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Letting a Beloved Pet Go: How Will I Know When It's Time?

Here are some of the signs you may see happening to your pet at the end of his life.

September 16, 2021 4 min read
Letting a Beloved Pet Go: How Will I Know When It's Time?

It’s been a wonderful, long-term ride with your pet, your best friend, your bosom buddy, and your partner. But you notice some things are different. Subtle things, but they’re there. You try to ignore them, pretend everything’s fine, but there comes a time when you just… can’t.

Coming to the end of the road with a pet is excruciatingly painful. Suddenly we are faced with the prospect of losing the only being in your world who lavishes unconditional love and affection, and you don’t want to face that it’s coming to an end. But face it, you must.

Sadly, pets age much faster than humans. For both cats and dogs, their first year is equivalent to 15 human years, and by their second year, their age is equivalent to 24 human years. The average lifespan for dogs is 13 years. Cats often live longer than dogs, with an average life span of 16 years.

The signs that the end is approaching are similar for both dogs and cats, but there is no set order and timing is unique to each pet. Following are some of the signs you may see happening to your pet.

Waning Interest in Favorite Things

Suddenly, your dog may shun playing fetch with you and his favorite tennis ball. Your cat may turn her nose up with seeming boredom at her toys. Not an-all-or nothing proposition, some days they may seem perfectly normal, and then they’re back to disinterest.

Fatigue and Energy Loss

Both dogs and cats may want to sleep much longer than before.

Changes in Behavior

This is more true for cats who may suddenly begin to hide and/or become cranky. Others may suddenly want to cuddle with you much more.

Appetite Loss

This is the big one. When your cat or dog loses interest in food, it is a sad and ominous sign that the end may be near.

Breathing Changes

As the pet’s body begins to shut down, you may notice heavy, fast, shallow breathing. This, coupled with any of the other signs, is an indication that he’s getting ready to pass on.

Dealing with the Inevitable

You’re pretty sure your pet is nearing the end, so now what? As difficult as this is, it’s time to make a decision. The first thing, if you haven’t already done so, is to talk to your vet. Chances are your pet has been on a medical protocol of some kind, and now you need some additional input from your vet. Some questions to ask:

  1. Is my pet in pain?
  2. Are there any additional medications to help him be more comfortable?
  3. Should I take extreme measures to prolong his life?
  4. What would happen if I let him die at home?
  5. What would happen if I opted for euthanasia?
  6. How should I handle my pet in the meantime?

The Difficult Choice

Choosing between a home death and euthanasia is agonizing. On one hand, you probably want your pet to pass in the comfort of his home and the arms of his people. On the other hand, will this prolong his suffering?

Quality of life is your key. What kind of quality of life does your pet have now? Is he able to enjoy the comforts of being at home or does he even know where he is?

Whatever decision you make, it is yours, or perhaps your pet will make the decision for you. In two separate instances, the pets had been holding their own in the morning, despite being sick, and then took a sudden and drastic turn for the worse in the afternoon. They “told” their owner they were ready, that it was time to go.

If your choice is euthanasia for your pet, there are still decisions to make. Do you want to be with your pet when euthanasia is performed? Some people do, and some don’t, and neither choice is right or wrong. It just is. Do you want to have your pet cremated? This can be more costly than burial, but then you have your pet’s ashes, which can be a great comfort.

Now it’s your turn. Losing a pet has been said to often be worse than losing a human, and so you need to give yourself time to mourn and grieve. The dog or cat who was always underfoot isn’t there anymore. Your daily routine is turned upside down and you’ve lost the only being who offered you unconditional love.

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