Our pets are an extension of our families, so it can be absolutely heartbreaking when the time comes to say our final goodbyes. In honor of our beloved pets, September 12 is National Pet Memorial Day and acts as a day of remembrance for those we held so dear to our hearts. If you’ve lost a pet recently, coping with the tragedy can be incredibly difficult. Overwhelming feelings of loss and grief are especially prevalent if you are faced with the decision of whether or not it’s time to euthanize your pet.
As vets, we often get questions from concerned owners regarding quality of life and how to know when it’s time to euthanize. In this blog, we put together some signs that are often good indicators of suffering, but all pets are individuals and may let you know it’s time in their own way.
1. Your pet no longer has an appetite or refuses to drink water. If your pet has gone several meals without eating, or just barely touching their food, you know something is wrong. Feelings of pain, nausea, lethargy, and depression can drag your pet’s appetite down. If you and your vet have ruled out treatable causes of low appetite, this may be a sign your pet is no longer leading a comfortable life.
2. Your pet is distancing itself from you and the rest of the family. Normally, dogs are quite social and enjoy being around the rest of their family. If you notice your pet is keeping to themselves and is no longer associating itself with you or your family, it could be a sign of serious underlying issues or that their time is coming to an end.
3. They have trouble walking and/or performing light physical activities. This type of behavior can be more common among senior pets. Due to their age, they may have difficulty walking even short distances. If an animal is no longer able to move themselves to the food/water bowls, get to the bathroom, or move to their favorite spots, they may feel confused, frustrated, or depressed by their immobility. Again, if your pet’s condition is worsening despite vet help, this may be a deciding factor in the choice to euthanize.
If you’ve noticed some or multiple of these signs in your pet, it could be time to say goodbye. However, we still highly recommend consulting your veterinarian to see if there are possible alternatives. If euthanasia is the best decision for the sake of your pet’s wellbeing, we want you to cope with the grief healthily and safely.
Ways to Cope with Pet Loss
Don’t let others tell you how to feel
Grief is specific to each individual, so try to let yourself feel whatever you feel without being judgmental or embarrassed.
Reach out to others who have lost a pet
Friends, family, pet loss helplines, and support groups may be helpful with providing perspective or a little time to listen.
Rituals can help the healing process
Creating a memorial activity or funeral may provide a sense of needed closure.
Create a legacy
Making a photo album, planting a tree, or sharing the life of your pet can help you focus on the positive memories and maintain a sense of connection to your companion.
Look after yourself
The stress involved in loss can be emotionally and physically draining. Self care is important to be able to move on. Getting good sleep, a little exercise, and some face-to-face time with loved ones can have a big impact on your mental and emotional health during this hard time.
If you have other pets, try to maintain their normal routine
Surviving pets often experience the same grief and stress after a pet dies. There is confusion, grief, and changes to your emotions that they are trying to sort out. Keeping their routine as consistent as possible will provide some needed stability.
Seek professional help if you think you need it
If your grief is interfering with normal activities, you may benefit from talking with your doctor or a mental health professional.
We know losing a pet isn’t easy, so we’re here to support you through this difficult time. If you think euthanasia for your pet is needed, give our office a call.