HOW DO I KNOW WHEN IT’S TIME?
This is one of the most difficult questions with which to grapple when it comes to making this decision and, unfortunately, there is no one easy answer to that question.
I believe that there is a window of time in which, at any time during that period of time, it would be appropriate to have a pet put to sleep. Unfortunately, that window of time can be weeks or even months long and there is no one definitive answer as to when during that time period would be best.
However, there are a few things which may help you to feel more confident in your decision.
The first and foremost is: What is the quality of life which my pet is now experiencing? Having lived with you pet for years now, you are the most highly qualified to know the answer to that question. What are the activities that my pet has always enjoyed doing which he can no longer do, and how is that affecting him? Does it seem as if he is just existing rather than continuing to enjoy being with the family?
I believe that this is a much more important question to be asking than “Is he in pain”? Some pets have an incredibly high tolerance to pain and are willing to endure it just so they can still be in the same room with their owners. And for that pet just having you around is enough for them to be content.
Being aware of your pet’s interest in being with the family is also something to consider. Is your pet becoming distant to family members. Does he/she seem to be indifferent to whether you are around or not? This could be an indicator that your pet is getting to the point where it’s discomfort is causing it to give up on life and it is time to say your goodbyes.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that you do not want to wait until your pet is suffering before making the decision to say goodbye and let your pet go. We will always feel guilty about having to make this kind of decision. That’s just human nature. We have to live with it. However, if we wait until our pet is suffering before being able to come to the decision to say goodbye, the level of guilt that we feel is much, much worse, and it may take quite a long time to come to grips with how we feel about possibly having waited to long.
In my opinion and with the benefit of experience, both personal and helping others through this difficult time, it is far better to err on the side of letting a pet go a bit too early than too late.
Also, because of our nature as caring pet owners, we have a tendency to always second guess ourselves after the fact. Did I make this decision too early? Did I wait too long?
Unfortunately, the guilt and second guessing is just something that we have to deal with when faced with this kind of a decision.
I do sincerely believe that it is easier to deal with both of these feelings/thoughts if we can say goodbye when our pet is having a relatively good day rather than if they are lying around in so much pain that they cannot respond to our attention at the end.
Ultimately, the decision rests with you as your pet’s best friend, This is both a curse and a blessing as you are in the best position to know what is best for your pet, and what your pet would ask of you if they could make their thoughts known.