Having a pet is one of life’s greatest joys, but it comes with the heavy inevitability that you’ll most likely be outliving them. Navigating the end of your pet’s life is obviously emotional, and can wind up being much more complex than you’d think.
Chances are, if you’re reading this post, you’re looking for some guidance and support in an extremely trying time. This article will discuss knowing when it’s time, scheduling the appointment, and how to memorialize your beloved fur-kid.
Knowing When It’s Time
Making end of life decisions for a pet is probably the most difficult part of pet ownership. Questions may pop into your head, like wondering if you’re really making the right call, or what it will feel like once they’re gone. At any end of life situation, everything should always boil down to your pet’s quality of life. That’s a lot easier said than done, however. What exactly does ‘quality of life’ even mean? How will you know when it’s no longer there?
One of the most common laments I hear from pet parents is that they ‘waited too long.’ You’ll need to be able to take a step out of your own shoes, and objectively assess whether or not your pet is able to live a fulfilling, and pain-free life. That’s hard, really hard, to do when your emotions are running high. In a perfect world, there would be a one-size-fits-all checklist you could go through to give you the answer.
When has one-size-fits-all ever worked for all our unique and quirky fur friends, though?
Luckily, there are some basic warning signs you can look for, but you’ll need to know how those will manifest in their own individual ways for your specific pet. These have been listed for you below, but be cognizant of the fact that these may look extremely different from pet to pet. You know your pet better than anyone, and having that knowledge of what their “normal” is will be key to determining when they aren’t feeling well. Keep in mind these three things when you’re worried about your pet.
- Chronic Pain (That is no longer manageable with treatment)
Just like humans, animals will exhibit chronic pain in a huge variety of ways, and very little does it look the same in any one animal. Signs that your pet may be in pain include: panting, whining, change in behavior (again, know what their “normal” is), increased/decreased energy, shaking, aggression, and anxiety.
- Loss of Appetite
I grew up in a family with Labradors, and we always made the comment that as soon as our dogs stopped eating, we would know it was time. Loss of appetite tends to be a big sign that our older pets are telling us it is time, so make sure you keep a close eye on this.
- Can’t Enjoy Daily Life
There are many factors that go into this, but once your pet has reached a point of no longer being able to enjoy their life, you need to think about making the call. Imagine yourself in old age, none of us want to suffer, and neither do our pets. If your pet used to love to fetch but no longer chases a ball, try to keep in mind the quality of life concerns.
How much treatment is reasonable for my pet?
Thanks to modern medicine, even in the veterinary world, we can extend life expectancy to pretty impressive numbers. Obviously this is an amazing gift we can give our pets and ourselves: who wouldn’t love more time to spend together? Unfortunately, this can also turn into a situation where our emotions may get in the way.
It is scary to lose a pet; it hurts, but it is part of the responsibility we assume when we become pet parents. Although it may be tempting to keep adding medications or treatments to your pet’s routine to keep them around, make sure you keep in mind the following points:
- Treatment and medication can be extremely stressful or even cause discomfort at the time. Imagine how hard on an old animal it would be to have to get shots and pills multiple times a day or go into the vet a couple of times a week. This is not to say treatment or medication is wrong, just keep a close eye on how your pet handles it all.
- Is treatment actually benefiting your pet? Although medications and treatments may keep our pets with us, we still need to refer to the quality of life considerations. Is your pet able to live a fulfilling life? Are they truly pain-free?
- In case of an emergency, will someone be able to care for your pet? Giving high-level treatment and medications to a fragile animal is extremely difficult, so keep in mind that it may be hard for you to leave town or be away from your pet.
What end-of-life options do you have for your pet in Brevard County?
Once you’ve made a decision, you’ll have a daunting number of options for your appointment and memorials of your pet. Take a look at the following to go over some of these choices you’ll have to make and to get some ideas on wonderful ways to create some keepsakes for the years to come.
- The Appointment
Scheduling the appointment for your pet will bring with it several options. You can choose to go into the vet’s or have a vet come to your home. There are a few pros/cons for each of these options. Going into the vet will be less expensive, will make body removal much more streamlined, but could be more stressful for you and your pet. At-home euthanasia will be in a familiar and comfortable environment but will be more expensive and you’ll be responsible for what happens with your pet’s body.
- Cremation or Burial?
This is going to be a very personal choice, and there is no right answer to the question. You may choose to have your pet’s remains cremated, and you can keep an urn with you no matter where you live or move. A burial can be in a pet cemetery, or in a yard or other special place (if your city codes allow it). You may also choose that you won’t want the remains of your pet, and stick to keepsakes and memories, which is perfectly fine as well!
There are lots of unique ways to memorialize your pet these days, so make sure you take your time to find ways that mean the most to you. Obviously pictures and videos are great, but you can go further than that too. Pawprint art, using their ashes in glass, and even jewelry exist as ways to remember and keep your beloved pet close now.
Plenty of services can be found with a simple Google search or find DIY ideas on Pinterest.
Navigating the end of your pet’s life is a surprisingly complex and emotional task. Hopefully, this article has been able to answer some questions and give you insight into what the process entails. If you need some help with finding a great vet to help you out during this time, take a look at our other article on vets in the Space Coast area.
Click here for more information and suggestions we wrote about on the topic of coping with the loss of a pet.
In the comments below, share with us your stories of your beloved fur-kid and how you best honored their life with you. We would love to hear from you!
Melanie is the owner and founder of Brevard’s premier trusted in-home pet care company. With a Sociology & Criminal Justice degree from the University of Tennessee, in 2016 she took her corporate security background and combined it with her lifelong passion for animals – that’s how Space Coast Pet Services was born! She is certified in Pet First Aid & CPR, bonded, insured, and proudly completed a full background check successfully. She is committed to ongoing training and education for herself and her team. To learn more, click here.
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