When you’ve done all you can - How do I know it’s the right time to euthanize my pet?

This is a question I am asked all of the time. 

As much as we hate to admit it, caregivers have limitations of what they are capable of doing and some pets are not willing to cooperate with the treatments that will help them recover. 

There is a point where all the love, attention, therapies, and special foods are just not enough. Saying goodbye is emotionally devastating enough without having to suffer through uncertainty in your decision.

Some people will tell you that you will simply “know” when it is time but this idea is not really fair. Determining someone else’s life quality is not completely intuitive. Fortunately, some criteria have been developed to help make evaluating life quality a little more definable.

  • Does he/she still enjoy their favorite activities? The elderly pet does not necessarily need to continue chasing balls or jumping after Frisbees but they should enjoy sleeping comfortably, favorite resting spots, your company, etc.
  • Is your pet eating? Basically, quality life involves eating or at least interest in food. An animal that is hungry has vitality that must be considered, though this is not the only consideration.
  • Is your pet comfortable? The pet should be free of debilitating pains, cramps, aches or even the psychological pain that comes from the development of incontinence in an animal that has been housebroken its entire life.

Dr. Alice Villalobos, a veterinarian who started a quality of life program for terminal pets called Pawspice, has published a scoring system for life quality called the HHHHHMM scale (see link below). Having a quality of life inventory is helpful in seeing your pet’s situation in a more objective light.

Click here, to download the canine and feline quality of life scales. 


Dr. Rose