When to Let Go of An Ailing Pet

Faded background with a woman playing with a dog. Quote talks of the grief of losing a pet

Years ago, I told a friend that I was considering euthanizing my cat. Saphy, my beautiful white cat with sapphire blue eyes, was nearly 15 years old, survived for most of her life with three legs and had multiple health issues. My friend was truly a pet whisperer and I valued her thoughts. She looked right at me and said “Darlin, you should have given that kitty peace years ago. We have the power to ease their suffering. We need to honor that ability by letting them live their best life and help them leave when they are done.”

I remember that advice each time I am faced with a similar decision or when talking with a friend who is dealing with a dying pet. Every person has their own views, but this has helped me over the years.

Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules about when you can let go of a beloved pet. Here are some things to consider:

  1. Quality vs. Quantity: Is your pet experiencing ongoing pain and suffering or discomfort that cannot be alleviated through medication or treatment? Are they enjoying life? Is their pain constant? Consider whether you are prolonging your pet’s life for their benefit or your own. It’s natural to want to hold onto your pet as long as possible, it’s important to prioritize their quality of life, not quantity of years.
  2. Terminal Illness or Age-Related Declines: We all know that most pets won’t outlive us. When your pet is suffering from a terminal or age-related illness, keep a close eye on their condition. When it gets to a point where it will only get worse, this might be the humane time to consider palliative care or euthanasia.
  3. Medical Treatment and Prognosis: Although many times, treating a pet with a major illness may not be financially feasible, it is also important to understand the prognosis of the effect of treatment and how difficult the procedure may be on the pet. Do the benefits outweigh the costs, both literally and figuratively?

When and if you are faced with making this difficult decision, I hope you can remember that if you can spare your pet prolonged suffering, by ending their pain, you are giving them a gift of peace. It is you who will remain and mourn the loss.