Putting a pet to sleep can be devastating. You’re saying goodbye to your beloved companion – not an easy decision. Along with feelings of grief and loss, there’s most likely feelings of doubt and even guilt. However, sometimes it might be the most humane thing to do for your pet.
When is it humane to put a pet to sleep?
We asked Carolyn Press-McKenzie, founder of no-kill animal shelter HUHA (over in New Zealand) when it is humane to put your pet down.
She says, “people often think a no-kill shelter means animals get kept alive regardless of what state they’re in.”
“However, what’s important is that every animal deserves the best journey it can have. And for some animals living with terminal illness, letting them go is the best thing you can do for them.”
“With terminal illness there’s a lot of pain and suffering for animals, just like there is for humans,” says Carolyn.
“It’s important to work with your vet on a plan where you draw the line on how far to let that suffering continue or progress. The line may be distant, or it may be tomorrow. For instance, it could be when the disease has progressed further and the pet is in pain most of the time. Or it could be when medication isn’t as effective anymore.”
As a vet nurse of 35 years, she feels that when an animal is in too much pain, “euthanasia can be a gift. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to do to release that pain and suffering.”
Carolyn adds her philosophy on whether it’s humane to put a pet to sleep is ‘Quality of life and quality of death.’
Quality of life
One resource you may want to consider in to measure your pet’s suffering is The Quality of Life HHHHHMM Scale, recommended by famous dog whisperer Cesar Milan. It lists the following factors on a scale of one to 10:
- More good days than bad
This gives you clear guidelines to work with, along with your intuition and your vet’s advice.
When exploring how pet health affects vet mental health you’ll discover vets suffer an enormous emotional toll from euthanising pets. Your vet won’t recommend putting your pet to sleep unless they believe it’s in the interest of your pet’s welfare.
It’s important to plan now and not later. Euthanasia isn’t something you want to action at the last minute. Instead, take time to prepare psychologically. There are decisions to make beforehand, including:
- Who will go with you to the vet and/or be present?
- Who will drive? Ideally, someone who’s not as close to your pet as you will drive you there and back
- Will you stay with your pet while they’re put to sleep?
- Who else needs to say goodbye beforehand?
- What will you do with your pet’s remains?
Making these choices beforehand will give you more time to grieve when you most need it.
Your pet’s last day
Carolyn says if an animal is suffering and must be euthanised, “we give them the best day out on their last day, from outings to ice-cream cones.
“We had a dog who’d had a lot of ups and downs. When it came to the point where we knew there would be no more ups, we were very aware that he was on borrowed time. And we gave him a bucket list, took him out, fed him his favourite food, etc.”
If you can, make the most of your last day with your loved one. Let them do the things you may not have otherwise and feed them some wonderful food if they can stomach it. Make some final happy memories to look back on and smile.
It’s important to have pet insurance so you can get your pets the proper medical care when they need it, at any life stage. This will free you up to think about your pet rather than your pocket. Remember that cats and dogs have a shorter lifespan than humans do, so people generally outlive their pets.
When it comes to the end, what’s important is that you’ve given your pet a good life.
Putting a pet to sleep– over to you
Have you had to put a pet to sleep? Share your story with us and help other pet parents who are in a similar position. Tell us in the comments below.