Dog News

Deciding When It’s Time

by Shawn Finch, DVM

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The most difficult time for a pet lover…the most difficult time for a veterinarian…is the last stage of life – the good-bye, and more times than not, euthanasia.

eu – good

thanatos – death

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We – the veterinary community – your own personal veterinary team – will be there for you, and for them, but you alone can determine the timing. And if the last stage of life is difficult, the only thing that matches that difficulty is timing the good-bye.

You think you will wait too long or say good-bye too soon. You will not.

You think you are not strong enough. You are.

You think you do not have what it takes to make the decision or to walk to your friend through this last stage. You do.

You think you can not. I promise you, you can.

You think you have never been called on to make such a difficult decision, and that it is not fair. You are right. I can imagine no more difficult decision you will be asked to make on behalf of another.

But your friend needs you. And you can do this.

How Do I Know When it is Time?

Sometimes, quality of life charts and pain charts and exact laboratory test results can be your rock at this stage. More often than not, life, as you know, is not so black and white. Spend time with your pet. Spend time with your family. Spend time with your veterinary team.

Questions That May Help as You Make End of Life Decisions

Is my pet happy?

Is her pain well controlled on most days?

Have we gone as far as we can and should with diagnostics? Would knowing more possibly provide more treatment options or help make a decision?

Is this condition treatable? Have we done all we can?

When I remember my pet as a healthy adult, do I still see many of the same characteristics?

If my pet could choose to keep fighting or rest, which would he choose?

Does our family need more time with our pet or to make the decision? If so, can we maintain comfort?

Are most days mostly good?

The Love is Worth the Sadness

Allowing our friends to leave with grace and dignity, pain-free and without fear, is a unique gift we alone – as their family and their veterinary team together – can give them. It is one you have probably had to make in the past, and sadly, one you will probably have to make again. Your pets are so very blessed to have you – for the years of friendship and for the end. May you have many, many years before the decision comes again.

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