Pets make our world a better place. They give us joy, love and loyalty. As youngsters they also bring us frustration as they learn about their environments and we have to replace our shoes, curtains, carpets and dish towels. Then there are the great years they offer us comfort when we’re not feeling well and companionship when we need it. Pets are our surrogate children. The ones that never grow up and move out of the house. They are eternal children who revel in the moment; and we love to watch how much they enjoy chasing a ball or stick, splash in the water, track down a scent or achieve show titles.
The toughest part of having animal companions is the fact that their life spans are so much shorter than ours. Dogs live an average of 7 – 15 years and cats from 10 – 18 years. There is often a correlation of the larger the pet, the shorter their life span. For example a Great Dane has an average span of 7 – 9 years while a Toy Poodle often lives to the age of 16. There are some pets that live far longer, such as exotic birds, reptiles and equines who can often live beyond 25 years of age.
As most animals do not understand how or why they don’t feel well enough to chase a ball, or why they no longer wish our companionship, we have to make the toughest decision of all: Knowing when to say goodbye to our beloved pets.
Sometimes it’s clear when you must euthanize your pet. The animal may be dying of cancer and no longer wishes to eat, drink or cries out in pain. You have tried every treatment available and nothing will stop the cancer’s spread. While some animals will just go to sleep and not wake up again, making it easier for you, most will not pass so peacefully. It is up to you to make this final decision for the good of your pet.
When you see your pet in distress and all options have been exhausted you need to ask yourself some questions. Don’t be selfish and keep your pet around because you feel YOU can’t live without her. That isn’t fair to your pet who does not understand what is happening.
1. Is your pet still eating? If not, this is a clear sign that her illness has become fatal.
2. Does your pet remain in a dark area away from you? Another clear sign that she’s no longer wishing to remain.
3. Does your pet cry out in pain? Without any means of easing your pet’s pain, you should not prolong this torture unless there is a means of permanently correcting the problem and she will return to full health.
4. Does your pet wish to play anymore? If you had a dog who loved to fetch, does she still wish to do so? Or, does she ignore the ball and just lay down depressed? A dog who no longer partakes in the activities she once loved no longer has a lust for life.
5. Has your pet suddently become very aggressive whenever you interact with her? If so, she is in extreme pain and you should not allow this to continue.
As cancer is the main cause of death in our pets we need to consider whether or not the treatment will be worse than the alternative – euthanization. Should an operation successfully remove a tumor, than the pain and discomfort will be temporary, often giving your pet another year or more of a happy life. However, if the cancer has metastisized, it is not fair to your pet to go through both surgery and then chemotherapy and/or radiation as well. As with people, this will make your pet very ill and not give her the quality of life that you seek.
Yes, it is always tuff to make this decision, but you should always offer your pet the love and respect she gave to you throughout her life. Don’t allow her undue suffering and pain. Be humane and make the right decision at the right time. If you and your pet have a close relationship you will know in your heart when your pet is saying goodbye and you will help her along to the peace of the Rainbow Bridge where she will once more chase her tennis ball and swim in the sparkling rivers chasing floating sticks.