When is the right time to put your dog to sleep?
One of the most difficult decisions people have to make when they own a pet is when to have that pet put to sleep. Many phone calls I receive start off with, "Dr Gardner, my family says I should put my dog down but I just don't know if it is the right time."
To help people evaluate when the 'right time' is - I start off with learning what disease the pet has. Every disease will produce different symptoms, effect quality of life differently, carries a different life expectancy, etc. For example, Congestive Heart Failure may shorten the life span of a pet faster than arthritis.
Next I find out what is currently being done for the pet in terms of treatment and home environment. All too often pet owners are reluctant to bring their pets to their regular veterinarian when they are old because they are concerned about the expense and also that their doctor will suggest euthanasia before they are ready. That is where hospice comes into the picture. Pet Hospice is a philosophy that aims to allow the pet to spend as much quality time at home as possible before euthanasia or natural death occurs. It typically does not include a lot of tests, bloodwork, xrays, etc. But rather focuses on treating symptoms short-term to give families more time with their loved ones.
Arthritis/mobility is the most common reason people call me. After a hospice visit, many pets do well on the medications I prescribe (ex: pain medication and anti-inflammatories) and also with some simple modifications to the house to help the pet feel better. (Click here for some ideas) Another mis-conception many people I hear from have is that they don't want their dog or cat all 'drugged up'. The medications we use are very similar to what humans use. If I were to have a headache or my knee what hurting me - I'd reach to my medicine cabinet... and I wouldn't be all 'drugged up' the rest of the day. :) (NOTE: DO NOT give your pet human medication without first speaking to a veterinarian. Many of our medications can be fatal in other speices)
Another common disease is Kidney (Renal) Failure. Patients with Kidney Failure can greatly benefit from administering fluids under the skin every day. This is a daunting task for some owners but once they do it two or three times, it becomes second nature.
Click Here to go to enter our Common Disease page which has information sheets on many of the diseases our pets suffer from.
|Quality of Life Scale|
Last, I go over the Quality of Life scale (click here for scale) that we have created. Or use our free online Pet Hospice Journal This helps owners evaluate their pet objectively and will help guide them in determining when the right time is for the pet and the whole family.
It is never an easy decision and it does carry guilt at times. Remember that euthanasia means, 'A good death', it is very peaceful and it is a gift that you can give your pet when they are suffering.
Please explore our website www.lapoflove.com or contact your local Lap of Love veterinarian to ask any questions you may have about hospice and euthanasia.
Posted by:Vet Mary Gardner DVM
Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice and Euthanasia
About Lap of Love:Lap of Love is a group of compassionate veterinarians that provide peaceful veterinary hospice and euthanasia in the home. We empower owners to help care for their geriatric or terminally ill pets in an environment most comfortable for them.
Dr. Mary Gardner with Hospice Patient Koleman