The impending end of a beloved pet’s life is hard, and the number-one question pet parents ask is: “How will I know when it’s time?” First, no one need navigate this time alone; and second, there are other, equally important questions to ask, such as:
Can I keep my pet clean and comfortable?
Can I manage pain treatments with my work schedule?
Can I care for my pet at the level they need and deserve?
Enid Traisman of DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital and Ute Luppertz of Pets Point of View — both experts in end of life care — agree that the adage, “a pet will tell you when it’s time” isn’t always true. Timing may not be a clear-cut decision. With many factors to consider, it’s important to seek good-quality support and keep yourself as centered and clear-headed as possible during this difficult time.
A supportive advisor can ease the questions and doubts that inevitably haunt pet parents. For example, while many people worry that they scheduled euthanasia too soon, others will wonder if they waited too long. Traisman urges people to trust that they ultimately make the best decision in their unique circumstances, for both the family and the pet.
As recently as three or four years ago, Traisman says euthanasia was often the first response to a terminal diagnosis or declining health. “Now,” she says, “things have started to swing, thanks to increased understanding of pain management, palliative care, hospice support, and more.”
That’s where Luppertz comes in. While serving “more on the spiritual side,” she also prioritizes the practical, working to help people stay grounded so they’re not attributing pain or suffering to their pet that is in fact their own. This clarity helps ease stress and suffering, and ensure decisions are made with sound judgment.
When there is time prior to a pet’s scheduled euthanasia, Traisman says, “It gives the family an opportunity to create and check things off a bucket list,” like sharing an ice cream cone or making a trip to the beach. “That can really help,” she says. “It is really a gift for both family and pet.”
Luppertz also points to the importance of using this time to nurture the bond with your pet. A pet may not understand your words, but “he or she can feel your energy” — your calm or your stress. Working to stay grounded can help you gauge your pet’s condition. “Animals are not designed to complain like we are,” says Luppertz. “So if they’re quiet, or having difficulty getting up, they may be in pain. By the time an animal vocalizes these things, they’re in really bad pain.”
Because losing a beloved pet is devastating, it’s helpful to use the time ahead to handle practical matters. “Get prices for day/night veterinary care and/or euthanasia, make sure needed meds are on the shelf,” says Luppertz, and deal with arrangements for your pet’s aftercare.
Handling these things in advance can free your energy and attention to enjoy the time you have with your best friend. Then, trust your team — veterinarian(s), friends, and family — to help you ensure your pet is comfortable and at ease.
Whether your best friend is experiencing the changes of declining health or is actively approaching end of life, these services can help:
• Quality of Life Assessment
• Physical Therapy
• Pet Massage
• Doula Death Support
• Home Hospice Care
• Anticipatory Grief Support
• Home Euthanasia
Meet providers of these services and learn more about them in a future issue of Spot.