When to say goodbye

This past week saw two losses. A close friend made the decision to put her senior dog down, and the other was the loss of a puppy by a fellow blogger. My heart is broken for both of them; I can’t imagine what the loss feels like not having gone through it yet myself.

Reggie will be seven next month and I would be lying if I said I haven’t thought about his end of life decisions. He is not a senior dog yet, but he is definitely middle-aged and graying around the muzzle. Every person that has a pet soulmate, a pet family member, will agonize over the decision of is this the right time? I will, oh how I will. What if I wait just a few more weeks and he gets better…

So for the science minded but emotionally pet tortured among us here is a way to make end of life decisions for our pets a little less painful.

Ask Why

Why do you think now is the right time? What are you afraid of about euthanizing? I am afraid Reggie will actually hurt or suffer in the actual process. For some reason I think the process is like suffocation. Discuss it with your vet. If you believe that it is the right time, what are the thoughts/concerns of the people around you and how can they be addressed? Are you taking their concerns into account? Above all are you making the decision that is best for your pet? Sometimes actually writing everything down helps.

Five Good Things

List the top five things that your dog loves to do and list them. When they can no longer do three or more of them, their quality of life has been impacted to a degree that warrants review. I could list “playing catch with tennis ball” as all top five. Maybe four, and “cuddling on the couch” as number five.


From vetstreet.com, the HHHHHMM Quality of Life Scale is a tool to measure, as it indicates, quality of life. It stands for Hurt, Hunger, Hydration, Happiness, Hygiene (the ability to keep the pet clean from bodily waste), Mobility, and More (more good days than bad). Each category gets graded on a scale of 1-10. If the majority of categories are 5 or above, supportive care is acceptable.


If you received a diagnosis of an illness it would help to keep a pet journal to chart progress (or not) of your dog’s condition. This way you can make rational comparisons over time and not feel forced into a quick decision.

It’s About Your Dog

It’s not about you. Dogs live in the moment and aren’t thinking about that totally awesome day three years ago when you took them to the park and played catch for like two hours and then gave them tons of treats and let them sleep on the couch…and then played again…and went in the pool…and more treats! It’s not about your grief, or your guilt, or your inability to let go. What matters is your dog and what’s best for her. And that might be letting go now, a few months from now, or not now because continuing care and treatment is the right option.

Making the decision to euthanize a pet is possibly the worst decision you’ll ever have to make as a pet parent. There’s nothing anyone can say to make the grief not as heartbreaking, the guilt not as traumatic, or the decision not as heavy. But with a few concrete ways to look at it, maybe the decision can be a little easier.

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