Euthanasia: When It’s Time To Say Goodbye

Saying Goodbye

Here’s a note that one of our mobile vets received:

The health of our seventeen year old indoor cat, “Capone”, has been deteriorating for the past several months.  He has lost so much weight and has so little energy that he really isn’t himself anymore.  We love him so much that we don’t want him to suffer, but we don’t want to give up on him either.  How do we know when its time to say goodbye?

As pet owners, we are blessed (and cursed) with the legal ability to humanely end an animal’s life.  We are fortunate that we do not have to watch our beloved pets suffer indefinitely with terminal illness the way our human family members often do.  That said, it can be incredibly difficult to have the responsibility of deciding when to perform euthanasia.  Because we cannot ask our pets what their preference would be, and because we cannot ask them the degree to which they are silently suffering, it is natural for us to struggle for long periods of time with this emotionally painful decision.

If your veterinarian has been treating your pet for prolonged illness, he or she will be able to help you decide when it is time to consider euthanasia.  Veterinarians consider many factors, including the animal’s appetite, energy level, body condition, mobility, pain, and cognitive function when helping an owner assess a pet’s quality of life. With some illnesses, diagnostics such as bloodwork or xrays can be used to give us an idea of the degree to which the animal is feeling unwell, and what the likelihood is that the illness will improve or worsen over time. To help our clients know “Is It Time?”, we’ve created a free guide that gives you a specific checklist of factors to consider when trying to come to the right decision for your pet’s wellbeing.

Broadly speaking, we suggest that our clients consider euthanasia when the pet’s bad days outnumber their good days.  Because the purpose of euthanasia is to eliminate prolonged, untreatable, or inevitable suffering, it can be argued that it is better to euthanize a terminally ill or aged animal a day too early than a day too late.

Suffering does not have to include physical pain in order to warrant euthanasia. Some elderly pets will experience symptoms of dementia and constant confusion or restlessness which can lead to mental suffering. Some pets will succumb to organ failure which, although not particularly painful, can cause suffering in the form of chronic nausea and lack of appetite.

It is not uncommon for clients to believe that if the pet is still up and around and taking in food, the pet is not suffering. It’s important to keep in mind that animals are extremely good at hiding their distress. When you think about what life would be like for an ill or injured animal in the wild, it makes sense that a pet in distress would want to disguise their symptoms, whenever possible. For this reason, it can be very helpful to consult with your veterinarian on the level of distress your pet’s physical condition may be causing.

Once you have arrived at the decision to euthanize your pet, rest assured that your veterinarian will provide the procedure as comfortable and stress-free as possible. This is where having an in-home euthanasia can make all the difference in the world, both for you and your pet.

Your veterinarian will explain to you step-by-step what the procedure entails before proceeding and discuss your wishes for aftercare arrangements and cremation. It’s not uncommon to provide sedation for your pet prior to the procedure to minimize anxiety.

When you’re ready, your veterinarian will administer the euthanasia solution through the IV line. Your pet will not experience any discomfort with this injection and will not be aware of any feelings of distress.  The solution rapidly induces a brief state of anesthesia, as if your pet were to undergo a surgery. Within a few more seconds, the solution will cause the heartbeat and breathing to cease. Your veterinarian will ensure the procedure is finished by listening for a heartbeat with her stethoscope so that you need not worry about the completeness of the euthanasia. It is customary at that point for the veterinarian to leave the room and to give you as much time as you desire to grieve your pet in privacy.

Occasionally we’ve had clients who struggle more than average with their feelings of post-euthanasia grief or even feelings of guilt associated with the decision to euthanize. It can be intensely difficult to be expected to carry on with life and work as if nothing ever happened and to be surrounded by family members, friends, or co-workers who do not understand the unique bond you shared with your pet. Sometimes our pets are the most loyal friends or family we have.

Sometimes our pets are the only friends or family we have. Often, our pets have unconditionally loved us through some tragic or difficult times in our lives. These shared experiences solidify our relationship with our pet and entrench them so deeply in our hearts that we cannot bear to imagine life without them. For our clients that are hurt so deeply by the loss of their four-legged friend that they struggle going on with everyday life, we encourage them to seek grief counseling.  There are grief counselors as well as support groups who specialize in pet loss.

Pets can be incredibly loved and important members of our families and once they are gone they leave a paw-shaped hole in our hearts. The process of saying goodbye can be a very painful one, and if you are wondering if “it’s time”, please don’t hesitate to contact us to schedule a Quality of Life Consultation or make final arrangements for your pet’s euthanasia. Helping you through this painful time in your life is one of the many things we are here to do. You can learn more about the complete list of euthanasia and aftercare services we provide at

14 Responses to “Euthanasia: When It’s Time To Say Goodbye”

  1. Patty Shortreed

    Hi – I have a healthy 13-year old cat Murphy – do I need to be a client of pets to go before calling you for your ‘paws at rest’ service or can I simply call you then? thanks love Patty

    • Dr. Wendy McClelland

      Hi Patty – no, you don’t have to be an existing client in order to call us for an in-home euthanasia when the time comes. Of course if you’d like to have a check up in the meantime and ensure Murphy has no health issues or concerns, you’re welcome to schedule an appointment. Either way, thanks for the message and your inquiry! Let us know if we can be of any help.

