As a Veterinary Technician, I witnessed life and death struggles every day. In veterinary practice, there were always those patients that surprised you – the ones you thought were never going to make it who ended up pulling through, while others died from relatively minor traumas or obscure complications during routine anesthesia.
Perhaps the most difficult struggles to watch were the clients agonizing over making end-of-life decisions for their pets. I can’t tell you how many times I was asked the questions – Am I giving up too soon? How do I know for sure? What would you do if it was your dog/your cat?
As a Technician, over time you develop a kind of sixth sense, an ability to quickly assess a patient and identify a gut feeling for what you think is going to happen – whether that patient will pull through or lose the battle.
But when it’s your own pet? Now that’s a whole other animal entirely.
An Unthinkable Prospect
What exactly is it that we dread most about euthanasia? Why is it so devastating to lose a pet?
The companionship of a pet is unlike any other relationship we have. Every emotion a pet has – joy, fear, anger, sorrow, impatience, or contentment – is pure. It’s experienced in that one unique moment, and then it’s let go to make way for the next one. What you see is what you get. There are no grudges, no passive-aggressive paybacks, no waiting for the perfect moment to throw something back in your face. It’s uncomplicated – our pets feel things in the moment and move on. They won’t take the keys to your car and lie about it afterwards, blame something they did on an unsuspecting sibling, or throw a temper tantrum and plot how to make your life miserable if they don’t get their way.
When they grow up, they won’t stay away for years and never visit. They are loyal companions in the truest sense of the word, for life. They don’t care if we’ve been sick and haven’t showered in days, won’t hold a grudge when we lose our temper. They don’t judge us for gaining a few pounds, for not getting that promotion at work, for making a bad decision that leads to losing half our stock portfolio. They think we are the greatest thing in the world, every day, without fail. They accept us for exactly who we are, and that love and acceptance is unlike anything else on the planet.
So when it’s time to face the prospect of losing that relationship, it’s no wonder our perspective becomes clouded.
Knowing When It’s Time
Terminally ill people know when it’s time to let go. Our pets do, too.
But what makes it so hard is that every pet, and every situation, is different. Some animals are fighters, while others give up more quickly. There’s a common saying that “Your pet will tell you when it’s time.” However, I’m not sure I entirely agree with that philosophy. It’s our responsibility to know our pets well enough to read the signs and make the decision that is kindest and most humane for them. And our ability to read those signs, to make one of the hardest decisions we will ever have to make, will always be clouded by our own emotions, interpretations, denial, and most importantly, our love for them.
I’ve struggled mightily with this in my own life. As a Veterinary Technician, I could easily see what seemed obvious with my patients, but as a pet parent, I had to learn about letting go the hard way.
Emily was a beautiful, long-haired marmalade senior kitty that I adopted when her owner, one of our veterinary clients, had to move into a nursing home. I had only shared life with Emily for a little over a year when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
I naively thought I had time to come to terms with losing her. But this tumor had other ideas. It was nasty and aggressive, almost doubling in size in the space of a week. It was a Friday, and all I wanted to do was take Emily home for the weekend to say goodbye. I just wanted a little more time with her before she was gone.
We placed a catheter in her front leg, and I took her home. It was early fall in Ohio, and the weather was warm. We spent hours outside in the yard, Emily laying in the grass in the warm sun while I mostly watched her and cried. She continued to eat, licking baby food off my fingers, but mostly she just slept. I took several pictures of her, the last ones I knew I would ever take.
On Sunday, my boss, a wonderful, caring veterinarian, came to the house and together we let Emily go. It was months before I could bring myself to look at the pictures I had taken. But when I finally did, I was cut to the heart by how much pain she appeared to be in in those photos. I just hadn’t seen it. I’d convinced myself that a little more time was going to be good for both of us, but the truth was, it was me who needed the time, not her. To this day I believe she ate that baby food off my fingers, and held on for those last few days, only because I asked her to.
It was a mistake I vowed I would never make again. Years later, when my beautiful Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Spencer, developed heart disease, I knew what to do. The cardiologist had prepared me for the fact that, although we were managing his condition well with medication, eventually Spencer would develop irreversible pulmonary edema. He warned me that when this finally happened, I had to act quickly or his lungs would fill with fluid and he would no longer be able to breathe.
I monitored Spencer constantly, carefully listening to his heart and lung sounds with my stethoscope. I knew exactly what to listen for, the crackling sound of air moving across fluid trapped in lungs. Then one day, I heard it, and I knew it was time. Within 24-48 hours, I knew his heart and lungs would fail.
When my husband and I took him on his final ride to the vet, Spencer was still happy and comfortable, and he left this world peacefully, with us holding him and telling him how much we loved him. As devastating as that experience was, I was thankful that we had done right by this wonderful dog and had not waited too long, and that we’d been able to give him a loving, dignified release from his illness before the illness had a chance to claim him.
The Kindest Goodbye
The word euthanasia comes from the Greek words “eu”, meaning good or well, and “thanatos”, meaning death. When I first started working in veterinary practice, I loathed euthanasia and considered it the most difficult part of my job. Then one day, one of our veterinarians, who had been a human nurse before going to vet school, shared something with me that changed my entire outlook. She said that after years of watching the suffering of dying people, she viewed euthanasia in veterinary medicine as a sacred privilege – the last gift we can give the pets we love so much, a painless, dignified departure from this world when their bodies fail due to age or disease. I’ve never looked at euthanasia the same way since.
There are many resources available to help us with determining when “it’s time.” A recent article from Dr. Andy Roark discussed “The Rule of 5 Good Things”, where you pick the top 5 things your pet loves to do and you write them down. When your pet can no longer do 3 or more of them, it indicates that quality of life has been impacted to the point where it’s time to start considering euthanasia.
Quality of Life Scales, such as the one developed by The Ohio State University, can also help assess the quality of life of an ill or aging pet (you can view the scale here.) Tracking your pet’s good days and bad days are helpful as well. These tools can assist with answering one of the hardest questions we will ever have to face: is our pet still actually living, or just existing?
As anyone who has lost a pet knows, after the decision has been made and we’ve said our final goodbye, the time immediately following is always the hardest. The things that bring us comfort are different for every person. My biggest comfort after saying goodbye to Spencer came in the form of a small, clay medallion with his paw print in the center and a tuft of his hair right above his name – an unexpected gift courtesy of the caring Technicians at the veterinary hospital who helped take care of him. Many years later, I still cherish that small token and consider it one of the most meaningful things I have.
Fortunately, there are also many excellent support programs for dealing with the grief surrounding the loss of a pet. The ASPCA Pet Loss Program offers not only grief support services, but also assistance with making the decision to euthanize, helping children and elderly pet parents who are facing the loss of a pet, and helping the surviving pets in the household to cope.
A Time For Everything
There is a time for everything in life – a time to fight the good fight, and a time to realize when the battle is over. Personally, I’m of the opinion that it’s almost impossible for us to know when the perfect time is to let go, but I feel it’s better to be a little too soon than a little too late. All we can do is the best we can.
And euthanasia is not a battle lost; quite the contrary. When you consider it gives us the opportunity to hold our pets in our arms as they take their last breath, feeling safe and cared for and knowing how much they are loved?
We should all be so fortunate.
What do you think? How do you know when it’s the right time to make an end-of-life decision for your pet? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
Jen Jelly says
Great article; and I love that you mention there isn’t always going to be a perfect time, and it’s our pets aren’t just going to “let us know.” Maybe it’s because we humans put so many of our own mixed emotions into the decision that makes it hard. I remember agonizing for weeks with my last dog Carter before I finally decided to let him go. I know it was the right thing to do, but it doesn’t feel like it when you’re in the middle of making the decision. It’s absolute inner turmoil. Eventually I was able to come to the conclusion that it was the right time, it just takes a lot of healing before I reached that point. Thanks for sharing this great post, all of us pet parents have to face this struggle and it’s always comforting to know we’re not alone.
Camille Schake says
That’s the conundrum with euthanasia: we spend our entire lives protecting our pets and fighting so hard to help them survive, that making the decision to end their life goes against everything we know and are capable of comprehending. It requires us to mentally and emotionally face that prospect head-on beforehand, so that when the time comes, we can process and accept it and be ready to make the right decision for our pets.
And you’re absolutely right – we are not alone. One thing I didn’t mention in the post was the stigma many pet parents face when it comes to the grief they feel after losing their pets. Although times are changing, there are still so many people who think you can “just get another dog/cat” to deal with the pain. It’s important that pet parents know their grief is justified, it’s okay to talk about it, and there are others who know exactly what they’re going through and can help. And I’m sorry to hear about Carter – based on what I know about you and your relationship with Laika, I know he was very loved, and blessed to have you as his Mom.
Ingrid Dilorenzo says
I had to euthanize Fiona….my best friend. She had Lymphoma of the brain stem. It seemed to hit her overnight. The day before she was running and playing, as usual….but the next day she was ataxic. She was no longer mobile.I knew the blood brain barrier would keep kicking the chemo out. I knew she would eventually go blind, and that she would not be able to swallow. Her heart rate was 28, and the meds couldn’t keep it steady.
Her deep, heartfelt stare was her way of telling me it was over. It was her way of telling me to “do the right thing…protect her” (as I always did). As a nurse, it is ingrained in me to not “give up”, but this time I just knew.
