By Dr. Julie Damron
Stockton Record September 5, 2009
As caretakers of animals, this is one of the most agonizing decisions that we have to face. Unfortunately the lifespan of our cherished companions is much shorter than ours. One of the kindest, yet most difficult things you can do for your pet when they are suffering, is to euthanize him or her to stop the pain.
When making this decision, there are several parameters that I suggest owners evaluate. These are very difficult questions to think about. The following is meant to be a guide for this traumatic process, that is basically an assessment of your companion's level of quality of life.
Is your pet eating and drinking a normal amount? Has there been significant weight loss? For most dogs and many cats, food is one of the top priorities in life. For canines not to want to eat, it strongly suggests that some disease process is going on that is very significant or approaching end stage. Even with marked dental disease, many dogs will continue to consume normal amounts of food without much apparent difficulty. Weight loss can be more difficult to identify in cats, especially if they have long coats. An examination twice a year can be very helpful for tracking your pet's weight.
How is your companions attitude and energy level? Is he or she happy and responsive to see you? Is your cherished friend able to interact with you? Is your pet getting stuck in corners; does he or she seem to get lost? Is there a lot of pacing? Signs of apathy, anxiety, or decreased mental alertness are important markers that can signify advanced illness.
Is your friend experiencing significant pain? Does your canine or feline cry out frequently with movement or otherwise. How is your cherished companion's mobility? Does he or she have great difficulty with walking? Is there frequent limping? Is your buddy immobilized to the degree that he or she is soiling on himself or herself? Mobility issues are a common problem especially for large dogs. Beginning treatment early on at the first signs of difficulty can help tremendously, and prolong good movement.
Is your pet experiencing recurrent infections? Are there masses or other sources of chronic infection such as problems with skin or ears that are not resolving? Do you see blood from any location in your companion's body? These are all signs that your canine or feline may have a debilitating illness or weakened immune system.
This list is by no means all inclusive. Your veterinarian is a key figure for guidance in this matter. He or she can help in identifying diseases and health concerns, as well as providing treatment options to give your cherished companion quality for as long as possible.