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How to Cope with Putting Your Pet to Sleep

Petting old dog


Sometimes, doing what's best for your pet can be one of the hardest things you'll ever have to do. When your faithful friend is in pain, the decision to put your pet to sleep weighs heavy on your heart. But it can ultimately be the kindest thing to do, although coping with your pet's death is never easy.

When a cat or dog no longer enjoys daily life, a pet parent faces a difficult decision. If you have young children, be honest with them about what needs to happen. When preparing to put your pet to sleep, spend one-on-one time with them beforehand. Let everyone create some positive final memories with your pet.

Holding dog's paw

When Should You Consider Putting Your Pet to Sleep?

Sometimes, you might question if euthanizing your pet is the right decision. Your emotions can take over, and you understandably want to exhaust any and all possibilities before making such a final choice. In times like this, your vet can be an incredible source of support and honesty. 

If your dog or cat is ill, your vet will provide you with all options. Very often, they might tell you the words you're hoping never to hear, "there's nothing more we can do." Or, the available options come at a high cost or with risks. At that point, it's a question of your pet's quality of life. 

You might wait it out as long as you can, as long as your pet is still comfortable. But make sure to keep your pet's happiness and comfort top priorities.

Signs It Might Be Time to Put Your Pet to Sleep

If you've already discussed the possibility of euthanasia with your vet, keep alert for several signs that can help you with your decision. Here are a few things that might help you make the unselfish choice to put your pet to sleep.

  • Your pet can no longer eat or drink (or doesn't want to). 
  • When your cat or dog stands, they struggle to walk or fall back down.
  • Your furry friend has no desire to play and doesn't show any interest in things.
  • Your pet is in visible pain, has difficulty breathing, or has frequent vomiting and diarrhea.
  • You notice your pet is hiding more and trying to be alone.
  • Your dog or cat experiences significant weight loss.
  • Giving your pet medication no longer seems to help or make a difference with their condition.

If you need extra clarification about your decision, you can consult the HHHHHMM Scale. It's a rating system that can help you measure your pet's quality of life. 

It focuses on Hurt, Hunger, Hydration, Hygiene, Happiness, Mobility, and "More good days than bad days." Within each area, it instructs you on determining where your pet falls on a scale of 0 to 10.

List Your Pet's Favorite Things

Often, the decision to put your pet to sleep is not clear-cut. There might be many questions and what-ifs and maybes. One suggestion to help you decide is to list your pet's seven favorite things to do.

If your pet can no longer do any more than 3 of the 7, it's time to start seriously considering euthanasia.

Tips for Preparing to Say Goodbye to Your Pet

If you feel it's in your pet's best interest to say goodbye, discuss it with your vet and ask any questions you may have. It's crucial that you decide without any doubts in your mind. But, it's equally important that you also base your decision on what's best for your pet and not what's best for you.

Handle Payment Before

Most vets will have you handle payment ahead of time, so you won't have to worry about a bill when everything is done. 

Make Arrangements Before

You can make arrangements with your vet about what you will do with your dog or cat's remains. Your options are typically burial or cremation.

Spend Some Final Moments with Your Pet

Most vets will perform the procedure in the clinic, although some will come to the pet's home. Either way, ask your vet if they feel it has to be done immediately or if you can schedule it for a few days later.

If you get a couple of extra days, spend them with your pet and dote on them. If they're willing, give them a tasty bite of steak or other food you usually didn't allow. Soak up every second with them.

Take time to say goodbye to your pet. It's your choice to be in the room with your pet during the procedure or if you want to step out. Everyone is different, but know that you can choose either option.

Ask Someone to Drive You When You Need to Put Your Pet to Sleep

If the procedure happens in the clinic, make arrangements for someone else to drive you. No matter how strong you are and how prepared you are, the experience can affect you much more deeply than you anticipate. 

Elderly dog

How Do You Tell Children About Putting Your Pet to Sleep?

Putting the family pet to sleep becomes especially difficult if you have children. For many kids, their cat or pup was their very first friend. How do you tell your kids it's time to say goodbye?

  • Be honest with your children.
  • If you have more than one child, talk to them individually.
  • Let them know that your pet is in pain and no longer enjoying life.
  • Discuss with your kids how you're going to do something special that will help your dog go to Heaven (or anything that fits within your beliefs).
  • Let your kids have some final snuggles, give your pet their favorite treats, etc.
  • Create some positive final memories with your kids so that it's the last thing they remember about your pet.
  • Reading certain books like "Dog Heaven" by Cynthia Rylant can also be helpful for young children.
  • Let your children keep something of your pet's if they desire to do so. This could be their leash or favorite toy. 

Tips for Coping with Your Pet's Death?

After you say your final farewell to your faithful companion, you need to prepare yourself for what comes next. You'll likely have many days where you still listen for their claws clickety-clacking on the floor. When you wake up, you'll miss their wet nose greeting you as soon as you open your eyes. Your home will feel quieter and emptier, and your heart will ache. 

Even if your pet takes the decision out of your hands and passes peacefully, it doesn't make the loss any easier. But there are things you can do to cope and heal in time.

  • Plan some activities or outings in the weeks after to help give you some distractions.
  • Give yourself time to grieve and find acceptance.
  • Surround yourself with support from friends and families and others that have lost their pets. You can also use a variety of pet-loss resources and hotlines.
  • Don't rush out and get a new pet right away. Again, give yourself some time to process everything first.
  • Find some meaningful ways to memorialize your pet.
  • Consider volunteering at an animal shelter or helping find homes for foster dogs and cats

Saying Farewell to Your Pet

It's never easy to say a final goodbye to your best friend. But, sometimes, it's the most merciful and unselfish thing you can do for them. Being a loving pet parent is all about doing what makes your pet happy, and sometimes that means making tough decisions. 

If you're looking for other helpful tips on caring for your fur babies, check out the rest of our blog. You'll find information and resources that can help you make all sorts of pet-parenting decisions.



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