SO LISTEN CLEARLY, Lymphoma….I may have lost the battle to you, but I won the war. I stopped you. You will no longer be able inflict pain/misery on my precious, sweet dog. Now go “F” yourself, Lymphoma.
Camille Schake says
Very well said, Ingrid! My deepest sympathies on the loss of your sweet girl, Fiona. <3
Beverly Ann Williams says
Camille, your article has been very helpful. In August, I had my 20 year old Akemi euthanized (kidney failure). Now, I am facing losing my Rafiki who was diagnosed last week with hyperthyroidism. Sadly, I think I am going to have to let him go and then there will be one. Age and physical abilities tell me that Rafiki and Paka are the last cats who will own me. They’re the same age so it won’t be too far in the future that my home will be cat free for the first time in my 75 years. And now my eyes are leaking so I will thank you again for your article. These are the toughest decisions to make but Rafiki’s outlook is bleak to say the least and I simply cannot watch him slowly die from starvation.
Eileen Hall says
On July 5, 2022 this year, I put my Chewbacca to sleep. Yes, I antagonized over it for weeks .. but knew due to his kidney failure it was time to bid farewell to the most loving pooch. He died in my arms at 8:50pm. The doctor came to my house to administer the shots. I help Chewbacca close to my body and kept saying to him… Mommy loves you … Go nite nite … Mommy loves you, time to go nite nite. When he finally died, his body went limp… My heart stopped. No words left .. just tears. I placed him into the doctors Van very gently and again said. It’s nite my beautiful Chewbacca. Kissed him … I am having him Cremated .. he will be with me forever.
That was beautiful that you were there for your baby.
I had two Lahsa’s, I had to let one go..her name was LilBit.
She had kidney disease and Cognitive Dissonance, I am making this short because it still hurts. She was losing weight and her habits started deteriorating. I am not going to put all that she was doing, but I know she was not feeling well. When I looked in her eyes, it was as if she was telling me she was tired and wanted to rest. She was 16 and 6 mos old, it does take a part of us when we have to let them go, but we have to continue to know that we gave them the best years that other pets may not get.
Just remember they also gave you their whole life to make you smile. Pet’s know their purpose and as long as they did what their purpose was, you have to know they have to retire also. Prov: 12:10, also Isaiah 11:6 helped me.
I still have to go through the pain again, because when my Lilbit passed she left a brother behind. He is losing his sight and continue to look for her. I try to keep him busy and stay strong also, trying to keep my weight up is a struggle while missing Lilbit.
But, I continue to get better as I had a dream one night that..I saw her in the grass, when I called her name she came running, kissed me and that dream ended.
I had been asking God to show me that Lilbit was not upset at me and that she was happy.
I have her cremation and I keep it near her memorial.
When her brother’s time come..I will keep them together on the mantle.
I will decide the time and place and let their ashes go together, because they were always together.
If one went the other was there.
I pray that there is something positive in my words that you can take away.
I wish you a speedy healing.
These kinds of posts are so hard to read (usually done with tears in my eyes), but it’s helpful to have different perspectives with what is one of the most difficult things in life that we have to deal with. Thanks for sharing your perspective. Now I must go find some cute dog photos, lol! 🙂
Camille Schake says
I know what you mean! As hard as it probably was to read, it was twice as hard to write. When I finished writing, I found my kitty Jasper and smothered him with kisses for like 5 minutes (much to his annoyance!) 🙂
Lauren Miller (ZoePhee) says
I think this is one of the most scariest things we have to deal with when we have pets. Not knowing when it’s the right time, waiting to long, etc. I had a pet die in my arms at home. She was a chinchilla and the emergency vet in my town refused to see her because “they don’t treat exotics”. They were the only vet that was open within a few hours of us. Her dying in my arms was the worst most traumatizing thing I’ve ever been through. I still feel immense guilt and sadness over the whole thing and I wish I had euthanized when she was diagnosed with the teeth problems.
With our family dog, we knew it was time. She was diagnosed with lymphoma at 11 years of age and she went downhill within a week of her diagnosis. It was really hard but we knew it was the right thing to do.
My current dogs are young still but I hope that I will be able to make the right decision when it’s time.
Camille Schake says
Oh, I’m so very sorry to hear about your chinchilla. That had to be so awful. But please don’t blame yourself, we love our kids and make the best decisions we can for them, sometimes things just end up taking a terrible turn. 🙁 She passed in your arms knowing she was loved, that’s so important! And with your dogs, I know you’ll make the right decision…I think life is a huge learning process and we just keep learning as we go. I think your dogs are very lucky to be going through life with you.
My sweet cat Chino was diagnosed last week with lymphoma. He’s been home with medications but my heart sinks when he hangs over his water bowl, drags his hind legs, or meows sadly. I don’t want to be selfish and force him to go on if he’s not happy. I’m trying to decide if we should euthanize him but as I read and see him day by day I feel like it’s the right thing to do as painful for me as it will be.
M G says
This article has helped me a lot, thank you. I had to make this agonising decision just over 2 weeks ago and I am still questioning whether the time was right, although my boy had been declining for some time and my vet was very supportive. It was made harder for me because my only child has recently gone to university and it was just me and my boy at home – losing him has had a really negative impact on me and I am still struggling to find the way forward.
Personally, I feel that because I loved and still love my boy so much, it was the hardest decision I have ever had to make, and although I knew it was approaching, it still took me by surprise and was very traumatic for me, although it was very gentle and I was with him all the way as I always promised him I would be.
Some people are telling me I should get another dog – I feel like asking them if they would get another child or sibling in this position.
Thank you again.
Camille Schake says
Please accept my heartfelt condolences on the loss of your boy. What you said about struggling to find your way forward really resonates, because I know just what you mean. I had to say goodbye to my 14-year old kitty Jasper over a year ago due to cancer, and I still have moments to this day where something will remind me of him, and I literally break down. It always takes me by surprise how fresh the pain still is, and it’s caused me to face the fact that there are just some losses in this life that you never completely get over… and I’ve had to learn how to be okay with that.
Whenever that happens, I try to replace the pain I’m feeling with a memory of one of the many things Jasper did over the course of his lifetime to make me laugh, and I remember how grateful I am for the incredibly special gift that he was. No one will ever replace your boy, but they don’t need to. The mark he’s left on your heart is his, and yours, alone…one of the sweetest things in life that nothing will ever be able to take away.
Karen M Buckousis says
Some people feel they can replace the pet. In reality they can never be replaced. That live is powerful, I know, I was never gonna give up hope with our little girl ( pekingese), named Baby. We just had to put her to sleep, I cry all the time. I told my husband the only way I would let her go is if she was suffering and couldn’t do it anymore. The time came and my heart breaks every day. The doctor said it was time. The worst words imagine able. That sweet little girl is gone. My mind knows it was the right thing but my heart doesn’t get it.
Karen M Buckousis says
Im sorry it should say love
Andrea A says
I’m so sorry for the loss of your sweet Baby. I don’t think anything is more difficult than making that decision. It’s been just over 2 month since I let my baby Zoey go and I still cry most days. But, I also have moments of peace now too. And moments where good memories make me smile without tears again. I’ve had to make the decision twice now. One of my girls visits me now and then in dreams. The other has given me signs that she is okay and I did the right thing. It changes – and it’s hard not to see and hold them, but I still feel like both of them are with me still. That love never goes away and I believe I will see them again one day.
It takes a strong person to end the suffering even when you know how much you’ll miss them. Your baby was lucky to have a Mom who loved her that much and I believe that love goes on.
May your heart heal a little each day even as you continue to love and remember Baby just as much.
Thank you for this. My husband and I are trying to make this decision with respect to our beloved cat right now. She has hydrocephalus. It’s a long and complicated story, but she is at least 10 (she was a stray who adopted us) and was diagnosed only 7 months ago after suffering from terrible seizures. Against all the odds she fought back and regained a great quality of life. At the time our neurologist didn’t think she’d last 2 weeks. All of this came crashing down on Wednesday morning when my husband woke up and found her seizing again. She’s been in the hospital since then. We’ve been trying everything, but she still can’t move much and she now has a UTI. I’ve been desperately hoping for a recovery like she had 7 months ago. This morning’s call from the vet didn’t hold out much hope for that. I’m devastated, but only want what is best for her. This is the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make.
Camille Schake says
Angela, I am so very sorry for the delay in responding to your comment…for some reason it went to my spam folder, and I just now saw it. 🙁 I’m not sure if my response will even be timely at this point, but I just want to say how deeply sorry I am for what you’re going through. Hydrocephalus in cats is a devastating illness, and when it occurs in older cats, it’s even trickier since it’s often very difficult to diagnose the exact cause. I don’t know the outcome for your kitty (I’m hoping against hope that it was a good one), but if it wasn’t, please know that you did everything you possibly could (including giving her the best care possible by partnering with a neurologist). I’m also sending you a private email to follow up, so please let me know how you’re doing.
Angela Napper says
My husband and I are struggling with deciding when the right time is. We have a 15 year old golem retriever that has a neurological degenerative disease. LATELY he can’t get up without assistance, he is knucklehead much more frequently when he walks and is having a hard time squatting long enough to poop without falling into it. We have bought all kinds of devices a and gadgets to help but to me nothing seems to work as well as we had hoped. In the,last few days he has required ham in his food to eat it. My gutvis,telling me it’s time but my hustand isn’t ready. We still t a ke him on short walks and he dies seem to like attention but I’m not sure it’s enough. I just don’t know the right answer.
