Knowing When It’s the Right Time to Say Goodbye to Your Pet

I had a cat. Her name was Sarah. She was sweet, playful and I loved her. She slept by my side every night and followed me around my apartment every day seeking my attention and love.

At 8 and 1/2 years of age, I diagnosed her with kidney disease. At first, I adjusted her diet. Then, I gave her subcutaneous fluids (underneath her skin) to help keep her well hydrated and help flush the toxins from her body. When she became lethargic and anemic (low red blood cell count), I gave her injections to stimulate her bone marrow to produce more red blood cells. She was happy, affectionate and still slept by my side until two-to-three months before her death at age 12 and 1/2.

During the last few months of her life, she started losing weight and was no longer interested in eating her food. I went daily to the pet store in search for the magical flavored cat food that would stimulate her to eat. I bought her numerous flavors of canned food with delicious sounding ingredients, but she still refused to eat them. She would walk up to the food bowl, eat a few bites if I was lucky, and then walk away. I gave her appetite stimulates and anti-nausea medication but to no real benefit. So, I started force-feeding her ten meatballs of food twice daily. She perked up and seemed content but she no-longer slept at my side. Instead, she slept next to my husband, on his side of the bed. I was hurt, but I continued on in my daily routine of caring for her, giving fluids, medication and force-feeding her.

I talked many times with my husband that I felt her quality of life was deteriorating and that it may be time to say good-bye. Inevitably, during these conversations, Sarah would leap on the bed and be more affectionate and active as ever. Feeling guilty that I was premature in making the final decision, I would end the conversation sheepishly saying, “I was wrong. It’s not time yet.”

Then, one day I came home from work and could not find her. I searched all her favorite spots to lie in, and still, could not find her. I finally found her in a basement corner, curled in a ball, barely responsive, and sitting in her urine. I knew then, that it was time to say good- bye. Sarah was a beautiful cat and she knew it. She would groom herself for hours — especially after I combed her — to put each strand of her hair in all the right places. Hiding in the basement, disoriented and lying in her urine was not an acceptable quality of life for Sarah and for me. I said good-bye to her. It was the right time.

Pet ownership has numerous responsibilities. You need to feed, play and medically care for them, and finally know when it’s the time to say goodbye — which is the highest honor that we have bestowed on ourselves as their caretaker. My clients always ask, “When do you know it’s time to say good bye?” I always answer them, “You will know.” I then go on to explain myself in more detail. Yes, I tell them that most pets will give you “the look.” What is “the look?” Well, it’s the tragic face of a pet that seems not present. Typically, they stare off in space. They do not want to interact with you. They have a strain in their eyes that makes you want to cry. They don’t have the energy to go outside to eliminate or the strength to find their litter-box. They don’t groom themselves. They don’t eat. They are not comfortable. They are restless.

Although unusual, some pet owners are fortunate to have their ill pet die swiftly in their sleep. But, most times, we are forced to make their final decision ourselves. I recommend to each of my clients to make their own list of the top five activities they believe are critical to their pet’s well being and themselves. If their pet can no-longer do those top five activities, then it is their greatest gift to their loved pet to strongly consider saying good bye to them.

My top five activities that define a quality of life for my dog, Zack, are:

  1. Eating
  2. Going for walks and playing with his ball
  3. Eliminating outside
  4. Seeking affection and interaction with me and my family members
  5. Free of unmanageable pain

Every pet owner may have a different list of top five activities they wish their pet to always enjoy or participate in. I know that when Zack is unable to accomplish those five activities, I will say good-bye to my best friend. It will be an extremely difficult time in my life, but my dog deserves to die in dignity and not suffer an agonizing or prolonged death. I believe that we should love our pets in good health and in sick times. Sometimes our love manifests itself by knowing when it is time to end their lives. May we all have the strength and courage to know the right time to make the right decision. 2012-06-20-Mia1_small.jpg

Finally, as with each of my blogs, I am providing information on an available, adoptable animal. This week — two animals: Mia and Amber, two beautiful four year old Turkish Angora cats. Amber and Mia are littermates and a bonded pair — they sleep together, clean each other, and best of all, they talk to each other all day long! They are in excellent health.

They were rescued from a private breeder in 2011 and needed a little time to adjust to domesticated life. They have retired from the breeding life — they are now spayed!

They need a person that is willing to give TLC, a home with small children or dogs would probably not be ideal for these girls. They LOVE to play and can be very affectionate once they learn to know and trust you. Spade, vaccinated, negative for FIV and FELV. If you are interested in providing a home for these beautiful girls, please contact Animal Medical Center of Chicago at 773-525-3353.

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