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When You Love Them So Much You Can Let Them Go

Updated: Mar 9

The most common question pet owners ask when the end of the pet’s lifetime approaches is, “How will I know it is time?”


No one wants to let a beloved pet go too soon, but no one wants to allow a pet to suffer.

Well-meaning friends might say, “You’ll know, they’ll tell with their actions, or you’ll see it in their eyes.” And if these things happen, then follow your intuition and talk to a veterinarian. It probably is time.


But what happens if you don’t know?

There are several things you can consider.


If you look back over a week, two weeks, or even a month - is your pet having significantly more bad days than good days? That is an indicator to consider. Some pet parents use a monthly calendar and mark the days with smiling faces or frowning ones.


Does Archie start running in circles as soon as you start putting on your shoes at walk time? Does Whiskers follow you to your chair and jump in your lap before you even get settled? Can you set a clock by Max’s impatient reminder that it’s time for dinner? List three to five behaviors that personify your pet; then ask yourself, are they still doing those things? If the number is dropping - then that is an indicator to consider.


I often hear pet owners say, “if he stops eating, I’ll know it’s time.” If your pet loves to eat, and stops eating, especially for several days, that is a huge indicator to consider. But there are pets who keep eating, even when other things are terribly wrong.


There are several “quality of life scales” available, but my favorite is the JOURNEYS scale, originally developed by Dr. Katie Hilst of Journey’s Home in Madison, Wisconsin. It will help troubled pet parents consider eight factors in assessing that special pet’s quality of life.


If you’re approaching this place yourself, and you really want to talk through the situation, call us, or speak to your veterinarian. We all want the same thing: to be sure that your pet enjoys the best life possible as long as possible.

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