful one that is made out of love, consideration, and care, so that the pets we have raised and unconditionally adored do not suffer unnecessarily.

For more information or to address any concerns, always consult the advice from a veterinarian or professional.

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Relephant:

Tibetan Buddhism: What to do when your pet dies.

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Author: Alex Myles
Intro: Flickr/LuAnn Snawder
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Social Editor: Catherine Monkman

 

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About Alex Myles

Alex Myles is a qualified yoga and Tibetan meditation teacher, Reiki Master, spiritual coach and also the author of An Empath, a newly published book that explains various aspects of existing as a highly sensitive person. The book focuses on managing emotions, energy and relationships, particularly the toxic ones that many empaths are drawn into. Her greatest loves are books, poetry, writing and philosophy. She is a curious, inquisitive, deep thinking, intensely feeling, otherworldly intuitive being who lives for signs, synchronicities and serendipities. Inspired and influenced by Carl Jung, Nikola Tesla, Anaïs Nin and Paulo Coelho, she has a deep yearning to discover many of the answers that seem to have been hidden or forgotten in today’s world. To purchase Alex’s paperback book or ebook please click here or click here to connect with her on Facebook, or click here to join Alex’s Facebook group for empaths and highly sensitive people to connect.

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