Is Natural Death Always Peaceful?

It is fortunate if a pet is able to die at home in a painless and peaceful state. This is ideal, and is most predictable when using veterinary supervision that includes proper pain control and home euthanasia services. But not all terminal animals receive needed professional help, nor are they able to pass away peacefully and naturally at home. Some dying pets suffer greatly and go into terrible respiratory distress and thrash about and become agonal before death. This is truly not natural. In the wild, debilitated animals naturally become prey. Sick animals in the wild do not survive long enough in decline to endure the angst of suffering to death.

Witnessing a house pet’s traumatic death can be a horrible experience for loving family members who did not want their beloved pet to suffer this pointless indignity, without having the option of humane euthanasia. Family members feel guilty and are haunted for years with these harsh memories. The right thing to do for pet owners who prefer a natural death is to: provide adequate pain medication, be instructed to use the Quality Of Life scale, and always have a backup plan in case their pet goes into a distressful crisis and needs professional help to change worlds. Caregivers should know where to go 24/7 for immediate assistance for the gift of euthanasia, to avoid a beloved pet’s futile and unnecessary “suffering to death.”

The original concept of Pawspice embraces expert pain management and standard care while providing palliative medicine and home care giving instructions for families to maintain quality of life for their terminal pets. When a dearly beloved pet’s serious illness can’t be successfully treated due to other conditions or advanced age or the owner’s financial constraints or a logistical problem; veterinarians can help pet owners by compassionately providing end of life care. When a treated pet’s cancer has recurred, if that cancer is resistant to further treatment or if the pet is in the terminal stages of cancer; in home hospice care is a wonderful next step. Since physicians confuse palliative medicine with hospice, and hospice excludes euthanasia, a new term, “Pawspice” which rhymes with hospice, was created by this author, Dr. Alice Villalobos. Pawspice keeps the pet and its family comfortably close to their nest. A well conceptualized, creative, palliative pet hospice (Pawspice) for pet owners may be the very best care that veterinary medicine can offer to support the human-animal bond. Veterinarians and their staff can kindly and respectfully help pet owners sustain a quality of life for geriatric and terminal pets during their last months, weeks and days of life.

My Quality of Life Scale (on the APLB website: www.aplb.org) helps all caregivers determine if they are successful in maintaining a good Pawspice. It also helps decision makers feel justified when they need to make the final call for the gift of euthanasia to relieve their pet of pointless pain and distress, and assure a peaceful and painless passing. www.pawspice.com

 

The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement  www.aplb.org
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Quality of Life Scale

Introduction

When we decide to have a pet we take on a complex responsibility and covenant to protect and be there for it — in every way. The time may come when he or she grows sick or infirm, and it is our unavoidable duty to do what is best for the pet, despite the heartbreak that may bring to us, personally. In doing that, euthanasia is our last and most profound act of love and stewardship. In making that terrible moral decision we must step beyond our own feelings, and do what is best for the pet. And it now all comes down to quality of life.

The death of a beloved pet can be so tragic for us. That is such a hard concept. But if they outlived us who would care for and love them when they die? Maybe somehow, this is the best way.

Nobody wants to live forever. And when we can also somehow put that into perspective for our dear animal companions, it makes a lot of new sense. They have their own strong sense of dignity, too. Unfortunately, that is too often overlooked.

One of the most common complaints we hear is that people fear they may have waited too long — or not long enough — before having their beloved companion animals euthanized. If it is feasible, we suggest filling this scale out three times, on three successive days, to get a more accurate appraisal.

We can be too emotionally involved and subjective to easily make a clear decision. The following Quality of Life Assessment System is a means designed to help you make a more objective evaluation.

It is strongly suggested that you confer with your veterinarian, in deciding on that last accommodation.


QUALITY OF LIFE SCALE

Pet caregivers can use this Quality of Life Scale to determine the success of Pawspice care. Score patients using a scale of: 0 to 10 (10 being ideal).

