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Pet Euthanasia: How to Know When It's Time

Expert advice on knowing when it's time to put a pet to sleep.

Pet Euthanasia: The Fear of "Too Soon"

Every day we have with our pets is precious. But consider whether getting more time hampers your pet's quality of life.

"In my particular role as a veterinary oncologist, often working with clients whose pets have chronic conditions and terminal diseases, very few of them ever tell me that they made their decision too hastily," Kow says. "However, I do hear often that they felt like they waited too long."

The pain of losing an animal is hard enough without the regret that they suffered. "I've been there," Damewood says. “I once had a sick kitty I was going to 'fix' because, by God, I'm a veterinarian. And I left it a week too long, and I've regretted it for the 15 years since."

When it comes time for this decision, know that you're doing this for your pet and not to them, says Kow. "It is a subtle but key distinction."

Saying Goodbye: Coping With the Death of a Pet

There's no shortcut around grief. You simply have to let yourself grieve, however long it takes. "There are no time tables or benchmarks for getting over it," Kow says.

And don't let people tell you 'it's just a pet,' because it's not ... it's a family member," Damewood says. "Grieve as long as you have to, in whatever way makes you feel better. I had a lock of hair in a dresser drawer for years from one of my kitties."

Even if you feel confident in your choice to put your pet to sleep, you may still feel great pain before and after. Remember the good times you had with your companion, and "know that the sadness of their loss is a small payment for all the joy and happiness that our departed pets have brought us," Kow says.

Reviewed on December 16, 2011

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