Every pet parent dreads the last phases of their pet’s life. It can be an incredibly emotional, challenging time.
Knowing the right time to give your dog a dignified goodbye is never an exact science. The right time for one pet parent may be too late for another; no one knows your dog like you do.
Our veterinarians have helped thousands of pet parents make informed, compassionate decisions for their dogs at the ends of their lives. Let’s talk about some of the most common signs they say may indicate it’s time to start an end-of-life conversation with your vet.
Inability to Eat or Drink
A dog who can no longer eat or drink without a lot of help – or has no desire to do so – is likely nearing the end of their life. Lack of appetite is a sign your dog is conserving as much energy as possible.
Pain in pets is a nebulous concept. Your dog’s pain may be obvious (a yelp when you pick them up; a severe limp when attempting to walk) or it may be more subtle. Your veterinarian can help you determine whether or not your dog is in pain and if so, whether that pain can be managed through medication. Chronic, untreatable pain is perhaps the number one reasons dog parents ultimately choose a compassionate goodbye for their pets.
Incontinence or Diarrhea
Dogs don’t soil themselves unless they absolutely have to, lacking the energy needed to eliminate elsewhere. For a dog, nothing is worse than being near their own urine or feces. Chronic diarrhea to the point of dehydration can also be a sign your dog’s systems are shutting down.
The most subjective measure of your dog’s quality of life is their enjoyment of usual activities. You shouldn’t expect your 12 year old dog to excitedly complete a 5-mile hike, but you should take notice if your dog is no longer interested in simple, life-affirming activities they used to enjoy, such as watching squirrels out the window or chewing on rawhide bones.
There’s no “right” time to make a decision regarding your dog’s end-of-life care. The choice is different for everyone, and even members of the same household can disagree over when is the right time to say goodbye.
If you’re unsure about your dog’s quality of life or have questions about your options during this phase, talk to a veterinarian. Information is exactly what you need to feel confident moving forward.