Pet Euthanasia: A guide on how to decide

Margaret Saiki

Having to decide to euthanize a beloved companion and for many a family member is a unique and painful time. One has feelings of whether or not we have the moral right to intervene in addition to decisions of how and when. Emotions such as guilt, or the stress of anticipatory grief can cloud are decision making.

Decisions surrounding euthanizing a pet, is therefore, an individual decision. It is based on one’s own sense of what is right for them and their animal. As owner’s we take on the responsibility of being our pets stewards in life.

Dr. Margaret Saiki uses this guide in her mobile veterinary practice for owners contemplating putting down their pet and in her pet hospice care appointments.

A General Guide on how to decide whether or not to euthanize you pet:

Quality of Life: What is your pets current quality of life?

Try to list things your pet enjoys doing on a daily basis. (i.e. going on a walk, greeting you when you get home, sitting with you in the evening, playing with a toy etc.) Are they still doing these thing? Do they enjoy interacting with the family?

Deciding when to euthanize a cat can be much more difficult. The feline species by nature are not only masters at hiding disease, but also more stoic. In the wild, if they displayed illness or weakness they became prey. This is important to watch more closely when evaluating your feline friend. Questions you may ask are. Is your cat still grooming? Still seeking out your affection and attention or hiding away?

Try to list things that have a negative effect on your pets well being. (i.e. boredom, isolation, pain, being picked on by other animals in the household)

Is he or she still able to carry out normal body functions such as eating, drinking, walking, eliminating? Is your pet painful? If so, have you investigated the reasons for the pain. Have specific medications then been tried to alleviate the pain?

What is the medical prognosis? Are viable treatment options available and are you able to afford them?

Do you have all the information you need to make a decision?

A More Specific Guide: The HHHHHHMM Quality of Life (QoL) Scale

This is a more specific assessment guide used in consultation with a Veterinarian to help pet owners with their most difficult decision: Knowing when the right time is to euthanize their pet. It is used for patients who’s owners have embraced palliative care, (no further diagnostic procedures) or Pet hospice care (Pawspice Care). In addition, this scale might guide highly bonded pet owners, who might be in denial to consider issues that are difficult to face or help the care givers improve upon their pets home care.