As A Pet Parent, How Do You Know When It’s Time To Say Goodbye?

No pet parent wants to think about his or her pet becoming so ill or injured that euthanasia is the most appropriate course to stop their pet from suffering. As pet owners, we all know that we will probably outlive our pets and that at some point, you may have to make the difficult decision to euthanize your pet.

Arriving At The Decision To Euthanize Your Cat Or Dog

You know your pet better than anyone else does. You will know their quality of life and are best placed to make the decision to put your cat or dog to sleep. However, discussing your pet’s situation with your vet will help you make the correct decision for you and your pet.

Questions to discuss with your vet:

  • If your pet was injured, will they heal without debilitating consequences?
  • Can your pet still eat, drink, sleep and move around comfortably?
  • Does he or she actively greet you?
  • Is he or she interested in feeding time?
  • Can he or she go to the toilet on their own?

Other considerations:

Does your pet suffer from a chronic condition that requires ongoing treatment? Living with a chronically ill cat is challenging from both a financial and emotional standpoint. Furthermore, the health of a chronically ill pet can deteriorate rapidly. Would you be able to access emergency veterinary care at short notice? Are you able to commit to the high levels of care involved?

If you cannot satisfy yourself that you can answer these questions adequately, then euthanasia may be yours and your pet’s best option.

What Happens During The Euthanasia Process?

Euthanasia literally means a “gentle and easy death”. Your vet will administer a quick and simple injection and your pet will gently slip away.

The Blue Cross has written a detailed description on the process – it can be upsetting to read but it’s important to remember that all your pet will feel is a small scratch from the needle – the injection is painless and the pet will quickly fall unconscious. Once the procedure has been completed, you will often be able to leave without going through the waiting room.

Some vet practices now offer home visits, which can be less traumatic for both you and your pet.

I recommend the following:

  • Before the day decide how you want to care for your pet’s remains.
  • Ask a family to be present to offer you emotional support.
  • Take the day off from work.
  • Don’t be surprised at the strength of emotion you will feel.

Should I Stay With My Pet During The Euthanasia?

The euthanasia process is usually a quick and gentle process. Many owners choose to stay with their pet during the process but it isn’t compulsory; so don’t beat yourself up if you’re unable to be in the room with your pet. In some cases, the owner can be so distraught that it may be best for them not to be present. The vet will usually ask if you wish to see your pet after the procedure and give you some time alone with them.

What Questions Do Pet Parents Ask?

Over the years, I have spoken to many bereaved pet owners. When discussing euthanasia the most commonly expressed concern was whether they had made the right decision, or whether they should have waited. The concerns expressed were:

  • Was I being selfish? I could not bear see my cat / dog suffer.
  • Should I have waited?
  • Did my pet suffer unnecessarily?

These are legitimate questions and are common when you opted to put your pet to sleep. If you find yourself questioning your decision, remind yourself how you answered the following:

  • What is the normal life expectancy of a pet like mine?
  • How old was my pet?
  • What was my pet’s quality of life?
  • Would treatment have improved that quality of life?
  • If I had opted for treatment, would it have extended my pet’s life expectancy at the expense of his / her quality of life?

Waiting Too Long

Throughout your pet’s life you have made all of the decisions effecting him. What he eats. Where he sleeps. Whether he was neutered. You chose who looked after him whilst you went on holiday or whether you took him with you. Now you are facing the difficult decision – should you euthanize your pet? Or should you wait?

In our experience, first time pet owners are more likely to wait until the very end before making the decision. Often they are fearful of making the decision too soon. They want make sure they have exhausted all avenues of hope. Unfortunately, most of these owners regret having waited and reflect on the many trips to the vet with the associated medical procedures that only prolonged the inevitable. More experienced pet owners are much more likely to make the decision once they see their pet’s health start to decline.

A Poignant Act Of Love

Keeping your pet with you by waiting until the last possible moment will likely result in you and your pet experiencing a rushed and traumatic emergency procedure. Whilst your pet’s suffering will have stopped, you may be left feeling guilty for waiting too long.

By opting to euthanize your pet once you see his / her health decline you have time to plan a loving and peaceful end-of-life experience. An experience that prevents your pet from suffering rather than end the suffering of your pet.

Bereavement Support


The Blue Cross

The Blue Cross Pet Bereavement Support Service (PBSS) mission is to provide free and confidential emotional support.

Tel: 0800 096 6606


Samaritans provide confidential non-judgemental support 24 hours a day for people who are experiencing feelings of distress.

Tel: 116 123


ASPCA National Pet Loss Helpline

Tel: 1-877-474-3310

CARE Pet Loss Helpline

Tel: 217-244-CARE (2273)

More helplines can be found here:

About CPC

The Cambridge Pet Crematorium has been providing pet owners with a dignified pet cremation service throughout the UK since 1979.

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Emily Parker

Emily Parker is the Content Manager at Catological. She's passionate about helping cat parents love their cats better by providing the best information and recommendations about everything you'll need to know about your cat, from kitten to senior years. She believes natural, biologically-appropriate products are best...why wouldn't you provide the best for a member of your family?!

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