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How do you decide if you should euthanise your pet and make that end-of-life call

This isn't a topic that's easy to discuss, as it's something that none of us really want to consider. Our pets are a massive part of our lives and become family members (often the ones who show you the most love!).

So, deciding to euthanise your dog or cat may be one of the hardest things you'll ever have to do.

Whether it's from an illness, cancer, old age or an emergency, there may come a time when it's left up to you to make the call.

In an ideal world, our fur babies would live forever!

Or maybe they'd magically go to sleep one night and decide to slip away on their own terms.

But most pets seem to be so stubborn and resilient.

And that's where you'll find that the decision to euthanise your pet will come down to you as their owner.

How will I know it's time to euthanise my dog or cat (from a medical point of view)

Your local vet will be there to guide you on your pet's health. But unless your pet is in dire straits (e.g. had an accident or is obviously suffering), they won't usually tell you to euthanise it.

Instead, they'll give you all the operation, medication or alternative therapy options to try and improve your pet's health or condition.

Ultimately, a vet will leave the decision to end your pet's life to you. But please know, they won't judge your decision as they understand you want what's best for your fur baby.

Vets will tell you the obvious signs to look for to help you determine if you should euthanise your pet:

  • No longer eating or drinking

  • Not being able to hold their bladder or bowels

  • Sleeping for longer periods than normal

  • Preferring to be alone (e.g. walking away from your family)

  • Showing signs of distress like excessive whimpering

  • A loss of enjoyment in their usual daily routines (walks, playtime, etc.)

  • They're on all the medication, and there's no improvement in their health

  • Your pet's age and prognosis outlook

But what happens when your pet doesn't fall into these categories?

A real story from a pet owner who had to choose to euthanise her dog

Deciding to let go of Mr Max (my 18-year-old Spoodle) was the most challenging, most heartbreaking thing I've had to do. He'd been by my side through all my ups and downs and was the only constant in my life who always showed unconditional love.

For over 5 years, we'd had monthly pet visits for his arthritis injections and a range of other daily drugs to keep him ticking along. Every 'senior' blood test showed all his organs working perfectly.

Then it happened. His spine reached the point where his back legs wouldn't support him properly, and he started the old man limp.


He was eating and drinking, wouldn't leave my side and was happy to greet anyone who came over. That was typical of Max – he thought he was a human and was always so happy and loving.

And because I was the human he'd protected for so long, he wouldn't want to make me sad by showing his obvious pain.

But watching him struggle brought tears every night. And this happened for a week. Ultimately, I knew it was going to be up to me.

So, how did I decide to euthanise my beloved dog who'd been with me for so long:

  • I spoke to friends who'd experienced the pain of euthanising their pet

  • I looked into Max's eyes and spoke to him – it sounds weird, but it's like we had an understanding that we both knew it was time

  • I spoke to our family so everyone had input, and I didn't feel so alone

  • I decided I had to put him before me

Honestly, I'd have kept him until he had wheels for legs and was wearing nappies, but I also knew that wasn't his best life. I'd be selfishly keeping him for me. He'd given me 18 years – it was my time to help him.

My heart broke into a million pieces, but I know he will always be by my side and enjoying life over that rainbow bridge.

How do you euthanise a pet?

You know your pet the best, and regardless of their age, you must trust that you're making the right decision.

Grief, pain and guilt may prolong your decision-making, but once your heart catches up with your head, you'll know it's the right choice.

To euthanise your pet, you can choose to:

  1. Go to the vet clinic (which some people will need to in an emergency)

  2. Ask your vet to visit your home (if they can)

  3. Find a home service where a specialist vet visits your home (Paws at Peace comes highly recommended as a local provider who makes it a very peaceful experience)

Following your pet's passing, you can:

  1. Ask the vet to take care of their remains

  2. Choose to bury them in your backyard or a special family space

  3. Arrange for pet cremation

If you want to know how pet euthanasia works, keep reading. If not, jump down the page.

Here's how it usually works:

1. Your pet is given a sedative as an injection in the back of their neck.

a. Most won't realise as they'll be too busy eating the snacks you're giving them.

b. Their senses go into overdrive, so they'll want all the snacks rapid-fire!

c. Then they'll slow down and fall asleep.

d. They are peaceful, not in pain, and can hear you and feel your pats, cuddles and kisses.

2. When you're ready, the vet will place a catheter in their leg to inject the final

drug (like having an OD of an anaesthetic).

a. It takes around 30 seconds, but your pet's heart gently stops, and their breathing and brain function.

b. During this time, they'll still be aware of your touch and voice so you can say your final goodbyes (if you can through the tears!)

It's a gentle process; you can rest assured that your pet doesn't feel any pain.

How to cope after losing a pet

Losing a pet is like losing a family member, and it's ok to grieve. Take as much time as you need to cry, feel your emotions and process them not being around. You'll find your house seems a little quieter, and your routines will change (you may not realise how much you did for them until they've passed!).

But have trust that they'll always be with you, and they'll forever hold a place in your heart – that you'll never lose.

There are specialised counsellors you can talk to if you need to who are experienced in the grief associated with losing your beloved fur baby.

Need someone to visit your pet or take them on a walk during the day?

If you've got an ill or senior pet that you don't want to be on their own, I can pop over during the day to check on them and keep them company for a little while. If your dog is still up for it, I can take them for a walk. Or, if you need help to visit a vet, I can arrange pet transport for you.

Here's a list of all my services.

Using my new online booking form, you can book a pet minding service online, including dog walking and pet sitting.

I know this has been a challenging topic, but if you need to make end-of-life decisions for your pet, I don't want you to feel alone. Other pet owners have been through this tough decision-making process and grief too, as it's inevitable for most of us.

Until next time, pat your fur babies for me! And this month, give them extra hugs and kisses too.


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