Camille Schake says
Hi Angela. If it helps, feeling like you don’t know the right answer is by far the most common feeling pet parents pet parents have when it comes to euthanasia, so you’re definitely not alone! If I may, I would offer that I think the biggest factor in making the decision on when it’s time would be confirming if your dog is in any pain from his condition, followed by if you feel he still has a quality of life. When dogs and cats with terminal illnesses stop eating, or can’t do most of the things they used to do in their “normal” lives, that’s a good indication that you may be nearing the end of the journey. The fact that your dog had 15 good, quality years filled with love is an incredible thing, and something that I hope will bring you comfort when the time comes to say goodbye. I’m wishing you and your family much peace and comfort.
Steph A says
I’m about to let one of my beloved companions go. While he’s only been with us for 6 months, he came to us with a lot of issues (blind, FIV, diabetes, and cancer) and we eventually came to terms that we’re his hospice and would give him the best remaining life ever. But in the last couple of days, he’s gone downhill. For my last two fur babies, I waited a day or two too long and I know they suffered some. I don’t want to do that again. However, I’ve been looking for an article to help me really come to terms with letting him go a little earlier and this article is it. Thank you for sharing your story and giving me the courage to move forward with this decision.
Camille Schake says
Steph, I am so very sorry to hear about the loss of your kitty. He was very lucky indeed to have found a home with you, especially given all the challenges he faced in this life! I have a very special place in my heart for people like you who adopt knowing that their new addition will face numerous obstacles and health issues, yet they still wholeheartedly welcome them into their homes and into their hearts. I’m honored that this article helped you during a difficult time, thank you so much for writing. I know there are no words that will take away the pain of your loss, but I can tell just from what you wrote that you did give him the best life he could have possibly had during his time with you. In that, there is much beauty and honor.
Thank you Chamille for this beautiful article and sharing your hardest moments as well as your vetinary experience. It is so well written and helpful I can not explain how impactful it was for me to read now. My INCREDIBLE 13 year old labradoodle collapsed yesterday on a walk, we rushed to the vet to be told our worst nightmare. His pericardium is full of fluid and his heart and lung function is extremely labored. Likely caused by cancer. While his organs are still functioning well, he’s extremely anemic. We requested the vet perform a pericardiocentesis operation to help his heart, but we know there is no chance for a miracle rebound back to his old self. He may have been exhibiting mild signs of illness for awhile, but he’s still eating, drinking, going on short walks, excited to meet other dogs and making us so so happy. It’s only been a day since his breathing became extremely labored, that he’s been out of it with a thousand mile stare into the corner of the room and loss of coordination. After receiving last nights treatment and a prescription for Yunnan Baiyao to attempt to stop the internal bleeding I hoped we’d get a few more days, weeks or maybe even months? But as I write this I’m holding his weak body and listening to his rapid breath, knowing tomorrow will be his perfect final day. Thank you again.
Camille Schake says
Nick, I am SO very sorry to hear the sad news about your dog. 🙁 I can tell from the beautifully written words you shared how very special he was, and how much he was loved! I hope with all my heart that his final day with you was completely perfect, filled with as much love as your hearts could handle. I also wanted to thank you for taking the time during such a painful crisis to let me know that I was able to help you with the words I wrote in this article. I’m humbled and honored to be able to have been of help, even in some small way, during such a difficult time. Thank you again for sharing one of YOUR hardest moments, and I hope the amazing memories you carry with you of your sweet boy will carry you through this time of loss. <3
Thank you for your article and to those who replied. It has been very helpful to me, as a therapy group for parents of terminal animals. During the week before Christmas, our 12 1/2 year old Maine Coon, Lucie, cat lost her remaining canine tooth and started having her tongue sticking out a little bit. At first, I thought it was cute and only due to her tooth not being there to hold her tongue in; I took photos too. About a week later, she started to profusely drool, so I thought it was her gums being infected by the lost tooth. The next morning, my trusted veterinarian of nearly 30 years, explained that she had mouth cancer and it was inoperable due to being in the jawbone. He said she had a couple of weeks or so, to live in a quality sort of way, and it would be best she was euthanized while she was doing okay. I was told if she wasn’t eating or became dis-interested in things like a bug crawling in front of her, then it was time to let her go and maybe past it. I have been feeding her anything she would eat, like tuna juice and tuna, soft food, etc. Antibiotics and pain medication helped for a while, but now a month past her diagnosis, she suddenly turned horribly thin this week and cannot seem to eat, due to the cancerous mass growing so fast and often bleeding a bit. Being gone from the house 12 hours a day for work doesn’t allow me to continuously monitor her four days a week. She sleeps a lot and usually on a spot I was sitting or lying on earlier. The thing that has made me hope for more time, is how she still purrs when I caress her or when she is relaxing on my lap. She comes to me eagerly for treats, but you can see her disappointment when she cannot eat them due to her mouth pain and difficulty to use her tongue. The way she looks at me is heart wrenching, because it resembles a look of panic from being hungry an unable to eat. If there is no progress, we plan to have her euthanized in four days on Monday Feb 4th. I hope she will get a little nourished if I am successful at feeding her broth through a syringe, mixed with liquefied soft food. It may be uncomfortable for her, but it may work for the weekend. I do not want her to die hungry… I wonder if I should have been doing this type of feeding during the past week or so; there’s my guilt. We have three other Coon cats, whom are confused about where our sick, Lucie, has been. One of our male cats, Tiggy, is more attached to her than the others and they normally sleep near each other at night. He “yodels” at night looking for her, if she is not on the bed with him when he wakes up in the middle of the night and finds her not there.
Camille Schake says
Brett, I am so very sorry to hear about Lucie’s cancer. 🙁 Unfortunately I did not see your comment until tonight, so I offer my deepest condolences to you and your family on your loss. Hopefully you and your other cats are moving through the grieving process together, and all your years of happy memories of Lucie will eventually overshadow the most recent painful ones. Thank you so much for sharing your story; my heart goes out to you. <3
John Michael Seda says
I’m so sorry for your loss. i just want to say that I kind of understand you’ve gone through since it has happened to me too. But that was quite a while now and I have somehow moved on from it.
Aleks Djuric says
Thank you for your article. The paragraph about it being “sacred privilege – the last gift we can give the pets we love so much, a painless, dignified departure from this world when their bodies fail due to age or disease. “ is very helpful
We’re in the process of deciding whether the time is right. I have a beautiful 13 year old cat. He has been fighting with heart disease for the last 2 years, which has also become a balance with kidney disease.
Unfortunately the kidney disease has progressed, and he is now more withdrawn eats less, lost a lot of body mass, appears weaker, Started to relieve himself in different places and not himself.
So hard to make a decision when he has his good days, it gives you hope as he eats and drinks but then he goes back to being quiet.
He is a big fighter and has fought back so many times from his bad days in the last 2 years. Just so hard to watch him as you cling onto hope.
Thanks for sharing your story and reading comments is comforting.
Your article was really helpful.
Had to euthanise my cat 2 weeks ago he got 17,5 years…great past 10 years in house with a garden…he loved to be outside. Im thankful he always got back home during his walks outside…
Alas…the past few weeks he was getting a bit weaker, already getting more skinnier…
and when he passed away it dawned on me for the last month of his life we were already saying goodbye. Got his fave dishes…cooked white fish. He was eating with me and my son. Gave him a plate sometimes in the living room. Here pal…youre family, too…
One night before I went off to bed I petted him purring….told him how long we knew each other and all the things we had lived through.
The next morning I found him heavily breathing. Bottom half of his body paralized. Acute saddle trombose embolism. I saw him…and I knew this was the dreaded moment. I knew this was the end of a beautiful loving friendship. The vet assured me in his condition and age this was the kindest thing to do.
I have a job and kids to take care off. Its still fresh 2 weeks… In the nighttime when I have time alone I allow myself grieving and reading up on these articles…it helps…
Lori Richard says
Thank you for writing and posting this article. My husband and I are going through a very difficult time in trying to decide what to do about our 16.5 year old Maltese, Rags. To say he’s the love of my life might make my husband a bit jealous, but that about describes it for me. I have never bonded to a dog as tightly as I have this one. From the beginning I’ve babied him like a child. I think having my daughter leave home about the time I got him attributed to my needing something to baby and watch over. He’s a little guy and very timid, but sweet and loving. Very easy dog to get extremely attached to and to feel you have to protect. I have done all I can to look out for him and to protect him from everything. He’s been like a therapy dog for me. I got him when I was dealing with being housebound with terrible anxiety attacks. That lasted 11 years of our time together. It’s always been just the two of us all day long. He’s my reason to get up each day and someone to cry with when the days are really tough. Now he’s deaf & blind with arthritis and some symptoms of CCD. His life isn’t fun for him anymore. Most of the time he feels lost and scared. He hasn’t adjusted to the blindness very well. He’s had cataracts for several years, but went blind in his right eye last November. Since then he’s gone downhill. We have tried to make things better for him, but he has no interest in anything. Some days he’ll explore his surroundings, but other days he is too afraid to move from wherever we put him not knowing where he is or which way to go or even what to do when he gets there. I have spent weeks crying. This is tearing me apart in ways I never imagined were possible. I can’t decide what to do. Give him more time to adjust? We just started him on supplements for his CCD. Should I wait for those to see if it’ll make a difference or will he never be happy again without his sight? He sits and barks wanting us to come get him from wherever he is. I have to take him to his water cause he can’t find it or his bed. We have gotten some scent markers which haven’t arrived yet and hope that will help. Two vets have told us it’s time to put him down if the supplements don’t work. It’s not in my nature to do this sort of thing & I have never had to. I don’t want my baby to suffer, but I don’t know if I am capable of this decision. Wish there was an easy answer, but I know there isn’t. I’m just afraid of making the wrong choice or making it too soon. He still enjoys hunting the large area rug for his treat, which sometimes takes awhile. Outside of that, being held and petted are all he’s got outside of sleeping. I don’t know if that’s enough quality of life for him or not, but it’s certainly hard on us to watch him struggle so much. Thank you for reading this and I’m sorry it’s so long, but my heart is pretty shattered. I don’t think I’ll ever want another dog. It’s just too painful when they have to go.
