October 22, 2011 by Linda Ford
Veterinarians are frequently asked about the appropriate time to euthanize their beloved aging pets. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if a pet is suffering or in pain since they can’t speak. However, they can speak to you with signs and mannerisms. Unfortunately, our pets do not live as long as we do; time seems to fly by and suddenly your pet is old.
As pets age they begin to show signs just as humans do. Activity levels drop off and they don’t seem to want to play as much or run and jump and chase cars. They may not bark as much or they may bark more due to hearing loss or dementia.
So how will you know “when it’s time”? Well, there is no perfect time and there may be many things you can do between now and “then” to extend the life of your pet and make them perfectly comfortable and happy. So, the first question to ask yourself is “what is my pet’s quality of life like right now”?
After you have made your own assessment, make an appointment with your vet to have a physical exam performed and perhaps some diagnostic work like chemistry panels, urinalysis and radiographs. There could be an underlying disease that is causing pain or discomfort that is perfectly treatable. If your pet is not getting up to go outside to urinate it could either be pain from arthritis or a urinary bladder or kidney issue. If your pet doesn’t seem to be eating as much and loosing weight it could be anything from abscessed teeth to cancer. If your pet seems irritable and begins to have bad behavior, it could be a pain issue or dementia. Shaking and shivering can be signs of pain or a metabolic issue to do with the thyroid or other organs. Panting is another sign of pain when it’s not hot. Or maybe he’s panting because of a lung disease and isn’t getting enough oxygen to the tissues.
Some people think if they get a new puppy it will cheer up the old one. I’ve actually seen this work for awhile especially in yard dogs that don’t have anything meaningful to do anyway. An arthritic dog will perk up and make attempts to run and play which is good — use it or loose it as they say. But, if your old dog is really sick, a new puppy only makes matters worse. So get the old one checked out before you go and invest in a replacement.
Dogs and cats are living longer these days and preventive medications and disease diagnosis and treatment are the reasons why. You can add several years to your pets lives by keeping up with preventive medicines while young and having them diagnosed and treated for illnesses when they are old. Then when “the time comes” you will be better prepared and not have any guilty feeling like “I should have done …” You will be at peace and have all those wonderful memories.