Signs to Know When to Put Your Pet Down

Seniors Guide - 09/24/2021

Our pets are treasured members of the family. Losing them in any way is tragic, but the decision to put them down voluntarily can be even more difficult. However, in many cases, it is the most humane and kind thing a pet parent can do. Once you are able to think past the painful reality of them being gone, you may realize that having a say in the timing of when to put your pet down may save them from a pain and suffering in their last days.

Extreme weakness or mobility issues

When your pet begins to suffer from severe weakness or mobility issues, their quality of life is likely rapidly decreasing. Although a pet may start to show issues with certain movements (such as jumping into a car) as they age, it is important to keep track of when these issues decline further.

Your pet may begin to suffer while doing activities they previously enjoyed, such as chasing a ball or going on walks, or even with basic motions such as climbing stairs or moving from one room to another. If your dog is unable to get around without help, it may be the humane decision to end its suffering.

Chronic or severe pain

Many senior animals begin to exhibit signs of chronic or severe pain that indicate that there are underlying issues – such as struggling to get up, yelping or reacting when the afflicted body part is touched, or diminishing activity levels. Although there may be some natural remedies or prescription medications to help with pain, it may get to the point where you realize that your pet is still suffering.

When you realize that pain is seriously diminishing quality of life, it may be time to make the difficult decision of whether or not to let them go.

Refusing to eat or drink (or eating or drinking excessively)

Refusing to eat or drink – or eating or drinking excessively – may be signs of serious illness. These symptoms could also be coupled with frequent vomiting or diarrhea. Drinking excessively can also be a source of incontinence. Although there may be a simple solution, a veterinarian will be able to let you know if these signs are symptoms of a serious illness.

Although some illnesses may be treatable for a time, frequently incontinence in your otherwise house-trained pet – and especially a senior pet – may indicate that its quality of life is decreasing.

An accident or injury

Choosing to put an animal down is not a choice for only owners of senior pets; an accident or injury may be a situation from which a pet of any age cannot recover. For example, a pet may be able to recover from a broken bone caused by a fall, but not from the extensive injuries of being hit by a car.

When to put your pet down in cases of terminal illness

Let’s face it: a diagnoses of terminal illness is one that no pet owner wants to hear. In addition to knowing that your pet may suffer or be in pain, medical treatment for your pet may become very expensive, and possibly with no good result.

Many pet owners are more than willing to pay for whatever treatment may be required; however, in some cases, it may not make sense to extend the life of the pet when it is suffering – especially if it causes financial hardship. Because of the emotional nature of these kinds of decisions, it may make sense to think through these possibilities and make decisions that you commit to stand by if the worst were to happen.

Think through your decision about when to put your pet down; once you have made it, be kind to yourself and know that although it is difficult, you have made the best decision possible for your treasured pet.

Kari Smith is a frequent contributor to Seniors Guide, helping to keep those in the senior industry informed and up-to-date. She's a Virginia native whose love of writing began as a songwriter recording her own music. In addition to teaching music and performing in the Richmond area, Kari also enjoys riding horses and farming.