Score Criterion
0-10 HURT – Adequate pain control & breathing ability is of top concern. Trouble breathing outweighs all concerns. Is the pet’s pain well managed? Can the pet breathe properly? Is oxygen supplementation necessary?
0-10 HUNGER – Is the pet eating enough? Does hand feeding help? Does the pet need a feeding tube?
0-10 HYDRATION – Is the pet dehydrated? For patients not drinking enough water, use subcutaneous fluids daily or twice daily to supplement fluid intake.
0-10 HYGIENE – The pet should be brushed and cleaned, particularly after eliminations. Avoid pressure sores with soft bedding and keep all wounds clean.
0-10 HAPPINESS – Does the pet express joy and interest? Is the pet responsive to family, toys, etc.? Is the pet depressed, lonely, anxious, bored or afraid? Can the pet’s bed be moved to be close to family activities?
0-10 MOBILITY – Can the pet get up without assistance? Does the pet need human or mechanical help (e.g., a cart)? Does the pet feel like going for a walk? Is the pet having seizures or stumbling? (Some caregivers feel euthanasia is preferable to amputation, but an animal with limited mobility yet still alert, happy and responsive can have a good quality of life as long as caregivers are committed to helping their pet.)
0-10 MORE GOOD DAYS THAN BAD – When bad days outnumber good days, quality of life might be too compromised. When a healthy human-animal bond is no longer possible, the caregiver must be made aware that the end is near. The decision for euthanasia needs to be made if the pet is suffering. If death comes peacefully and painlessly at home, that is okay.
*TOTAL *A total over 35 points represents acceptable life quality to continue with pet hospice (Pawspice).

Original concept, Oncology Outlook, by Dr. Alice Villalobos, Quality of Life Scale Helps Make Final Call, VPN, 09/2004; scale format created for author’s book, Canine and Feline Geriatric Oncology: Honoring the Human-Animal Bond, Blackwell Publishing, 2007. Revised for the International Veterinary Association of Pain Management (IVAPM) 2011 Palliative Care and Hospice Guidelines. Reprinted with permission from Dr. Alice Villalobos & Wiley-Blackwell.

Alice Villalobos, DVM, DPNAP, a renowned veterinary oncologist, introduced “Pawspice”, a quality of life program for terminally ill pets. Pawspice starts at diagnosis and includes symptom management, gentle standard care and transitions into hospice as the pet nears death. Dr. Villalobos developed this scoring system to help family members and veterinary teams assess a pet’s life quality.

Do Animals Hide Pain?

Animals are designed to hide their pain. By the time we start to seriously consider the option of euthanasia, our pet would have appreciated getting relief long before we can bring ourselves to do the euthanasia. Most people wait way too long. Pets often suffer in silence way too long. And old pets are more painful than we realize.

They don’t cry, whine, or moan. They limp and pant, yet continue to eat and continue to wag their tail. So are they really suffering? Panting, falling, stiffness, difficulty getting up, difficulty laying down, and eliminating in the house are key signs of significant arthritis pain…and unnecessary suffering. The most ignored suffering is pain from debilitating arthritis and simple advanced old age. Our pets have the luxury of euthanasia available to them. They don’t have to linger in a painful body that’s not working for them. Waiting is actually cruel.

Pain meds work in early stages of arthritis. Eventually they stop working. Old age becomes too advanced and severe muscle loss occurs. Without a lot of muscle, the forces on the bones skyrocket. The level of arthritis pain goes way up once the pet becomes skinny. This is when pain meds are not enough and stop working. The reason why old pets eliminate in the house is because it has become too painful to posture and get into the position to eliminate outside. It hurts. So the pet holds their pee and poop as long as they can. And they end up leaking urine and going in the house.

It is very helpful to learn about signs of suffering. Pet Loss At Home veterinarians have a practical mindset for how to handle end-of-life decisions. Old age is very different than other stages in life. We need to be more practical and less aggressive and less invasive when it comes to old age. Almost all old pets (and people) have one or several types of cancer that don’t always show up on tests. It’s just a matter of…are these hidden ailments affecting quality of life yet or not? Organ failure and cancer are happening in all old bodies. It can be better to spend your money on planning a private and comfortable departure for your pet at home instead of testing for what we know is there anyway and not very treatable at all. How do you fix organ failure, cancer, and advanced old age? Euthanasia. Poking and proding and testing and treating illnesses in an old pet are often expensive and futile. Why put your pet through that torture?

