Making the decision about when to say goodbye to your beloved pet companion may be the hardest decision you have to make in your relationship with them. Your veterinarian can help guide you in navigating the medical component of your pet’s condition. Your veterinarian can also help support you in the decision making process and can provide resources during this difficult time that can include hospice or palliative care and/or humane euthanasia.
Compassionate, humane euthanasia is a choice that is made to lovingly put an end to the suffering our companion animals feel when battling with end of life issues caused by disease or debilitation. The guidelines below provide parameters to help evaluate quality of life. Recording assessments in these categories daily can be helpful in illustrating trends and progression.
MOBILITY – It may be difficult to fully assess the ability to move about as a decline in mobility can be a common finding as pets age. Abrupt changes in physical activity however, can help with overall quality assessment. Mobility can also include the ability to walk up and down stairs, jump up onto beds,couches or into vehicles and standing from a sitting position with ease.
APPETITE – It is important to monitor significant changes in appetite and water intake. Such changes may include only eating when hand fed, ingesting only the liquid portion of canned food and eating only tasty food items.
BATHROOM HABITS – Pets may exhibit urinary and/or fecal incontinence, which can increase the chances for bed sores and infection in addition to potentially increasing pet anxiety. Other problems associated with bathroom habits include the following : difficulty in posturing to urinate and/or defecate, significant changes in stool quality, urinating in very large or very small volumes, no longer using the litter box and urinating or defecating in undesired places.
PERCEIVED PAIN – Pain in our companion animals can be tough to interpret. Behaviors that are commonly associated with pain include shifting from one limb to another, excessive panting, inability to rest, excessive licking of a potential physical source of pain, flinching when touched and hiding and staying in the same place or position for long periods of time.
INTERACTION – Pets may withdraw from interaction with family members. They may stop making eye contact or greeting family members upon return to the home. They also may experience significant personality changes. They may become disinterested in favorite items such as toys, treats, petting or car rides.
The most important thing to keep in mind is to look at your pet’s quality as a whole. This is far more important than any one of the categories alone. For example, it is easy for a pet owner to focus on her pet’s rare interest in a cookie in light of a week of not eating and progressive withdrawal. Feelings such as guilt, confusion and anxiety are not uncommon for pet owners during this time. Ultimately, pet owners know their pets best. Trusting your ability to ascertain when humane euthanasia is the right choice, with the help of your veterinarian, may be the hardest choice, but also the most loving.
Dr. Beth Marchitelli is the owner of 4 Paws Farewell, Mobile Pet Hospice and Home Euthanasia. (828) 707-4231.