10 signs that tell you it’s time to put your pet to sleep

Sometimes it's okay to euthanise your dog or cat - if it means their quality of life has diminished and you need to end their suffering

19 November 2017 - 00:00 By Pete Wedderburn

There are 10 key signs that support a decision to go ahead with euthanasia: if your pet is getting close to the end of a long life and their situation ticks one or more of these boxes, it's very likely that it's time to say goodbye:
1. You secretly hope that your pet has died by themselves
If this happens to you, perhaps your subconscious self is telling you that their quality of life has slipped so much that they are ready to go.
2. When your pet stops eating
A good appetite is a key indicator of the desire to live: while there are many treatable causes of inappetence, when an elderly pet completely turns their nose up at food, it's sometimes the final indication that they have had enough of being alive.
3. When your pet refuses to get out of bed
A healthy, fit pet enjoys being active: the daily walk is a highlight of most dog's lives, and most cats enjoy at least a stroll around the house between snacks and naps. When a pet stops wanting to get out of bed at all (perhaps even being doubly incontinent), it's a sign that their desire to engage with the world has diminished to the stage where, if asked, they might well say that they are ready to say a permanent goodbye4. When your pet has stopped enjoying over 80% of the activities they used to enjoy
It can help to draw two columns on a piece of paper. On the left side, write down all the activities your pet used to enjoy, from eating, to being petted, to playing games. Then on the right side, tick the activities that your pet still enjoys. This will give you a sense of the degree of diminished life that your pet has reached.
5. When your pet has obvious signs of illness and you don't want the vet to investigate
Normally if a pet develops signs of poor health, a visit to the vet is the obvious way forward. If you don't want to request this type of help for an ailing elderly pet, you need to ask yourself why not? You cannot just do nothing: it's either treatment to help your pet, or euthanasia.
6. When your pet doesn't recognise you
Age-related cognitive disorders - "animal Alzheimer's" - are common in elderly dogs and cats. Sometimes it's obvious that the animal no longer has awareness of who you are, or where they are. The pet you loved so much has already gone, and this fact can sometimes make euthanasia easier to go through with.
7. When they stare straight ahead, with no interest in their surroundings
A normally healthy animal looks around the room with alertness and curiosity. If someone comes in, they glance at them. If they hear a noise, they look around. If your pet is simply staying still, looking straight ahead, often without focus in their eyes, it's often a sign that they are ready to leave.

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