Euthanasia is a valuable opportunity to give our cherished pet relief from terrible pain and suffering. Euthanasia is a loving escape out of a painful body that doesn’t work. Another word for euthanasia is relief or escape. And just like people want to die at home and not in a hospital setting, you can be at home to say goodbye to your pet. Ask for help with your particular situation. We can discuss what you are seeing with your pet via phone or email. You will become much more clear about what to do after hearing our advice.

 

When Is The Right Time?

By  | Pets – April 2013

By Dr. Andy Roark | vetstreet.com

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Just last week, while I was performing euthanasia for a critically ill patient, the pet’s owner looked at me and said, “I bet this is the hardest part of your job.” That gave me pause.

For me, putting animals to sleep is not one of the hardest parts of being a veterinarian. That’s because euthanasia is often a blessing and gift to a suffering animal. In my experience, the hardest part of being a veterinarian is telling owners that their beloved pet has a terminal illness and will soon be leaving this world. The emotions that pass across their faces, even if they have suspected the worst for some time, are heart-wrenching.

Related: The Hardest Decision a Pet Owner Has To Make

 

It’s Never Easy

I still remember the first person I had to share this terrible news with. He was a nice, middle-aged man with two small children and an 8-year-old Rottweiler named Stone. Stone was a member of the family, and when he started to limp, his owner brought him straight in to be checked out. Stone was a wonderful dog at home, but he was not a fan of the veterinary clinic. My best dog treats did nothing to warm his heart, and when I manipulated his painful left shoulder, well… that ended our chances of being best friends.

Even though Stone was not an admirer of mine, I liked him, and I really liked his owner. That made it so much harder to discuss his diagnosis: osteosarcoma. Osteosarcoma is a painful bone tumor that responds poorly to treatment. In some cases, treatments involving limb amputation and/or radiation therapy can be beneficial. In Stone’s case, these options were not feasible.

Together, Stone’s owner and I decided to provide him with the best palliative care we could, and we promised each other that we would not let Stone suffer. When the time came, we would do the right – if tough – thing and put him to sleep rather than allow him to live in increasing pain.

Stone’s owner was the first person I ever had an end-of-life discussion with, and he was also the first person to ask me a question I have heard hundreds of times since: “How will I know when it’s time?”

The most recent person to ask me this question was my own mother. Her Miniature Schnauzer has battled long-term health problems and was recently diagnosed with diabetes. Unfortunately, she initially responded poorly to treatment. She lost her love of food, began soiling her bed and was generally acting pitiful.

How to Decide

Over the past few years, I’ve heard a lot of veterinarians give wonderful advice to people who are wondering when it is time to give their pets the gift of a peaceful passing. Here are four of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard, and they are the same ones I passed on to my own mother for her consideration.

Every pet, illness and situation is different. There is no single rule that can be followed for when it is time to help your best friend “cross the rainbow bridge.” Getting input from your veterinarian on the specific medical conditions that your loved one may face is vital for doing what is best for your pet. You may also benefit from having a caring friend who is not as emotionally involved in the situation as you are to help you gain perspective and really “see” what is happening with your pet.

Related: Euthanasia – Why Some Pet Owners Choose to Stay and Some Choose to Go

 

Remember that pets live in the moment. One of the most wonderful things about animals is how they embrace the present. Every time I walk into my house, my faithful Vizsla throws a one-dog ticker tape parade. The fact that I have entered the house thousands of times before, or that I will leave again in a few hours, means nothing. All that matters to him is the joy that he feels right now.

When our pets are suffering, they don’t reflect on all the great days they have had before, or ponder what the future will bring. All they know is how they feel today. By considering this perspective, we can see the world more clearly through their eyes. And their eyes are what matter.

Ask yourself important questions. Sometimes, articulating or writing down your thoughts can make the right path more apparent. Some questions that help pet owners struggling with this decision include:

  • Why do I think it might be time to euthanize?
  • What are my fears and concerns about euthanizing?
  • Whose interests, besides those of my pet, am I taking into account?
  • What are the concerns of the people around me?
  • Am I making this decision because it is best for my pet, or because it is best for me because I’m not ready to let go?

