by Sherridan; Peaks Pet Nanny servicing Jefferson Township and Randolph, NJ
No pet owner ever wants to think of the day that their beloved companion will not be with them. The reality is that we will outlive our pets unless you own a parrot or cockatoo that has a lifespan of 75 years! As most of us wish to pass in our sleep, we wish the same for our pets. But that doesn’t always happen. We need to make some of the toughest decisions of our lives. Do we or don’t we put our “family member” out of pain forever?
I personally have had to make this decision more times than what I ever wanted. Each circumstance was different. My first dog, Molson, was playing ball and broke his leg, or so we thought. His leg was shattered due to cancer. He was only 8 and my husband and I were devastated. We brought him to Tinton Falls to the best and decided we would have his leg amputated and do everything we can to make his new life good. My husband built a ramp for him when he came home. He did come home temporarily before the amputation, with his leg in a cast.
He loved the ramp and had a twinkle in his eye! He was with his family! Never did we know that was the last day he would ever be home with us. After his amputation, he developed complications and high fevers. We spent hours with him and he would just lay there; he had no sparkle in his eyes anymore; he was in so much pain. We knew the decision we never wanted to make, had to be made. Molson knew we loved him so much and that we had to say goodbye.
With tears in our eyes, holding his head and kissing him, Molson took his last breath. Just remembering this day is making me cry. The one thing that gave us peace of mind, was that Molson was no longer in pain and I have heard that they are restored to their most youthful self once they leave earth.
Each one of my pets that I have made the decision for has been hard, I will not lie. My heart told me it was the right thing to do. I guess I won’t know until I am greeted at the beginning of the Rainbow Bridge. For some reason, I believe I will be greeted by my 5 dogs, 4 cats, 2 birds, 1 bearded dragon, multiple gerbils, and one very lucky betta fish. Do fish need water to live over the rainbow bridge?
Over the past few years, I’ve heard a lot of veterinarians give wonderful advice to people who are wondering when it is time to give their pets the gift of a peaceful passing. Here are four of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard, and they are the same ones I passed on to my own mother for her consideration.
Every pet, illness, and situation is different.
There is no single rule that can be followed when it is time to help your best friend “cross the rainbow bridge.” Getting input from your veterinarian on the specific medical conditions that your loved one may face is vital for doing what is best for your pet. You may also benefit from having a caring friend who is not as emotionally involved in the situation as you are to help you gain perspective and really “see” what is happening with your pet.
Remember that pets live in the moment.
One of the most wonderful things about animals is how they embrace the present. Every time I walk into my house, my faithful Vizsla throws a one-dog ticker-tape parade. The fact that I have entered the house thousands of times before, or that I will leave again in a few hours, means nothing. All that matters to him is the joy that he feels right now.
When our pets are suffering, they don’t reflect on all the great days they have had before, or ponder what the future will bring. All they know is how they feel today. By considering this perspective, we can see the world more clearly through their eyes. And their eyes are what matter.
Ask yourself important questions.
Sometimes, articulating or writing down your thoughts can make the right path more apparent. Some questions that help pet owners struggling with this decision include:
- Why do I think it might be time to euthanize?
- What are my fears and concerns about euthanizing?
- Whose interests, besides those of my pet, am I taking into account?
- What are the concerns of the people around me?
- Am I making this decision because it is best for my pet, or because it is best for me because I’m not ready to let go?
Measure their quality of life.
This is no more than trying to determine how good or bad our pet’s life is at this moment. Trying to assess this can be difficult, but there are some ways you can try and evaluate it. Let’s take a look at a few of my favorites in the next section.
Is Life a Joy or Hard?
Our pets may not be able to talk to us and tell us how they are doing, but if we pay close attention, there are many clues that can help us answer that question.
The Rule of “Five Good Things”:
Pick the top five things that your pet loves to do. Write them down. When he or she can no longer do three or more of them, quality of life has been impacted to a level where many veterinarians would recommend euthanasia.
Good Days vs. Bad:
When pets have “good days and bad days,” it can be difficult to see how their condition is progressing over time. Actually tracking the days when your pet is feeling good as well as the days when he or she is not feeling well can be helpful. A checkmark for good days and an X for bad days on your calendar can help you determine when a loved one is having more bad days than good.
Doctor Alice Villalobos is a well-known veterinary oncologist. Her “Quality of Life Scale” is another useful tool. The five H’s and two M’s are Hurt, Hunger, Hydration, Happiness, Hygiene (the ability to keep the pet clean from bodily waste), Mobility, and More (as in, more good days than bad). Dr. Villalobos recommends grading each category on a scale of 1-10 (with 1 being the poorest quality of life and 10 being best). If the majority of categories are ranked as 5 or above, continuing with supportive care is acceptable.
Pet Hospice Journal:
Keeping a journal of your pet’s condition, behavior, appetite, etc., can be extremely valuable in evaluating the quality of life over time.
As emotional & heart-wrenching as that time in your life will be, remember, your pet would want you to give the love you gave them, to another that needs it. There are so many pets that are in shelters that need to feel love; the same love that your pet got before they crossed the Rainbow Bridge.