Hi Lori, I hope things went in a fortunate way for your pup. My heart broke when reading about his situation.
Lori Richard says
Thank you so much for your kind words. Rags was sent over the rainbow bridge 6 months after this post and 2 months after his 17th birthday. He developed a brain tumor and was having seizures. It’s the hardest thing we’ve ever done. We will always miss him.
All of these articles are simply wonderful and supportive.
I just put my sweet 15 year old Sheltie down 3/7/20. It was so unexpected. She had been diagnosed with minor renal issues Nov 2019 so I changed her diet to low protein per the Vet. She seemed to be doing fine until about 3 -4 weeks ago when she just stopped eating. I really didn’t pay much attention to this as I figured she would eat when she was hungry…but over the 4 weeks her belly started swelling, her elbows started turning outwards and her breathing became labored. She definitely lost interest in everything, even her daily walks. I became overly concerned one day when holding her as this appeared to increase the distress of her breathing. I immediately made an appointment with the vet, took her in and was told, she was in advance renal failure and I should consider putting her down.
I was not prepared to hear this.
I anguished and cried for an hour before agreeing to put her down. I held her sweet little face in my hands as she slowly slipped away. So very, very sad. I stayed with her, petting her, smelling her fur, telling her how much I love her, not wanting to let go. So traumatizing. My heart is broken, the pain is immeasurable.
I lost my beautiful bunny of 6 years late in March one night. It was ten in the morning when we went to feed her that we found out. She never showed her age much and was a happy little girl right to the end. I assume she passed peacefully from old age. Could there be anything I had missed, as she was a harlequin cross blue point mini lop.
Ken Perez says
My cat Lazarus “Laz” has a tumor in his jaw found it about two weeks ago and tumor is becoming more aggressive he still gets hungry but you can tell he’s in pain. His mouth is swollen, he’s drooling and has these painful looking spasms. It breaks my heart I cry all the time especially when I look into his sweet face. I know time is very near but I can’t get myself to
End his life, he’s my buddy he reads the paper with me. I love him so much!
We named his Lazarus because my husband and I were visiting at his parents farm and one of the farm cats had a litter of cute little kitties. We we’re playing with this cute little kitten and he stopped breathing and dropped dead! I yelled at my husband (who was a new physician) “do something! Your a doctor!!” He thought and began cpr and mouth to snout respiration. And he came back. He was a sick little kitty I stayed up with him all night telling him “you’re gonna make it! He did! And 12 years later, he’s dying and instead of saving him we have to end my sweet Laz’s life. My heart aches.
Camille Schake says
Ken, I’m so very sorry to hear about your sweet Lazarus. <3 The story about how he got his name and being brought back by your husband was amazing! My sincerest apologies that my response is so late, as I have not been able to keep up with responses for the last several months. But I wanted to let you know that my heart aches deeply for you and your husband, and for the hole that this loss has undoubtedly left in your lives. I know it can sometimes sound cliche, but the memories you have of Laz will ensure that he will truly live on forever... and nothing will be able to take that away from you. My very best to you both. <3
Aleisha A says
This article could not mirror what has happened to us and our 3year old Kelpie, Diesel more.
We got him and his sister Ivy from a litter over in QLD Australia and flew him all the way over to the other side of the country to our home in WA two months after my 17year old soul mate Dusty passed away. All those regrets and lessons learnt from Dusty and when his companion Missi died unexpectedly at 9years old a few years earlier, I made sure to implement. I never got angry, they went with us everywhere, I was diligent with their health and took them to the vet at any first sign of any issue, making sure never to wait and see. We invested thousands into dog training, we went on holidays together, I organised snake avoidance training. We ensured we had insurance so there would never be any barriers to doing everything if their health become an issue.
Then two weeks ago I noticed every now and then he wouldn’t chase the soccer ball with as much enthusiasm, or he’d let out a little squeal like he hurt himself. I would move every leg, touch his tummy to try and find the source but could never find the issue. It was like I had imagined it and he would go back to his usual self. I considered going to the vet but I thought what would I say?
And then he developed a raspy random cough. And I thought he was breathing was a little more exaggerated than usual. But it was the beginning of Winter and most years he developed this, which his sister would then catch, and the vet would always put down to a cough. I asked my husband about his breathing and he said he didn’t think anything out of the ordinary of it. After a few days I thought it was best to get this looked at – a lessons from my poor Missi. He was still eating and fine in everyway. The vet thought she would try antibiotics for a week – yes he had a slight cough, a little fever and slightly faster heart rate but nothing too drastic.
After three days of antibiotics, I thought the cough wasn’t getting any better, which I thought it should have considering the medicine. I called the vet and she said to give it a few more days. But something was not That night as we watched tv as we always did with the dogs by us, he woke up about 10pm and his breathing was faster than usual. Sort of like he was panting but with no tongue and he seemed to struggle. He couldn’t go back to sleep. I decided to take him to the emergency vet to be sure. He wagged his tail, jumped in the car, pulled on the lead to sniff everything.
Within two hours, I was told to take him to the best vet hospital in our state – the vet could not see his heart at all as his whole chest cavity was filled with fluid. I started to panic. She suggested heart failure. I had to leave him there at 2am, crying my eyes out, wondering if this would be the last time I saw him.
The next day we were told after more tests the heartbreaking news he had lymphoma, a tumor near his heart, and the cancer cells were now in his blood. He had 1 or 2 days to live. We had no chance to save him. At only 3 years old, my big affectionate, goofy boy was going to leave me, the one that had been sent to me after my Dusty left us. We picked him up that afternoon, spent the whole night laying with him, patting him, telling him how much we loved him. I took in every detail in of him, how he felt, how he looked, how he smelt. It was the worst night of my life – wanting the morning to come so we could give him peace as he could not sleep, his breathing was so poor and laboured. But wanting every minute to drag so I could keep him in my arms. Every time I dozed for 10minutes I would jump up afraid he had left me, but he was still awake, desperate to sleep.When he stood up, he was the old Diesel, but lying down just allowed the fluid to build up again and impact his breathing.
We gave him our breakfast in the morning, tried to get his sister Ivy to say goodbye before we left the house, bought him some naughty food in the morning and ate it at the beach. We went to our usual vet for one last opinion, which was that we could possibly buy 1 week, 1 month with some chemotherapy and regularly draining his chest. Diesel pulled on the lead as he usually did, wagged his tail, kissed my toddler as he always did. He looked like his usual self. We made the decision to let him go there and then. He would never be the Diesel he deserved to be. He would never be cured. He would never play with us again. We took some last photos, and then we held him as he left us, wagging his tail like a maniac. We told him how much we loved him, and how sorry we were. He left us, on my birthday, three months before our second baby was due.
From this time, I have felt it so hard to reconcile. He looked so healthy, he ran, he ate. But somehow he had cancer. A cancer normally seen in older dogs, he was just a puppy. He only the day before I first took him to the vet chased his ball with so much energy. And as we let him go, he was Diesel. But I know it was only a matter of time that he deteriorated. I couldn’t handle losing him while I slept, to find him like that. Since he left, I have pieced more parts together. He was eating grass more regularly (normally only after chasing the ball too much), we found some very dark poops that he must have done the day before we let him go, indicating blood. I now trust he was sick.
But I can’t understand why. And I don’t want him to be gone. I don’t want him to be a memory. I want my old life back. I want him to meet our new baby. I want him to be the Dusty to my babies. But now life goes on. Our routines remain. We still have his sister Ivy to look after, but now I am paranoid about losing her and making sure she is not sad. I didn’t want this for her, she loved her brother so much. Now she is alone. They were supposed to be our last dogs as I can’t handle the loss, I love them all too much – even though everyone says they are just dogs. But never did I think we would get a measly three years. It’s not fair to him, he deserved so much more time. I have so many regrets.
Camille Schake says
Aleisha, I don’t know where to begin. First, please accept my sincerest apologies for this delayed response, as I have been having difficulty keeping up with responses over the last several months. Second, your beautifully written story brought me to tears. You captured so well the agony of this experience and all the doubt that goes into making the decisions involved. If it is any comfort, due to the nature of Diesel’s illness, I agree 100% with your decision on the timing of letting him go. As you said, “he was Deisel.. but I know it was only a matter of time.” The disease that he had was brutal and unrelenting. The only option you had was to give him his beautiful last day, with you and your family, at the beach, feeling good.
I know I have said it before, but animals live in the moment. All they know is what they have right here at this moment, and your decision prevented Diesel from ever having to experience the fear and pain that is the inevitable result of one’s body failing from cancer. I agree that 3 years is not fair. Hell, in my mind, there is no number that is ever fair when it comes to our furry kids! But I know in those 3 years Diesel gave you memories you will carry with you the rest of your life. That is his legacy, the blessing he leaves you with.