Measure their quality of life. This is no more than trying to determine how good or bad our pet’s life is at this moment. Trying to assess this can be difficult, but there are some ways you can try and evaluate it. Let’s take a look at a few of my favorites in the next section.

Is Life a Joy or a Drag?

Our pets may not be able to talk to us and tell us how they are doing, but if we pay close attention, there are many clues that can help us answer that question.

The Rule of “Five Good Things”: Pick the top five things that your pet loves to do. Write them down. When he or she can no longer do three or more of them, quality of life has been impacted to a level where many veterinarians would recommend euthanasia.

Good Days vs. Bad: When pets have “good days and bad days,” it can be difficult to see how their condition is progressing over time. Actually tracking the days when your pet is feeling good as well as the days when he or she is not feeling well can be helpful. A check mark for good days and an X for bad days on your calendar can help you determine when a loved one is having more bad days than good.

HHHHHMM: Doctor Alice Villalobos is a well-known veterinary oncologist. Her “HHHHHMM” Quality of Life Scale is another useful tool. The five H’s and two M’s are: Hurt, Hunger, Hydration, Happiness, Hygiene (the ability to keep the pet clean from bodily waste), Mobility and More (as in, more good days than bad). Dr. Villalobos recommends grading each category on a scale of 1-10 (with 1 being poorest quality of life and 10 being best). If the majority of categories are ranked as 5 or above, continuing with supportive care is acceptable.

Pet Hospice Journal: Keeping a journal of your pet’s condition, behavior, appetite, etc., can be extremely valuable in evaluating quality of life over time.

A Tale of Two “Endings”

Thankfully, my mother’s Schnauzer, Zoe, eventually responded to her therapy. As a perpetual optimist, I like to think that she may be with us for some time to come. Still, the reality of having older pets is that we must be vigilant in their care and aware that every day is a gift.

In the case of my long-ago patient, Stone, with whom I first walked this path, I am glad to say that he did not suffer unnecessarily with osteosarcoma. His owner made a good decision, and Stone crossed the rainbow bridge while in the loving arms of his people. He was remembered by them as a strong, loving protector of the children in his family, and I will always remember his owner for having the strength and wisdom I hope we’ll all have when the time comes to say that final goodbye.

Is My Pet Suffering?

How Do I Know When To Euthanize My Pet?

The following could be signs that your pet is suffering, frustrated, or painful:

panting, falling, stumbling, hesitating, slow, licking wrists, biting, restless, shifting positions, anxious, unsettled, can’t get comfortable, can’t sleep fully on side for long periods, wanting to be upright all the time, tense or flinch with touch, stiff, eliminating in the house, dilated pupils, wide-eyed look, hiding, less time spent grooming, sleeping all the time, not interacting with the family, drooling, wet lips, chomping/licking lips, head hanging down, pale pink or white or blue tongue/gums, large belly, not eating, not moving, not walking, can’t get up, difficulty laying down, not using one leg or limping a lot on one leg, vomiting, third eyelids up and visible

Signs of Debilitating Arthritis (very valid, humane reason to euthanize): panting, falling, stumbling, hesitating, slow, licking wrists, biting, tense or flinch with touch, stiff, eliminating in the house, dilated pupils (pain), wide-eyed look (pain), old age weight loss and lack of muscle mass, skinny, bony, can’t get up, difficulty laying down, dragging toes, knuckled over, emaciated, laying in urine or feces

Signs of Unstable Chest/Lungs/Breathing: can’t sleep fully on side for long periods, wanting to be upright all the time, not laying flat out on side, laying on sternum/elbows/more upright, unable to sleep well or deeply, unable to sleep for long periods, panting, blue tongue, exhausted, coughing, restless, shifting positions, anxious, unsettled, can’t get comfortable

Signs a Cat May Not Be Feeling Well: hiding, less time spent grooming, unkept fur, sleeping all the time, not interacting with the family, 3rd eyelids elevated/visible, emaciated, weight loss, attracted to heat, finding warm places to rest/sleep

