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How to Know When It's Time to Put Your Pet to Sleep (saying Goodbye Is Hard to Do)

| Updated August 11, 2017


  • Bring someone to drive you home afterwards, you will be in no condition to drive safely


  • This is a personal choice that must be made with your emotions in check. Only you and your veterinarian can decide when it is time to ease your pet's pain and suffering. Some people can hold and talk to their friend while the anesthesia is given others can not, do not feel guilty for the decision you make.

Euthanasia of a beloved pet who is old or in pain can be a difficult choice and is an individual one. It may sound a little "out there" but it really is possible to ask your pet if it's time for him to go over to the other side. Sit quietly with your companion animal and let him guide you. You will be surprised what a little observation and stillness can do to help you make your decision.

Watch for a reduction in activity and participation in things your pet once loved. Slowing down is a normal part of aging and our pets do this just as people do. When they become reluctant to do the things that they enjoyed the most, it may be getting close to the time where you may need to make this decision.

Observe your dog or cat for signs of pain. Dogs, cats and other animals try to hide their pain but the signs are there if you know where to look for them. Some of the things to look for include panting when it is not hot, heavy breathing, reluctance to get up when you call him, muscle spasms or twitching, whining and growling.

Take note if the pain medications are no longer helping. If you are watching the signs of pain in your pet and find that you are giving him more and more of his pain meds (under the advice of your veterinarian) it may be time to consider putting an end to your pet's suffering

See if your pet seems to have difficulty getting around in the home or yard. If your pet does not like to leave his special place like a dog house anymore to come join family activities, it may be time to consider putting him to sleep.

Notice his gait. If he has a pronounced limp it could mean that the pain is getting worse and pain medications are no longer helping. If you can no longer keep your pet comfortable even with increased medication, it may be time to consider putting him down.

Use caution with pets in pain. If your pet is growling at family members it could mean he is in severe pain and does not want to be touched. This is a sure sign it is time to put your pet down because he cannot help himself but yet he does not want to act like this.

Make a list of the other things your dog loves most and use it as part of your guide to tell you when it is time to put him to sleep. Sit with him quietly and ask him what his wishes are. There is a look they get in their eyes that says "I just don't want to do this any more." It's an unmistakable look, and you will get the message loud and clear.