Thank you so much for sharing your personal experience with such unflinching honesty. I know for a fact that the stories shared here with other readers of this article have provided much comfort and peace, as I often hear from them privately telling me so. Time will eventually dull the heartache of having to say goodbye to Diesel, but until then, my deepest and most sincere condolences and prayers are with you and your family. <3
Elizabeth Kellett says
This is an absolutely fabulous article and is helping me with this heart wrenching decision. Thank you so much !
Camille Schake says
Thank you so much Elizabeth, I’m so glad it was helpful. <3
Susan Harrell says
This is hard as you know . I have a 9 year old poodle that up to a year and a half ago only had a thyroid problem . Then came the Cushing … then the diabetes… then he becomes blind in one eye and partial in the other . I said ok I will tackle this and we will learn together and overcome the challenges of of All the illnesses. I was scared to began to test him but after realizing how important it is I had to let my fears go and jump in . We found the right spot to draw blood that was easy for me and him . He has done good as far as juggling the insulin, Trlistane , eye meds etc every 12 hours . I’m his only care taker as husband just wants to be the good guy so he hasn’t taken part in any of his care except to play and walk him . So he has been by my side as a constant companion every 12 hrs we do our routine . So now to the present , he has IMHA, and we’re doing everything to give him a chance . This is his 3rd day in hospital and their trying to juggle all his disease while trying to get his RBCs up. My husband doesn’t even want to talk about putting him to sleep , he thinks that he will just come home and our lives will go back to normal . He will be on another med for at least a year . If the blood transfusion( 2nd) doesn’t his bring RBCs up how many do we do ????My husband will go in dept over this and I want to give my baby peace while trying to come to terms in my own head .I can’t find the words that hit home with my husband so I showed him your article and am praying he understands alittle more of this is about doing the loving thing for our Willbe if they can’t get his little body to corporate💔Soon will have to come to terms …..thanks for a sad but meaningful article 🙏
Camille Schake says
Susan, my sincerest apologies for the delay in responding. It is unbelievably heartbreaking to be treating one disease, only to get hit with another. 🙁 Since I wasn’t able to read this until now, any words I offer may be late, but one thing is certain: you have done as much as you possibly could for your baby. I know how exhausting and stressful it is to manage a chronic condition (let alone multiple diseases), and let me tell you, you are a hero Dog Mom. This response is late, but no matter what is happening right now in your lives, my prayers and heartfelt wishes for peace and strength go out to you and your family. Thank you so much for sharing your story. <3
Mary Helen Short says
I’m sitting @ the pet emerg clinic, waiting for the cardiologist to tell me if the time has come to let little Tia go. She’s an 8.5 lb, 13 year old, silver Toy Schnauzer who has been with me since she was 6.
She’s a clown, and a brat, and I absolutely adore her. She was diagnosed with heart murmur 4 years ago, and congestive heart failure in December. Her 2nd crisis was in June, just before her 6 month check-up appt with the cardiologist, the 3rd, mid August (6 weeks), and now the 4th, end of September (6 weeks).
Each crisis/diagnosis brings a change in drug therapy. The cardio told me with the last increase in her oral diuretic that we are not “@ the end of the line” re: drugs, so, I will wait for the new diagnosis/treatment recommendation, and hope for @ least another 6 weeks with my little one.
Camille, your article, and dear pet parents, your comments, as I wait alone in the little room, have all meant so much to me—thank you, and blessed day to each of you.
Camille Schake says
Mary Helen, thank you so very much for taking the time to comment and personally share about your little Tia while you were at the hospital. <3 My heart breaks for you, as my beautiful dog Spencer also had heart disease, so I know the uncertainty of managing congestive heart failure. We do all that we can and hope for the best, but know we are on borrowed time. I apologize deeply for the delay in response, and as such I am unsure as to what is now happening with you and Tia, but my prayers and best wishes go out to you both. I know Tia will never truly leave you.. over the last several years, she will have given you an infinite amount of love and many happy memories. Thank you so much again for sharing your heart. <3
I know this is an old article but it’s still so true. I’m facing letting my 14 (and nearly 10 months) old sweet, handsome loving pug Winston go soon and just trying to process and determine when to fight and when to let go. A little over 3 years ago he developed severe, life threatening pancreatitis, and was given a “maybe 6 months to maybe a year at most” prognosis. He has fought so hard with medications and a very strict feeding schedule and we have fought just as hard along side him. A couple of months ago he started developing sores on his feet, signs that his immune system were finally breaking down due to age and long term steroids. We have been treating that with shots, antibiotics and ointments, but he’s finally developed one that doesn’t appear to be getting better. I think it’s just that his immune system has completely tapped out and has nothing left to give, though I thought that before as well and the sores got better. I’m feeling with a very heavy heart that the time is likely coming in the next day or two and it’s absolutely tear inducing and heartbreaking. He doesn’t like being in a cone (as he wants to like) but otherwise he doesn’t appear to be bothered, still in good spirits and not shaking or crying, and wants to eat and like all pugs, just follow me like a shadow. I just want to spare him the slow decline of days or weeks in which his spirit will finally degrade as his body is slowly and he is in pain. I don’t want sweet little guy to be in pain but I want to hold on as long as he wants to fight. It’s really tough figuring out exactly where that line is, but I think I’m seeing the end pretty clearly here. I just don’t know what I’m going to do without my little guy, due to his nature and his care he has very much been the focus of non-work life for the last three years.
Constance Treiber says
I can’t breathe I am crying so hard. Our little girl, Bebe, was diagnosed with CHF more than 2 years ago and has been on medication twice daily since. She’s always been a little fighter, a 10 lbs MaltiPom. And there was never a dog she was intimidated by. In fact, she’s put many 50 lbs plus dogs in their place. She’s declining quickly as of late, no matter how hard we fight to keep her going we know the end is nearing. We had to take her to the animal hospital 2 days ago where they needed to put her on oxygen. They ran tests and both her right side and left side of heart is failing. Her liver is enlarged and her lungs have a little fluid on them. According to the vet she’s not in pain. We know her quality of life is deteriorating. She no longer has the spark in her eyes, she struggles to get up and has lost 2 lbs as she has no interest in food . We brought her home to have her near us this Thanksgiving weekend as it was her 13th birthday, We are quite sure this will be our last weekend together. We’ve been with her 24/7 just loving on her and trying to hide our sadness, which is nearly impossible. Selfishly, we want her to live forever. We have an appointment on Monday with her Vet and my heart knows what will come of that appointment.
Thank you so much for this article. I just had to make this heartbreaking decision 2 days ago with my 13 year old chiweenie. I’ve been struggling and doubting myself ever since. I had him since he was 4 months old and he was my little sidekick for so long. A couple of days ago he started vomiting and couldn’t keep anything down, not even water. We first assumed he had eaten something outside he shouldn’t have and just needed to get it out of his system. After taking him to the vet, they gave him IV fluids and did an ultrasound and found a tumor blocking his intestines. The only options were surgery and possible chemo which may not have a good outcome or euthanasia. I have been regretting my decision to let him go with the regret that maybe he would have still had a little more time left if I would have given him the chance. After reading your article, I realized it wouldn’t have been very fair to put my 13 year old baby through all that to buy time for myself to cope with losing him. When I looked back at his photos from his younger years, I realized the change was so slow and gradual that I hadn’t realized he wasn’t really the same dog anymore. He was so tired. He also had Cushing disease and it was taking its toll on his body. I’m just glad I was able to be there with him as he drifted off and I hope he wasn’t in pain. As I was stroking his head to comfort him, he just seemed like he was already gone. He didn’t respond. He just looked so tired. The part that makes me second guess my decision is how happy he always was to wake up in the morning to go outside with my other puppy even up until the day he started vomiting. He always wanted to be near me and looking at his empty bed in my office where he would sleep as I worked is so hard. I miss him so much.
Ashley Griffiths says
Thank you this has helped me massively after just losing my beautiful dog sausage. I don’t want her to suffer any more that she had done but have felt awful about it and lonely without her since.
Sharon Haley says
Our beloved Bleezy is totally blind and deaf, and requires two shots a day for diabetes. He can no longer do any of the things he loves to do. My son feels like it’s time to let him go as Bleezy sleeps the majority of the time and we carry him outside to do his business. I’m having a terrible time with my son’s decision and feel like we are turning our back on Bleezy. He turned 14 in November. I’m heartbroken.
Lori R Richard says
I’m so sorry that you are having to make this difficult and heartbreaking decision. There are a lot of quality of life scales online and this is also something you can discuss with your vet. It sounds like Bleezy isn’t able to enjoy life anymore and that he is losing all the things he used to love. When you are deciding what to do, ask yourself if you would want to live like Bleezy. Put him first before the heartache you know is coming. I know how terribly difficult is it. If you can keep your baby alive you feel like you should keep him here, but what is he staying here for? What does he look forward to each day? I had to ask myself those questions when I finally had to let my 17 year old Maltese go. It was the hardest decision I have ever made and it’s still with me today almost 10 months later. There is no perfect time to let them go, it hurts just as much if it were today or next week. If you feel that Bleezy is still enjoying life, that’s one thing, but if he isn’t and there is no hope that he ever will, then perhaps setting him free is the right choice. Only you can decide that. You have to be sure it’s right in your heart. Again, I am sorry you have to make a choice like this one. My heart goes out to you.