Signs of Nausea/Kidney Failure: drooling, wet lips, chomping/licking lips, head hanging down, not eating, eating less, only eating special people food, emaciated, vomiting, twitching

Signs of Hemangiosarcoma=ticking time bomb: pale pink or white or blue tongue/gums, large belly, not eating, not moving, not walking, weak, panting, slow when going outside to eliminate, restless, shifting positions, anxious, unsettled, can’t get comfortable, weight loss, skinny, bony

Signs of Osteosarcoma: obvious lysis or moth-eaten appearance on x-rays, not using one leg or limping a lot on one leg, head-bobbing limp, very large and very firm lump or tumor on leg, skin breaking open/splitting/oozing, pain may be manageable when still using the leg yet limping, pain often too great once not using the leg/holding leg up, don’t confuse it with torn ACL which is much less serious, much more manageable (younger dog, back leg, holding leg up, no lysis on bone scans/x-rays)

Signs of Old Dog Vestibular Syndrome: head tilted to one side, head cocked to one side, eyeballs jiggly/darting back and forth constantly, vomiting, drooling, nauseated, unbalanced, can’t walk, falling down, dizzy, doesn’t want to get up, (mild cases can recover in a few days, may take a few weeks to recover, symptoms may be too severe/too much suffering to let it go on that long so euthanize is humane option)

QUALITY OF LIFE FACTORS TO CONSIDER:

PAIN? – The worst forms of pain and suffering are breathing difficulty, bone pain (debilitating arthritis and bone cancer/osteosarcoma), and nausea (most commonly from kidney failure). Is your pet’s pain well managed? Can they breathe properly? Is there abdominal effort to breathe (bad)? Is there panting all the time or often (bad)? Can your pet sleep well for long periods (good)? Do they need to be upright (bad) to breathe, wanting to be on the elbows and chest and NOT on it’s side? Can they lay on their side (good) for long periods? Are the gums and tongue pale? Is the belly enlarged? Hemangiosarcoma is a very common fatal cancer of the spleen that can affect the liver and lungs as well. It’s a ticking time-bomb that can bleed without stopping. Don’t wait too long and get into a period where dog cannot breathe well. Drooling? Wet lips? Chomping/licking lips? Hanging head down? Cats in end-stage kidney failure feel like they are hung over or have to vomit constantly along with weakness. They definitely need relief once they stop eating or drinking, maybe even before that. Once dogs with osteosarcoma stop using the leg and hold it up all the time, the level of pain is too much. They are probably more painful than we think, even when they are still limping around on the leg.

NOT EATING? – Eating enough? Does hand feeding help? People food or canned food? Let your elderly pet eat whatever they like as long as it’s well tolerated/doesn’t cause diarrhea. Significant weight loss can mean serious cancer or organ failure that is not fixable. Still eating does not mean all is well. Some pets are suffering/painful inside, yet still eat very well. (Debilitating arthritis is a good example.) Remember, animals are designed to accept and hide their pain. They often don’t show obvious signs of pain like crying/yelping/whining/vocalizing even though they are feeling pain.

NOT DRINKING? – Is your pet drinking too much or not enough? Is there too frequent urination or not enough? Is the skin red, raw, and painful where continuous urine leakage has caused irritation like a sunburn?

CAN’T URINATE/DEFECATE IN THE APPROPRIATE PLACE? – Able to get outside often? And comfortably get into position to urinate and defecate? Fall when getting outside? Fall or shake when getting into position to urinate or defecate? Eliminating in the house because it’s too painful to go outside? Laying in urine or feces? Leaking urine often? Would a large flat container with low sides work better as a litterbox for old arthritic cats?

DEPRESSED/WEAK? – Expresses joy and interest? Responsive to family, toys, other pets? Depressed, lonely, anxious, frustrated, bored or afraid? Can your pet’s bed be moved to be close to family activities? Does your pet seem trapped in a body that doesn’t work or is painful? Some pets are suffering when their mobility is difficult and painful. Some pets are suffering even though they are still eating. Pale tongue/ gums? Periods of weakness that come and go?

