Animal Talk | Tammy Ven Dange: When it's time to let your pet go

It’s one of the hardest decisions a pet owner will have to face in regards to their pet, but it’s an important one.

LETTING GO: When is the right time to consider putting down a beloved pet? These suggestions can help you make the right decision. Photo: Shutterstock.com

LETTING GO: When is the right time to consider putting down a beloved pet? These suggestions can help you make the right decision. Photo: Shutterstock.com

When is it time to let go?

As any animal owner would agree, the thought of having to put down a pet is painful. Still, with most animal species having shorter average lifespans than humans, it is inevitable that this has to be done at some point. Doubt, grief and guilt are all common emotions, and it leads us to question the appropriate timing.

Unfortunately, some owners never make this important decision when necessary to eliminate the animal’s suffering, and our inspectors sometimes have to get involved. Our inspectors have seized animals that were unable to move, covered in maggots and left to a cruel ending alone when a painless humane death was available instead.

So, when is it time to let go? Honestly, there is no easy answer to that question. What’s important to remember is that every pet and illness is different. What can be considered is the quality of life your pet is experiencing.

Some questions you should ask yourself include:

  • Is your pet in pain?
  • Have they been diagnosed with a terminal illness?
  • Has your pet lost their appetite?
  • Are they still interested in playing or physical activity?
  • Are they experiencing problems with bodily functions?
  • Are you able to afford their increased financial care and medications?

Extending the life of a pet that is in significant pain is not kind to either yourself or your pet. For animals with terminal illness, sometimes all you can do is monitor their quality of life with the aid of a veterinarian. If you see signs of significant decline with no reasonable expectation for meaningful improvement, euthanasia should be considered.

Despite how much we love them and what medical options are available to extend life, euthanasia may be the most appropriate answer. I would encourage you to seek professional veterinarian advice and consult with other family members.  

Please know that if you have to choose to have your pet euthanised, it's not a failure. It can be the most humane and responsible act of love – despite what it may feel like at the time. If a beloved pet is too sick to maintain a healthy and happy existence, you have options to minimise their suffering.

After all, our pets aren’t just items that we own, they’re family. When the time comes, let us be strong enough to make the difficult decisions to minimise their suffering.

  • Tammy Ven Dange is the CEO of RSPCA ACT.

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