Your beloved companion is becoming weary. You can tell by the look in her eyes, her lack of interest in car rides or a game of fetch, and the way she tucks herself away from her family. But, when is the time right to let her go with compassion and dignity? Humane euthanasia when you can no longer keep her comfortable is a blessing, but making that decision is difficult. Follow our guidelines to help decide when your pet has reached the end of her journey.

Signs your pet is nearing the end of her life

Comfort level is one of the key factors in determining your pet’s quality of life, but we consider many categories when we evaluate your pet’s happiness. We offer a quality-of-life journal so you can score your pet’s comfort daily. Here is a list of the most common factors we consider when evaluating your pet’s quality of life:

  • Mobility — Osteoarthritis and mobility issues, which are common as pets age, are often the driving factor behind the decision for humane euthanasia. Pets usually become restless and unable to relax and find comfort in their normal resting positions, so they’re often pacing. Difficulty rising or lying down, avoiding stairs, the inability to jump into vehicles or on furniture, and difficulty posturing to urinate or defecate are clues that your pet needs help with her mobility. 
  • Nutrition and hydration — If your pet is not eating or drinking well, maintaining a good quality of life is difficult. Lack of appetite or decreased water intake are troublesome for any pet, but more so for pets weakened by disease. 
  • Elimination — Many disease processes wreak havoc on a pet’s gastrointestinal tract and ability to eliminate normally. Pets can suffer from diarrhea, constipation, or excessive urination, and may strain to eliminate, or find posturing for elimination painful because of osteoarthritis. 
  • Pain and respiration — With pain comes an increased respiratory rate. Painful pets will breathe more quickly, pant without recent exertion, or, occasionally, take quick, shallow breaths, which also indicate pain. Other signs of pain include hiding, avoiding interaction with family members, snapping when touched, whining, or not eating. 
  • Activity, interaction, and happiness — If your pet is shunning family time and shows no interest in her normal activities, she needs help. She may be uncomfortable from pain or nausea, and medication may help. Or, she may sense her time is drawing to an end and is going into seclusion.
  • Hygiene — Incontinence is challenging for pet owners to manage. When your pet is urinating and defecating all over your home and you have to give her constant baths to keep her clean, it takes a toll on your relationship. If your pet cannot get up or stand to eliminate normally, she is suffering from a less-than-ideal quality of life.

Watching your beloved companion progress along the end-of-life path is difficult. Take comfort in knowing that you are doing what you can to ensure her final days are full of love and care. 

How you can keep your pet comfortable at home

As your pet nears the end of her journey, you’d like to keep her as comfortable as possible. Try these techniques to maintain her good quality of life:

  • Mobility — Invest in a ramp to enable easy access to furniture or vehicles. If your dog is large and has difficulty walking, use a sling to help her rise and support her as she walks. For homes with slick floors, provide traction with a carpet runner. Simple changes can make a world of difference in your pet’s mobility.
  • Nutrition and hydration — Use these methods to entice your pet to eat and drink:
    • Add low-sodium chicken broth to the water dish
    • Try meat-based baby foods or canned pet foods
    • Consider cooking for your pet—ask us for recipes
    • Warm up your pet’s canned food before servingthis is especially helpful for finicky felines
    • Hand-feed your pet, coaxing her to eat
    • Purchase a pet drinking fountain to ensure fresh, cool water is always available

  • Elimination — If your pet is suffering from elimination abnormalities, let us know. We can recommend a variety of diets for diarrhea or constipation, and medications or supplements that can help. 
  • Pain — Keeping your pet pain-free is at the top of our list. With so many pain-reducing options available, we can create a management protocol that suits your pet’s needs. Medications, supplements, diets, and holistic treatments can keep your pet comfortable and mobile, boosting her quality of life.
  • Happiness — Include your pet in your daily routine. Consider placing her bed where the family spends most of their time to help her feel involved, despite that she spends more time resting. Tempt her with her favorite activities to keep her from slipping into a slump. 

  • Hygiene — Daily baths can become tiresome for you and your pet. Invest in a bottle of waterless shampoo or baby wipes to spot clean your pet in case of accidents. 

If the challenges of keeping your pet comfortable become too much, reach out for help. We can provide pain management, advice on getting your pet to eat, palliative care for pets with terminal illnesses, and compassionate euthanasia when the time is right. After your pet has left your side, remember that you are not alone. We are here for you on every step along this difficult path.