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How will I know it’s “time?”

How will I know it’s “time?”

When to euthanize a beloved pet is one of the most difficult decisions that we are asked to make. Most of us are not prepared to play “the role of God” and actually choose the moment of a living thing’s death. We are overwhelmed by whether the time is right. Is it too early? Too late? Surprisingly, we frequently hear from our clients that they “wished they had done it sooner.” Sometimes, looking back, owners feel that they let their pet suffer longer than they should have.

There is not usually one “best” time. Things to consider are:  


Is my pet suffering and is the pain uncontrollable? Pets do not usually cry or whimper continuously. We need to remember that in the wild, a crying animal increases its risk of becoming prey. Pain in our pets may be expressed through changes in facial expression, decreased interaction with family members or other pets.

Consider if your pet is able to do what they used to do, or staying in one spot because of pain.


Many of our older patients have arthritis and therefore mobility issues. With mobility issues, we must consider things like cleanliness and bed stores. If we cannot keep our patients clean and comfortable, it may be time to let them go. Lack of mobility may cause anxiety in dogs because they feel that they can no longer do their job of protecting their family. Both dogs and cats may also respond to lack of mobility by a primitive fear of becoming prey.


With pain and with lack of mobility, may come anxiety. Anxiety may also come with dementia or decreased cognitive functioning. The anxious pet maybe pacing or panting or seems to be unable to settle. Anxiety can come from many sources and may be worse for your pet than pain.

Your Quality of Life

Although reluctant to admit it, sometimes a pet’s health issues make the quality of life of the human family members more difficult. If your pet is incontinent or pacing constantly at night, you may become resentful and therefore interact less with them. Perhaps your pet has a medical issue that you cannot afford to handle properly. If any of these are the case, please contact us so we can work together to see if there is a solution.


Happiness is something that you the owner can be the best judge of for your pet. Can your pet do the things that they loved in the past? If they were good eaters, do they still enjoy their dinner or treats? Do they interact with the humans and other pets in the household or are they withdrawing?

Quality of life scales like this one  maybe helpful.

The term euthanasia means gentle death. It is our way of controlling pain and death to make their passing easier. Death is inevitable, suffering does not have to be. Please call us or set up an appointment to discuss your concerns.

Chateau Veterinary Hospital
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