  2. Ed

    My cat Tinker is 23 and was originally my deceased wife’s and I promised to care for her cats. It is now time for her to pass and join her sister who was euthanized 2 years ago. Tinker is deaf and blind in one eye, but her appetite is good and she is very mobile for a 97 yr old in people years. She she cries out during the night wanting attention, but I am not sure if is because of pain or loneliness. I will be travelling and my wife believes it is time for tinker to be put down and from my perspective it is only a matter of time before the rest of her health starts failing like her sister Zoe, which was painful. I could not be in Canada and take care of things with Zoe’s last days and it was very hard on my new wife, who has been also very caring. So I would like to find out what I should do now to end Tinker’s life compassionately. I can do it with guidance and drugs, please let me know the options. Sincerely Ed

    • Dr. Wendy McClelland

      Hi Ed – we’re very sorry to hear about the situation. We know how difficult it is, especially with a pet that means so much.

      Unfortunately, we don’t have an easy answer for you. The truth is that we could never condone or recommend a “do it yourself” euthanasia for an animal, as you would require a veterinarian to be there to have it done properly. Not only are you not able to access the most effective and appropriate drugs to ensure the process is as painless and problem-free as possible, administering them requires a professional. Honestly, if things go wrong, you can subject Tinker to a great deal of suffering and pain, and we would not want that to happen.

      We would strongly encourage you to seek out a veterinarian where you are to provide the service for you. You didn’t say where you are, but there must be a veterinarian within distance, so that is what we would strongly suggest. Please don’t try it on your own.

  3. Ken & Nancy Truscott

    Stevie is our 18 yr old persian. In the last 8 months he has lost over 4 lbs, almost half his body weight, he howls frequently through the day and often wakes us up during the night. I’m sure, at times, that he is lost. He will go for a number of days without eating. We tempt him with soft cat food and baby food, often with no results, then he starts eating his kibble again. He has stopped taking care of his coat as well. As other contributors have mentioned he doesn’t seem to be in pain, but who knows. We kmow the decision is ours but a little guidance would be helpful.
    This sounds like a wonderful service.

    • Dr. Wendy McClelland

      Hi there, sorry to hear you are facing this question of whether now is the time or not. It’s a very difficult time for every pet owner, especially since we all want to do what is best for our beloved pet.

      If you haven’t already, you should download our free guide to euthanasia, as it will help you a lot in terms of understanding all of the aspects that you should consider for Stevie.

      And course, please feel free to call our office and our service team can help you as well. We’re open 7 days a week at 1-888-995-8387.

  4. Nicole

    I have a 13 year old male cat (cracker) who’s been the most affectionate cat I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately he’s always sprayed in our home. It had been better over the last couple of years but when we moved into our new home it has gotten worse. I’ve tried sprays, multiple litter boxes, new litter boxes and nothing is working. We want to bring children into our home and fear the spraying is not going to be healthy for our child or us. I don’t know what to do?

    • Dr. Wendy McClelland

      Hi Nicole – thanks for your question. We’ll use it on the radio show and answer it there, so tune into the radio show in the coming weeks! You can listen to the shows online as they’re released at

  5. Wendy

    I have a 14 year old lab, Sheppard cross dog. I know that she is hurting as there are days that she has a hard time walking. Her eyes are glazed with cataracts and she has so many bumps all over her coat. There are days that she hardly wakes up, just sleeps, won’t even get up to see who is at the door. These are the days that my daughter will agree that it is time, however when she is up begging for food, barks, and even tries to play, then my daughter thinks she is fine now. What to do??

    • Dr. Wendy McClelland

      Wendy, I’m really sorry to hear you’re in this situation. The best advice I can give is that it helps to get a professional, third party opinion. We do in-home visits to determine a pet’s quality of life, and we can help you identify both the pros and cons and help make the right decision. I can also say that most people do wait longer than they probably should to make the decision, because they feel guilty to make it. Sometimes, the best decision that you can make for your beloved pet is to put them out of their pain and suffering. If you haven’t already, I’d suggest you download our Euthanasia Guide because it will help you better understand the signs that you should be looking for. Good luck and if there’s anything we can help with, please contact our team.

  6. heather

    I have referenced your material more than once; always find it helpful. You know of which you speak. Thank you. By myself I transitioned into a journey of “one day at a time’ with my aging dog. More and more, with help like yours, there is growing discernment- quality, not quantity. What makes a “good” day.. What makes it bad.


    Your website was very informative, as I am looking how the best way to say Good bye to our ailing 14 year old Beloved kitty would be?? he has been to his regular vet twice this past week, for xrays, fluid -under his skin treatment–due to some dehydration, and a shot for pain. His ex-rays indicate a compacted intestine, which is 5 times the normal size, he is eating very little, and drinking some water, thus not much urination.. We also took him to an emergency vet clinic, where they were going to do an Ultrasound, –but seems there is too much air in his abdomen to do it. they are also concerned that his intestines could be perforated?? Surgery was considered, but no guarantee, as after they do the exploratory surgery, they may find a growth or cancer, and would need to remove a Large portion of his intestines. This sweet kitty==Ralphie– also was diagnosed with Kidney disease–2 years ago…After another injection for pain, we brought him back Home with us.. If/when he is ready to pass we prefer his Vet, that he has know for years to put him to sleep… Just so worried that he is in pain, but he doesn’t seem to be. He eats a small amount and drinks some water too. Just So Very Hard to know when it is time??? He is the Most lovable-sweetest boy , ever. Any suggestions of what is best to do for him??? Our vet is in constant touch with us, I will call her again on Monday Oct 17th, 2016

    • Jessica Fielding

      I’m so sorry you’re having to make this difficult decision, but I hope the information we provided you was helpful. If you need help making the decision about when it’s time, your Vet can help you guide you based on Ralphie’s medical prognosis and his quality of life. I know this is difficult, but whatever direction you go just know that you are doing what’s in Ralphie’s best interest as a loving pet parent.


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