CAN’T WALK/GET UP? – Get up without assistance? Feel like going for a walk? Stumbling, shaking? Do pain meds help (early arthritis) or make no difference (advanced arthritis)? Does it help to place rugs all over the house so pet can gain good traction and stability? Panting? Stiffness? Muscle mass gone? Skinny? Bony? Head, shoulders, spine/back, hip bones visible? Lost a lot of weight?

TOO MANY PROBLEMS? NO EASY FIX? – When bad days outnumber good days, or when your pet’s list of problems is long, quality of life is too compromised. Euthanasia is a very important opportunity to give our cherished pet the gift of relief from terrible pain and suffering. We are lucky that this option is available to our pets; we don’t have to watch them suffer through an often cruel and long, drawn-out natural death. You have the choice to be a little more comfortable and say goodbye peacefully and privately at home.

Does My Pet Have Poor Quality of Life?

QUALITY OF LIFE FACTORS TO CONSIDER:

PAIN? – The worst forms of pain and suffering are breathing difficulty, bone pain (debilitating arthritis and bone cancer/osteosarcoma), and nausea (most commonly from kidney failure). Is your pet’s pain well managed? Can they breathe properly? Is there abdominal effort to breathe (bad)? Is there panting all the time or often (bad)? Can your pet sleep well for long periods (good)? Do they need to be upright (bad) to breathe, wanting to be on the elbows and chest and NOT on it’s side? Can they lay on their side (good) for long periods? Are the gums and tongue pale? Is the belly enlarged? Hemangiosarcoma is a very common fatal cancer of the spleen that can affect the liver and lungs as well. It’s a ticking time-bomb that can bleed without stopping. Don’t wait too long and get into a period where dog cannot breathe well. Drooling? Wet lips? Chomping/licking lips? Hanging head down? Cats in end-stage kidney failure feel like they are hung over or have to vomit constantly along with weakness. They definitely need relief once they stop eating or drinking, maybe even before that. Once dogs with osteosarcoma stop using the leg and hold it up all the time, the level of pain is too much. They are probably more painful than we think, even when they are still limping around on the leg.

NOT EATING? – Eating enough? Does hand feeding help? People food or canned food? Let your elderly pet eat whatever they like as long as it’s well tolerated/doesn’t cause diarrhea. Significant weight loss can mean serious cancer or organ failure that is not fixable. Still eating does not mean all is well. Some pets are suffering/painful inside, yet still eat very well. (Debilitating arthritis is a good example.) Remember, animals are designed to accept and hide their pain. They often don’t show obvious signs of pain like crying/yelping/whining/vocalizing even though they are feeling pain.

NOT DRINKING? – Is your pet drinking too much or not enough? Is there too frequent urination or not enough? Is the skin red, raw, and painful where continuous urine leakage has caused irritation like a sunburn?

CAN’T URINATE/DEFECATE IN THE APPROPRIATE PLACE? – Able to get outside often? And comfortably get into position to urinate and defecate? Fall when getting outside? Fall or shake when getting into position to urinate or defecate? Eliminating in the house because it’s too painful to go outside? Laying in urine or feces? Leaking urine often? Would a large flat container with low sides work better as a litterbox for old arthritic cats?

DEPRESSED/WEAK? – Expresses joy and interest? Responsive to family, toys, other pets? Depressed, lonely, anxious, frustrated, bored or afraid? Can your pet’s bed be moved to be close to family activities? Does your pet seem trapped in a body that doesn’t work or is painful? Some pets are suffering when their mobility is difficult and painful. Some pets are suffering even though they are still eating. Pale tongue/ gums? Periods of weakness that come and go?

CAN’T WALK/GET UP? – Get up without assistance? Feel like going for a walk? Stumbling, shaking? Do pain meds help (early arthritis) or make no difference (advanced arthritis)? Does it help to place rugs all over the house so pet can gain good traction and stability? Panting? Stiffness? Muscle mass gone? Skinny? Bony? Head, shoulders, spine/back, hip bones visible? Lost a lot of weight?

