When is the right time to put your pet down?


In veterinary medicine we have the ability to perform euthanasia on animals. This is a task that we as vets don’t take lightly. It breaks our hearts when we have to put down healthy animals that have outgrown their owner’s requirements, but we cannot re-home.

We do have the ability to stop suffering though by the judicious use of euthanasia.

When an animal is suffering due to an acute accident, or an acute disease condition, especially where there is no cure, or if the cure is unachievable due to financial considerations, the decision for euthanasia is simple.

The difficult ones to make a call on are the animals with chronic conditions. Just when is the right time?

I rationalise it like this:

My first priority is to prevent suffering. I prefer to put the animal down before it is suffering, not once the condition has become severe enough to make the animal miserable.
Here is the dilemma though. When does this occur?

The kind of questions we should be asking are:

  • Is the animal mobile? (can it get around to perform normal daily requirements like eating and going to the toilet)
  • Is the animal still eating?
  • Are there any open sores? (wounds or pressure sores)

The other thing I am very aware of is the emotional turmoil the owners are going through. As a rule, if an owner has made the decision to put their pet down due to health reasons and I consider any treatment to keep the animal alive will be painful, on going or not very successful, I will normally not try to talk them out of that decision.

The hardest part of this whole process is physically bringing the animal to the clinic to be put down, so I am reluctant to send the owner away only to go through the same dilemma at a later date.

The other advice I give is that if the decision has been made, act now. I feel there is nothing worse than putting a future date on the euthanasia, and then every day up until that date, looking at the animal in the knowledge of what is coming up for it. This is a personal decision though.

Just a final reminder that we often undertake the euthanasia at the pets’ home. Some people like this because it causes less disruption and anxiety to the pet.

If you do have to have your pet put down, don’t forget that cremation is a popular option. We can organize this through the clinic.

Annas’ Answers

“My old dog is lagging behind when walking and is reluctant to jump into the back of the car. Is there something to help that I can buy over the counter?”

Firstly, we would strongly suggest that you see one of our vets to establish the cause of the discomfort. Although possible it is early arthritis, there are a number of other causes of the symptoms you mention and we want to have the best treatment given.

We stock an “over the counter” product called Synoquin EFA  which is a complementary feed for dogs which promotes healthy cartilage, soothes stiff joints, promotes mobility and supports joint health. 

Synoquin EFA contains a patented combination of:

  • Chondroitin sulphate – a key nutrient for healthy cartilage and joint fluid
  • Glucosamine hydrochloride – one of the basic building blocks for cartilage and joint fluid
  • Dexahan – a highly purified form of krill oil that acts as a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids as well as providing astaxanthin, a potent antioxidant
  • Zinc – important in the metabolism of cartilage and bone
  • Vitamin C – a water soluble antioxidant vitamin

The Krill used in Synoquin EFA is fished sustainably via a Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) accredited supplier.

What Else Can I Do?

There are a number of measures you can take that can support your dog’s quality of life and help maintain healthy joints

  1. Keep your dog fit and at the correct weight by feeding an appropriate diet. Excess weight can put extra strain on a joint, increasing the risk of damage. Speak to your vet for advice on feeding or weight loss diets
  2. Take your dog for three or four short walks a day rather than one long walk
  3. Walk your dog on a flat surface rather than steep inclines
  4. Provide a soft, comfortable and draught free bed
  5. Avoid slippery surfaces. Walking on polished wooden, tiled or linoleum floors can be difficult and increases the risk of injury
  6. Minimise the need to use stairs wherever possible

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