Hey guys. Just read the article and I’m facing a similar dilemma. So my dog has CHF and the vets say that his lungs are filled with fluid and any attempt to remove it could be fatal. They’ve suggested putting him to sleep but I’m not really sure. Because he eats well, and goes on walks too but not for long. Maybe for 15 mins. Not more than that. But he pants a lot and his coughs have increased too. I’m thinking of putting him to sleep but I don’t want to make the wrong decision. Please help
Hello Roh. It has been a week. I hope your dog is okay. I wanted to share my personal decision-making plan.
Yesterday my 15 year old had a seizure and the vet said it is his heart and there is nothing we can do about it. He is panting a lot, walking around our house restlessly. He has no problem with eating or drinking water. I think he might be acting weird because his dementia or anxiety. The vet told us it is too early to decide what should we do about the letting go process. I am not strong and mentally prepared enough to make this decision. But the vet clearly said he could go any minute- tomorrow, next week, 1 month later. We will be giving him some relief medication for his panting, nothing more. Hands tied.
I decided to track him from now on to see if he is giving up his everyday habits. It’s the small things, for example, he always waits next to our dining table while we eat. He follows my mom around the house whenever she stands up. He gets angry when I kiss his nose. I think I will know it is time when he stops waiting next to dinner table, or loses interest in following my mom, or gives no reaction when I kiss him.
It might sound crazy but last week, before all of this happened, I had an urge to make a wish and it came out of nowhere (but now I understand why). My wish was this: I asked God for a sign. A sign to tell me after my dog passes, he will be in a peaceful & happy place with zero pain and his soul will forever remember us. Just within 24 hours, I was on a trip to another city I have never been before and I saw a huge street sign on my way- totally forgetting about my wish. My dogs name was on the sign. There was literally a small village named as same as my dog. I instantly knew it was the sign I was asking for- because my dog has a pretty unusual name. I sit back in shock and cried a lot. But I am thankful. I know our fur babies definitely be in a better place.
This is the best article I have read all week. Thank you!
I write this with great sadness and remorse for my poor decisions about my dying dog. His last visit to the vet was Thursday. We had him euthanized on Sunday, but we waited too long. We thought we would know the right time.
On Saturday he had a decreased appetite, but was still eating and drinking. After I went to bed, he ran up the stairs to be with me, and he could not catch his breath. At 2:00am I was looking for an emergency vet hospital. Reviews were stating that it was hard to reach staff on the phone, you had to wait in your car for 6-8 hours, and the staff would pick-up your dog at the curb. I had not considered the ramifications of Covid-19. We decided on the walk-in clinic that opened Sunday at 10:00am.
His status on Sunday morning: he ate a little cooked ground turkey, drank water and I walked him to the corner of our street. As it turned out, the walk-in clinic was accepting appointment only patients and we ended up at the 24 hour emergency hospital.
On the way to the emergency hospital, Spencer became short of breath, restless, frightened, anxious and started to screech. At the hospital they told us we would have a 6-8 hour wait in the parking lot. The hospital was getting ready to end the call, and I said the magic words that he was in respiratory distress.
An hour later it was all over. Also, they let us be with him for the euthanasia. He gave us kisses to the end. To our surprise, the doctor said she thought he had cancer. He had fluid in his belly, his liver was slightly enlarged and his lungs had less space to expand which explained his breathing problems. The staff were wonderful! I wish I had taken him in at 2:00am.
The only one I am blaming is myself. In retrospect, I see I was chalking up too many symptoms the last couple of weeks to old age. Symptoms such as muscle twitching when he slept, intermittent cough, pacing and being a little more clingy. Spencer had the biggest heart and he deserved better from me.
I think your article will be of great help to pet owners. Making a plan, making a back-up plan and asking questions will all help in making a decision about when to euthanize your pet. After we had Spencer euthanized, I read a comment that one week too early is better than one hour too late. I really let our little guy down.
Camille Schake says
Allyn, I am so very sorry for your loss of Spencer, and even more so for the nightmare scenario you had to endure due to the ramifications of Covid. 🙁 Having a pet who is critically ill is heartbreaking enough, and unfortunately the impact on our furry kids from Covid has been even worse.
I know how tempting it is to blame yourself in this scenario; I have done the same many times. We question whether we should have seen the signs sooner, whether the decisions we made were the right ones. Please resist the urge to do that. We make the best decisions we can, and you did everything you could to get him the care that he needed. From what you wrote, you didn’t let him down. It’s obvious from your story that you loved and cared for him with your whole heart, and trust me, he knew that – from the moment you first met him, until his very last moment. <3
Hi.. it was really a good article to read and at times, pets do tell us it’s time. I had cats all my life and recent years i lost 1 each every year. Very disheartening. Sometimes, we are blinded of what they actually feels and thus the decision came abit too late. I would like to share my alpha cat, Bambi (17yo) She started having KD,HBP in 2019-2020 and we managed well with subcut and med, she dread medication. Somehow, we told her this “If you want to stay with us longer, you need to take medication.” After this incident, she took medication by herself, i do not need to force it on her.. similarly to perform subcut, i just summoned her and she will walk towards me. How sweet of her to respond she wants to stay on. Months passed, all the sudden she had seizures.. again she took med and was under control. Next on her list.. she is having SCC now it is growing fast. Her right jaw has been swallowed by the tumor and now extending to her left jaw.Even with such pain, she still continue to go to litterbox and best of all, she come for her subcut upon calling her. She cant eat on her own bcos of the growth. I syringe fed her but she didnt put up a fight. In order to encourage her, i let her try eating herself and similarly drink water. She knows she cant anymore but still insist. She is on painkiller and loads of med. I told myself, one day she literally cannot eat, that will prob be the time.. i m not sure though.. given everyday i felt so much pain in me watching her and cant do anything to help her take away the tumor. She is fighting to stay with us. How can I let her go ?How can i let go of those things beyond my control?🥺🥺
Camille Schake says
Oh, I am so very sorry to hear about what you are going through with Bambi. 🙁 Unfortunately, oral squamous cell carcinomas are extremely invasive and aggressive in cats. I know how very painful it is to have to let go of a soul that you love so much, but if you will allow it, I would strongly encourage you to not wait until Bambi is completely unable to eat. These tumors, especially in the mouth/head, grow quickly and can be very painful. And unfortunately, the pain will only continue to get worse. It all comes back to the question: is she truly fighting to stay, or are you fighting for her to stay? Once you answer that question, you will know the best decision to make. <3
Thank you for your reply. Yes, the 2 questions ever came to my thoughts and it is very hard to decide. My partner is considering a e-tube to ease feeding. I guess he is having a hard time too bcos Bambi is his beloved even though he has plans on how he would like Bambi to pass comfortably at home listening to jazz or soprano music.😢 I also had been tracking good vs bad days as well, once it is obvious. We will let go. The time will come very soon given how SCC works.🥺
Camille Schake says
I’m so sorry for the delay in response, as for some reason your reply went into my site’s spam folder and I just now read it, even though you had commented before. 🙁 I wanted to express my regret that my response was so delayed, and to send my heartfelt sympathies for you and your partner. SCC is such a heartbreaking disease. I hope that the loving memories Bambi has given you will help ease the pain, even if just a little, of having to say goodbye. <3
thank you for writing about this incredibly difficult topic. my guilt, doubts and boundless grief after my Theo has and still is so difficult. describes more below. excuses for possible misspellings or expressions, write from Sweden) can also be differences in medication names, permitted treatments and medications regarding this: but it is completely absurd to play god, our Theo disappeared more and more from us, only to then to bonce back for some day. the vets we consulted gave us after several examinations and tests the diagnosis of dog dementia, we were not completely sure, he just could not sleep at night (pacing, panting heartbeting, wander, worried -and the days half asleep and easily awakened. everything he previously loved, hiking, playing meeting and greeting friends and relatives, he showed disinterest in everything.
The guilt and doubt just stands in the way and my grief is so so overwhelming ,
Our wheaten Theo started having trouble sleeping at the age of 10.
He who had previously slept through the whole nights began to walk, pant heavily, stare into walls, especially at night.
Fell asleep around two or three o’clock at night. We consulted our veterinarian, took lots of samples but found nothing, neither medically nor physically.
There was no explanation, there had been no change in the home environment either.
We thought it was something transient. Gradually it became harder and harder for Theo to be able to sleep at night and he also began to have difficulty being able to sleep deeply during
the days. He woke up and was startled by the slightest sound. He also began at about the age of 11 to become more antisocial and uninterested in taking longer walks. He who has always loved meeting people, hiking and playing. He also became a little more grumpy and uninterested in meeting other dogs, something he always really liked before and had no problems with.
I, who also used to work a lot from home, worked almost completely from home and Theo was now never left alone.
We consulted our veterinarian over six times, and major examinations were done, until we were diagnosed with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction CDS, which has various symptoms called DISHA,
He received other feed Purina proplan, sedative medicine Zylkene, Anipryl.And a soothing petremedy spray. (Swedish medicine names )
Nothing helped and in the spring of 2021, Theo did not sleep at all at night. My husband and I took turns sleeping every other night. Got more medication Rimadyl and Onsior (if it was that he was in pain somewhere after all) Melanton and Gabapentin.
Despite all the medications, (5 different) all the love, there was no change. Theo just felt worse and worse and became more and more distanced. He was so tired its was heartbreaking seeing him so anxious and restless at night. Nothing we did helped him:holding, crate, cuddling, laying in bed, lights, music on/of. We tried everything! Theo felt so misserable and sad. The look he have us during nights: HELP ME!
