The hardest part about being a responsible pet owner is when your pet passes away or, due to illness or pain, prompts you to make the excruciating decision to put your beloved pet down. I had to make that decision in January 2017 with Nala. Today, I have to make that same choice on behalf of my beloved Boudicca.
But how do you know when it’s time? Here are some things to consider:
- Daily joy. Think of five things that your pet loves to do. When your pet stops doing three of those things, the pet’s quality of life has been impacted enough that it’s probably time. My vet, Dr. R, told me about this and reminded me to keep this in mind with regard to Queen B.
- Good days vs bad days. Keeping track of your pet’s behavior and noticing if the condition is getting worse. For example, if your pet is experiencing nausea, obvious discomfort or pain, and having trouble eating or eliminating properly for three days out of the week, that’s no way to live. This concept came up in conversations that I had with Dr. R about Boudicca. It is unpleasant to think about but absolutely necessary.
- Debilitating pain or arthritis. These conditions can have significant impacts on other areas of life. In Nala’s case, her arthritis severely limited her mobility so she could not easily get to the food or water bowl or litter box. Boudicca had arthritis as well as neuropathy, and the latter not only affected her gait but led to her incontinence.
- Difficulty breathing. If your pet has issues breathing, this will leave your pet feeling exhausted, cannot get comfortable, and anxious.
- Not eating or drinking. Appetite changes and weight loss are indicators of suffering. In Boudicca’s case, her hyperthyroidism made her metabolism go into overdrive so she was always hungry but she kept losing weight. She dropped from nearly 8 lbs in January to 5.6 lbs in May.
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea. This can lead to dehydration and/or significant weight loss. We kept Boudicca’s nausea in check with an anti-nausea/anti-inflammatory, but we noticed that it became less effective over time. Because of her bowel disease, she had loose stool.
- Eliminating issues. If your pet find it increasingly difficult to urinate and/or defecate in the appropriate place, that can lead to a rapid decline in quality of life. Incontinence is a serious issue that must be addressed with a veterinarian. This was the case with Boudicca, who toward the end of her life had accidents outside of the Cat Genie every day. She also struggled when she did make it to the Cat Genie.
- Difficulty standing. If your pet has issues standing, hobbles when walking, or falls when trying to move around, that pet is suffering.
- Difficulty or no longer grooming. This may due to mobility issues, pain, lack of interest, laziness, or simply feeling unwell. We noticed that both Nala and Boudicca stopped grooming themselves as their illnesses progressed. We bathed them as necessary, usually after a mess was involved, and brushed them.
- Depression and weakness. A pet in chronic pain or dealing with serious illness may not have the energy, interest, or ability to do the things they want to do or used to do.
- Chronic pain. When pain cannot be controlled with medication, then it’s time. It’s not fair to your pet to live the rest of its life in severe pain.
- HHHHHMM Quality of Life Scale. Hurt, Hunger, Hydration, Happiness, Hygiene, Mobility, and More. Dr. Alice Villalobos rates these on a scale of 1-10.
There are many factors to consider. You can reflect on important questions to determine the best course to proceed. Speak with your vet about the procedure and what to expect. Know that grieving a pet is a process, it will hurt, and it will take time. Ultimately, as a responsible pet owner, you must do what is best for your pet because you love them and they love you.