The best way to know how to do that is to prepare.
Adapting to your senior pet’s needs
You can start by making changes to help senior pets have a more comfortable life. For example:
- Take shorter walks.
- Have shorter play sessions.
- Switch to a litter box with lower sides for easy access.
- Add throw rugs to hard surfaces to increase traction.
- Provide a ramp so your pet can easily climb on furniture.
- Raise food and water bowls.
As your elderly pet experiences arthritis or other joint issues, you might consider different ways of reducing pain. Work with a veterinarian to try pharmaceuticals, CBD, acupuncture, chiropractic care or physical therapy.
How to know when it’s time to say goodbye
Our pets can’t tell us when they’re suffering, and it’s difficult to know when the kindest choice is euthanasia.
Veterinary hospice services can help. These veterinarians can help your family work through the emotional parts of decision-making toward the end of your pet’s life.
You can also use quality-of-life scales to track your pet’s behavior. As your pet’s score drops, it might be time to make a hard decision.
As your pet’s guardian, you know best when they aren’t acting like themselves. When you see those signs, you can help make the transition a peaceful one with some thought and care. Here are some questions to ask:
- How is your pet interacting with you and your family?
- Is your pet able to sleep soundly?
- Does your pet seem comfortable walking?
- Is your pet eating, drinking, urinating and defecating regularly?
- Does your pet still engage in play or get excited for walks?
- Do you need to help your pet with simple tasks (for example, do you have to carry them into the yard for bathroom breaks)?
Another tool is to identify three things your pet still enjoys, and then track whether they can enjoy them every day. For example, you might list going for car rides, playing with a favorite stuffed toy and getting a tasty treat. Tracking these markers will help you know when your pet’s quality of life has decreased.
The sooner you can reach out to a hospice or palliative care program (which focuses on improving quality of life), the better prepared you will be. You can even prepay for euthanasia services or identify a veterinarian who will perform at-home euthanasia so you don’t need to do research when the time comes.
Dealing with grief after the loss of a pet
Your pet was an important person in your life. Take time to grieve, and know that there’s no “right way” to mourn.