We were not entirely convinced that the diagnosis was correct as he did not have other classic symptoms of CDS: he found home, recognized us, was room clean.
We fought all summer, but Theo only got worse. On August 25, 2021 at the age of 12.3, we let him go to rest and fall asleep. He was so nice in body but tired in mind.
Our vet thought that Theo probably had some symptoms of CDS (sleep awake cycling) and a brain tumor, which cannot be cured. But we simple dont know. We didnt do MR, beacuse we wouldnt want to stress Theo further. 💔
We’re heartbroken, we really miss our guy. He really was the best. Excuse the long post, but its so hard not knowing if we did the right thing, the last day he was happy, wagged his tail, wanted to be near us and greetin the vet..😥
We feel so guilty, could we, would we have done something else. He was so loved. They really are your whole world.💔🐾❤️🌈
Camille Schake says
Kristin, thank you so much for writing. Please accept my heartfelt condolences on your loss of Theo. 🙁 I wanted to say that the feeling you have of wondering if there was anything else you could have done to help him is one that I, and countless other people, have felt many times over the years. Based on what you described, please know that you did everything you could. If it’s any consolation, your actions were exactly the ones that I would have taken if it were my own dog. Theo was obviously incredibly loved and well cared for, and the cruelty of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction is that it steals away your dog’s quality of life right before your eyes and there is very little you can do to stop it.
So please don’t second guess yourself… you gave Theo a wonderful life, and in return he gave you memories that can never be erased. I hope that is some small consolation for having to say goodbye to a sweet boy you loved so much. <3
Thank you for your kind and honest answer. Its just so hard loosing him and dont knowing if we could done something differently or if he had CDS or a brsintumor bc the meds didnt work. The loss of your pet , for me my Theo is just so overwhealming and though i have lost dear ones i have never fellt this hard grief and loonging for my Theo. In our society its just something we dont talk about and we are just supponera to get over it.
And I also notice a
Difference in cultures in how and what treatments and medications are allowed for their dog. I do not know why this is so, but in North America / England the pets live longer with treatment and meds, it makes me then sad that neither knowledge nor treatment and permitted medicines were in Sweden for my Theo ..
Again thank you , i read your answers again and again and it gives me some comfort in knowing you as an professional would have give the same treatments. Theo and we thought long and hard but we just couldnt see him so stressed and tired. We will always love him.
Hi, I have no idea if anyone will see this given that the post is quite old. I also might be the only kid in this thread and I apologize in advance if my grammar isn’t the best since English isn’t my first language. Anyway, I’m currently in agonizing pain since my beloved cat of 9 years, Pepita, was diagnosed with leukemia and she’s been getting thinner and weaker the past days, it really hurts me to see her deteriorating health as she’s my first pet and has been with me since I was 10. I am currently 19 and I’ve never dealt with any major loss before, so I am devastated. This article helped since I am supposed to make a decision tomorrow… she has a tumor in her stomach and while she might have a chance by getting it removed with surgery, she might not survive the aftermath of it. I’m supposed to decide if I want her to spend her last days home and pass away on her own or if I want to put her to sleep. I don’t want to see her deteriorating as the days go by, it’ll break me, honestly. But taking the decision of euthanizing her doesn’t sit right with me. My baby has been with me for years, almost like a sibling, and I’ve grown up with her. Of course it’s gonna hurt like hell… thank you for writing this. I’m honestly scared but I know I will have to end it sooner than prolonging her pain. I hate seeing her so thin and so weak, and she loves to eat but now she turns away at the sight of food… and I don’t want her to suffer any longer, but at the same time I don’t want to say goodbye. It’s too painful… Thank you for giving me a new perspective on this. It’s a very delicate situation and I’m currently hoping for better days.
Camille Schake says
Xim, I’m so sorry to hear about Pepita. 🙁 Sadly, your comment went into my website’s spam folder and I just now saw it. I know it’s been awhile since you posted, and I’m not sure how things transpired, but I wanted to let you know how sorry I am and to express my condolences. I am glad the article was of help to you… and I know there are not any words in existence that will take away the pain of this situation, but you are not alone in your grief. I, along with every other pet parent, always wish we had more time. Thank you so much for writing, and I hope the memories you have of Pepita will help ease your pain. <3
Heather Tyler says
I have an old girl, Daisy. She’s a border collie/aussie mix, she’ll be 16 next month. Her brother Duke passed a few years ago, the night before I planned to take him in to be relieved from his suffering. He’d had convulsions, but every time I’d thought about letting him go, he seemed more happy and bouncy like his old self, so I let it go. In my mind, at that time, I could not fathom putting him down when he was so happy. I realize now I blocked out all the bad times he had, and only focused on the good. My poor boy suffered longer then he should have because I did not have the strength to let him go. I’m scared I’m doing that with the Daisy girl.. She wants to chase the ball, but she can’t. She wants to play, but her hips give out on her. She can bark up a storm, but she can barely move. It’s not the same as Duke, where he had seizures and convulsions, she has none of those, she’s just old and arthritic (yes she takes meds for those) but is it right for me to say that’s it? I tell her every night that she has done her job and beyond, and it’s ok to let go (she’s very attached to me and won’t eat unless I’m home, this has only been an issue for the last month or so).. again, when is it right to put your dog down?
Yvonne R Hamer says
I just wanted to come here to say thank you, Few days ago I had to make the most hardest and heart ranching decision of my life. It has shaken me hard and I am still grieving but I just wanted to come here to say if your fur baby has reached the bridge ( believe me you will know deep down, you will know ) let them go. I had to put biggest stone on my heart and finally make the call
I kept on prolonging our cat ( he was 14 years old when he past away ) life with constant vet visits and medication hoping he will bounce back, I didn’t want to think about letting him go I simply closed everyone out who ever told me it was “time ”
I wish I had somehow collected a bit of courage & strength to listen to everyone including the vet and let him go earlier …
As days go by you will slowly stop crying you won’t break down you will stop questioning did I ? Should I have ? What if ? Maybe ?
Their foot prints is now forever embedded in your heart and nothing will ever erase that .. that’s a promise ❤️
My cat Cléopâtre, is about 14 years of age now (she found me 7 years ago) and was diagnosed in 2018 with a renal insufficiency, now in 2022 she is at a stage of 3. Since the very beginning of our relationship, she has had constipation problems. She would never defecate more than once every 4 to 5 days. Almost once a week, during 2018/2019 I would go to the vet and they would massage her belly and she would then releive herself. I was told that it was surely caused by the loss of hydration in her colon due to her renal insufficiency. Since, she has had her high and lows. I learned the technique to massage her belly in order to help her defecate at least every 4 days. 3 months ago, the vet informed me that the elasticity of her colon was, how can I say this, lazy, and that we had to give her cisapride, which I did, it seemed to help her go at least every 4 days but with less effort to evacuate. She was up and about, playing, cleaning herself, eating regularly, in all she was doing fine, until August 8th, she started limping, I brought her to the vet immediately, her paw was a bit swollen, they took X-rays to see if she had a fracture, but there was none, they could not find what was wrong with her paw, so they gave me anti inflammatory pills, which I gave her for 5 days. Day 6th, 1 day before returning to the vet, for a follow-up, blood was coming out of her middle toe, she was chewing/licking her paw like crazy, taking a closer look, I noticed that there was some kind of puss oozing out, I was able to bring her at the vet that day. They said she had an infection but did not know what it was, that we should try antibiotics for 10 days. They wrapped her paw, gave me the antibiotics, and we went home. I had to change her bandage every 48 hours, but on day 4 she had removed it herself, by time I noticed she had removed it, there was blood everywhere and when trying my best to place another bandage on her paw, I noticed that the pad of her paw was deteriorating. I called the vet, and they said to continue the antibiotics for another 4 days and then come in for a follow up. Day 8, I went back, when they removed the bandage, I almost passed out, her toe seemed to have disappeared, a stronger antibiotic was prescribed and a culture was taken. Result, the new antibiotic was not working and the result of the culture showed nothing except that she had 2 bacterias eating her paw away. They said, we think it is a tumor, and if the antiobics are not showing a result in a few more days, due to her renal insufficiency and her age, I should consider letting her go. The follow up is tomorrow morning I have been crying for 2 weeks now, she eats, goes to her litter, seems aware even though she is on painkillers, still cleans herself and yes, she sleeps alot, but what else can she do, she can’t walk or climb because of her paw. And no, there is no progress. Her paw is still bleeding sometimes. I know I have to make this decision, but I have never had to put down an animal that is still aware and, if it wasn’t for her paw, I am sure she would be playing right now. Just 3 months ago, I was told by the vet, that they couldn’t beleive she was 14 years old, that she was like a young cat and now, 4 months later, I have to put her down. I do not know if I have the strength to do it, and I have been doing alot of research in regards to her condition. I have not found anything concering a tumor in a paw. Eyes, mouth, heart etc., but not a paw and the vet says we think it is a tumor!! but not we know. My heart bleeds with sadness, I am at a loss.