TOO MANY PROBLEMS? NO EASY FIX? – When bad days outnumber good days, or when your pet’s list of problems is long, quality of life is too compromised. Euthanasia is a very important opportunity to give our cherished pet the gift of relief from terrible pain and suffering. We are lucky that this option is available to our pets; we don’t have to watch them suffer through an often cruel and long, drawn-out natural death. You have the choice to be a little more comfortable and say goodbye peacefully and privately at home.

 

 

How Do I Decide To Euthanize My Pet?

Signs of Old Age => Agonizing Conflict => Knowledge about Suffering => Clarity & Confidence => Euthanasia => Relief

One of the most painful experiences we can face in our lifetime is the loss of a beloved pet. The decision to euthanize is so difficult. We experience agonizing conflict about what is the best thing for us to do. As we begin to notice more and more signs of aging and disease developing in our pets over time, we naturally tend to avoid discussions and planning about it. It’s so painful to face the end. It’s much easier for us to deny and ignore the many small clues for fear that our pet really is getting old.

No one ever wants to say goodbye. We often get stuck…paralyzed. We can’t decide. We can’t take action. Very often what results is…our pet ends up suffering for way too long while we linger in indecision…even though that’s the last thing we want. So many people tell me, “I just don’t want my pet to suffer.” But there they are, suffering in silence because we can’t proceed. It’s critical for us to know that our pets need us to muster up the strength to push through this fear of loss and take action. Taking action is the only way to truly ensure that our pets endure minimal suffering.

How do we muster up the strength to take action? How do we move past our repeatedly putting off painful but necessary decision? How do we move beyond our wishful thinking and our fear of the unfamiliar and unknown? The answer is knowledge. By gaining knowledge about our pet’s signs of suffering, true level of pain, and poor quality of life, we gain clarity. And the decision to euthanize becomes more and more obvious. We have a very valuable opportunity to give our cherished pet the gift of relief from terrible pain and suffering. With clarity, we feel a little more confident that we are doing the right thing. We become inspired to take action now that we know the facts and can feel empathy for the pain our pet is experiencing. We have to save them from suffering. We feel proud of our strength to provide an escape for our pet. They are free of unnecessary pain and suffering. And we are relieved.

From “Euthanasia Guidebook For Pet Owners” written by Dr. Karen Twyning, DVM, founder of Pet Loss At Home, a respected and growing national network of compassionate veterinarians dedicated to private pet euthanasia in the comfort of home.

Is It Ethical To Euthanize Your Pet?

Our pets are so incredibly lucky to be able to receive the medical fix of euthanasia. They don’t have to linger in malaise like we humans do. An older woman at a monthly grief support meeting made a profound impact on me recently. She described how her late husband struggled for years with leukemia. In his last months, he would wake up every morning cursing the fact that he woke up…and was still here. He told his wife, “Why can’t I be euthanized like my dog? I don’t want to live like this anymore!”

So many clients comment about this while I am at their house, “Gosh, I wish we could do this for humans!” While we cannot legally euthanize humans, hospice was developed as a band-aid to keep people “comfortable” while nature takes its course. And nature can be cruel. What kind of quality of life do these bed-ridden people have? So sad.

When we look back in history, medicine has come a long way in the past 100 years. We now know enough medically these days to be quite confident in assessing disease, degree of pain & suffering, and level of quality in our lives. I believe with pets, we need to focus on quality of life. In my opinion, they don’t want life at all costs. They want quality of life, as long as it lasts.

*A note about hospice care for pets. I feel it sometimes caters to people who cannot let go, enabling them to avoid the loss, to stay stuck, to not decide. I feel sorry for pets who have to linger in hidden pain and low quality of life. Natural death is often cruel and prolonged. Euthanasia is a very valuable opportunity to give our cherished pet the gift of relief from terrible pain and suffering. As a veterinarian, I am an advocate for pets. I believe our pets want to be functional and comfortable. It is my job to speak for pets and explain suffering clearly so that we all can feel a little more confident that we are doing what is best for our pets. Natural death often involves too much suffering. This could be why the vast majority of pets are euthanized and not left to die naturally.*

From “Euthanasia Guidebook For Pet Owners” written by Dr. Karen Twyning, DVM, founder of Pet Loss At Home: a respected and growing national network of compassionate veterinarians dedicated to private pet euthanasia in the comfort of home.