This is so hard for me to read, I am also a veterinary technician (student), I’ve been in the veterinary field for over 4 years now. My 10 year old chihuahua who’s been with me through some really hard times has CHF, enlarged heart + grade 5 murmur, and I’m suspecting pericardial effusion just based off how large her heart is on rads. I’m at such a weird place between wanting to give up this career if I’m about to give up the one special best friend of mines who made the studying, the late night rotations, crying out of frustration, dealing with some tough doctors, and everything else that comes along with this field worth it. I am seriously debating dropping out letting my selfish clouded anger and worthlessness because of her illness overtake me, though I know it’s not rational. I’m doing everything I can to keep her going. She has her bad moments, but then a dose of Lasix brings her back and she’s happy and playful and energetic and my best girl….but I know one day that extra dose won’t bring her back and I’ll have to make the hardest decision of my entire life. I’m not ready for it, I truly don’t even know if I’ll be able to muster up the strength to finish my finals and keep on in this career. It sounds dramatic but it’s so so hard.
Lucy Williams says
Thank you for this site and this post. I adopted a senior rescue cat, Florence, in 2019 and she was my first pet. I loved her greatly all through the pandemic and the feeling was mutual! We were great pals. Sadly she had to be put to sleep two weeks ago after the vet found a large mass attached to her liver which suggested it was cancer. Florence had declined rapidly over a month, with anorexia and weight loss, and was suffering. I am struggling a lot with guilt because I didn’t manage to help her more and worry that if I had acted differently she would still be here. I know I need to reach a place of acceptance of how things are now, and I have definitely learned a lot about having (and loving!) a pet from Florence.Thank you for your writing here.
Camille Schake says
Hi Lucy, I’m so glad you found it helpful. Please accept my sincere condolences on the loss of your baby girl Florence. <3
Andrea Aragon says
Thank you so much for this heartfelt article and thank you to all those who have commented their stories since then. I just sat and read each one through my tears after saying goodbye to my precious 16 yr old Tabby Cat, Zoey Jane.
Zoey has been a kitten her entire life. Full of energy, personality and love. Always agile, playful and willing to fly through the air to chase a toy or get to the top of her cat tree in one graceful bound. She kept her kitten like appearance as she got older, punctuated by the fluffiest most magnificent tail you’ve ever seen that stuck straight up in the air as she walked. We called her “Pepe Le Princess.”
Until about 8 months ago. She gradually lost her appetite and even though she wanted food she was somehow eventually only able to eat a single bite at a time. She lost a couple of pounds. She had trouble passing stool. There were vet trips, antibiotics and several rebounds that lasted weeks at a time where she went back to being extremely energetic and spirited. A week ago things took a turn for the worst as she looked like she was trying to pass stool while crying out in pain. We agreed to exploratory surgery and a small Nate’s body was removed (benign fatty necrosis) but the vet said it was unlikely this was the cause of her distress. We slept in shifts keeping watch over her every minute. Offering every food imaginable in every way. We tried an appetite stimulant. We waited days for her to take a single bite of food and while her desire to eat eventually started coming back her ability to do so did not. A lick or two of the juice on top was all she could manage. She started “nodding off” at her water fountain resting her chin in the water and doing the same in our laps only to be startled awake by some kind of unseen jolt. She couldn’t even rest comfortably. I had to face the fact – my precious baby girl was starving.
One of the hardest parts was we didn’t know why. Bloodwork, ultrasounds and even the exploratory surgery did not reveal the problem. The vet suggested it could be several types of cancer with the most likely being some kind of lymphoma of the stomach or digestive system. The only way to even try and learn more would be to start doing biopsies that required more anesthesia, more incisions, more pain. At her age and weight it seemed unlikely that she would be able to fight any of that even with a diagnosis so yesterday afternoon on the phone with the vet I made one of the most difficult decisions of my life. We would help her to make her transition the next morning.
My husband and I stayed up all night holding her, telling her how much we loved her and all the wonderful things we would remember about her. We thanked her over and over for being ours and told her how good she had been. We told her she didn’t have to fight anymore and we were going to help her to finally rest. She seemed to understand. A few times her posture and breathing changed and we thought she might let go right there on the couch but she held on for our trip to the vet in the morning. She crossed the rainbow bridge around 8:30 am.
After the initial, brutal flood of grief I started second guessing. Had I given up too soon? Should I have given her more time to try and get better? Should I have tried force feeding her like some websites had suggested? Allowed a round of more invasive tests and biopsies?
Then I came here and read. I read about the 5 things. About the signs our pets give us. And out of the hundreds of comments a few dozen said “I waited too long..I wish I’d done it sooner.” But no one said they had done it too soon. After the initial waves of grief no one came here saying they looked back and wished they had waited longer.
Thank you to each person who shared a piece of their heart and their gut-wrenching decision here. You have given me a bit of peace that will help me begin the process or grief and healing.
And to the author- thank you for maintaining this sacred space for so many years. The bulk of the replies here and the years they span adds weight and credibility to the message. It is an act of divine love to let our beloved pet angels go gracefully and to make that decision before they suffer too much. Love and light to every one of you.
Rest peacefully my sweet kitten. I will hold you in my heart forever.
Camille Schake says
Andrea, thank you so much for your beautiful description of Zoey and your love for her, and for sharing your story. I am reading it through tears because I recently had to say goodbye to my beautiful 15-year old boy kitty, Trouble. It was almost the exact same situation…the vet and I suspected feline intestinal lymphoma. He kept losing weight even though he was eating, but bloodwork showed nothing definitive (which is common with cancer). At his age and state of health, I did not want to put him through the stress of anesthesia and intestinal biopsies, so I tried palliative care and every type of palatable food imaginable to get him to eat. At first this worked, but eventually he was barely eating anything, even his favorite things. Then the vomiting started.
Even though I’m the one who wrote this article, I had to go back and re-read it to myself. It helped me realize that although he was being very stoic (as cats usually are), active, and had some quality of life left, he was probably in a lot of pain. When I called the euthanasia vet to talk through it with her, she pointed out that the reason why he initially started eating each time I offered food but then abruptly turned away was most likely because he was so nauseous. He desperately wanted to eat, but couldn’t, so he was literally starving. That’s when I realized it was time to let him go.
I wanted to share that because it’s so hard to make this decision when it’s your baby. I had to re-read my own words saying “It’s better to be a little too soon than a little too late.” You did right by your baby, as hard as that decision was. My deepest condolences and my heart goes out to you. Zoey was very loved, and a very lucky girl to have shared life with you. <3
Andrea Aragon says
Oh Camille, I am so very sorry for the loss of your sweet boy, Trouble. I am extending grateful for your reply and your heartfelt words once again. Your article and the subsequent comments have been like a lifeline to me over the last few days. I didn’t just stumble on it. I’m sure it was meant to be. Thank you for affirming my decision and for letting me know just our similar our experiences were. It helps to know that we aren’t alone and that others in our shoes have made the same decision.
My most fervent prayer over the last few days has been that Zoey will show me a sign to let me know that she is okay and that although our connection has changed – it isn’t gone. I will pray the same for you and your beloved Trouble.
Thank you again for everything. Words can’t express the impact you’ve had on me in this difficult moment and I will be forever grateful for you and everyone here.
Camille Schake says
Thank you so much for your kind words, Andrea! And I’m so glad I was able to help in some small way. I’m convinced that losing a pet is a unique experience that hurts on a level that is not quite like anything else, since our pets touch a part of our hearts and lives that nothing else seems to. But the unconditional love and amazing joy they bring eventually overshadows the pain, and I would not trade it for the world. Thank you again. <3 <3
Camille, I know this article is years old but I just came across it and I need you to know your words have brought me so much peace. I just finally made the decision today and scheduled my sweet pups euthanasia. I have struggled for a while with this decision and still struggled after making it. But your article helped me realize that it is absolutely the right thing to do, to release my sweet Georgia from her illness. She has advanced Cushings and her pituitary tumor is a macro tumor and growing. She has just in the past week begin to have seizures and muscle spasms. She’s not eating much, but she still has some good days where she seems peaceful and that’s where the struggle came in. But when I really look at her, there is no joy, she is just existing and this is not going to get better. I also don’t want to wait until it’s a traumatic medical emergency. Your words, it’s better too early than too late, have given me what I needed to be at peace with this decision. I’m so grateful for your words. Thank you.
Camille Schake says
Maura, I am so very sorry to hear about Georgia’s illness. I believe that making this decision is one of the most difficult ones we will ever have to make during our lifetimes, and it never gets easier. But I know in my heart you are making the right one for your baby girl.
I’ve recently come to realize that what makes this decision so hard is the burden we feel along with being given the opportunity to make it. When our human loved ones die, in most cases it’s completely out of our control, so we don’t have to carry that burden. But with our pets, the flip side of being able to give them that precious gift is the uncertainty and feeling of responsibility we feel along with it. So we just have to trust ourselves to make the best decision for our babies, knowing that we are doing the very best we can in a heartbreaking situation.
I’m so glad this article was helpful for you, and I’m grateful that it helped you in making your decision. My heart breaks, because I know what you will be facing shortly. But please know that you’re doing right by Georgia, and this will be a last act of love in what I’m sure was a lifetime of loving acts during your time with her. Those memories will be with you always, and they can never be erased. <3 <3
Thank you for this article. We are currently struggling with making the decision although I do think its time. Our beautiful 14 year old labradoodle has been getting thinner and thinner. She now has something wrong with front leg – not able to put any weight on it. She’s now on 3 different lots of painkillers and can’t hobble very far so is not able to go for walks. Her days are just spent sleeping or trying to get comfortable. As much as we’ll miss her desperately she doesn’t have a great quality of life.