Coming to Terms With The Decision to Euthanize

When we are blessed to bring our pets into our live, we pledge to them and ourselves to do everything we can to ensure they have a good life. We give them everything we have without hesitation: our time, our love and whatever resources it takes to make sure they are happy and comfortable.

 As they begin to age and/or face life-threatening illnesses, we go into “over drive” to find them the best care possible. We talk to experts and look for the best doctors and treatments to help them. As difficult as it is, most of us eventually have to face the decision to release them from their pain and have them euthanized. We make this decision out of our love for them, and in truth, it is one of the most unselfish decisions we will ever have to make.

The term “euthanasia” is a Greek work meaning “good death,” and it means to painlessly allow our beloved fur-kids to pass without suffering. Still, while it is often the kindest act we can do for them, for us it is one of the most difficult acts we will ever be called on to do.

After having to make this decision, many of us agonize over whether we made the right choice. Did we make the decision too soon? Did we wait too long? Questioning ourselves like this is called “euthanasia remorse,” and it’s very common. The following suggestions can help you begin to be at peace for this most difficult time.

Prepare Ahead of Time – As difficult as it is to think about this beforehand, by taking into consideration some of the following it can make it easier afterwards:

Think about what conditions you would have to see in order to make the decision (i.e., inability to walk, obvious pain). The “Quality of Life Scale” developed by Dr. Alice Villalobos ( is a very useful tool for helping to determine the right time.

  Have a conversation with your veterinarian when you feel the time is getting closer, and ask them any questions you have about the procedure and the options involved (in home vs. in the office) Knowing what to expect and having some control of how things are handled can reduce some of the feelings of sadness or guilt afterwards.

 Ask Yourself The Tough Questions – When you feel you can handle it, ask yourself some questions such;

  •  Is it realistic to believe your pet could have gotten better?
  • What would have happened if you didn’t have your pet euthanized?
  •  How would you want someone to care for you if you were in the same position as your pet?
  • What would your pet say if he/she could talk to you?
  • Look at it from an outside perspective. – If a friend had a pet with the same condition and came to you for advice, what would you tell them?

Talk to your Veterinarian/A Trusted Animal Care Professional Hopefully you have a good relationship with your Veterinarian or another Animal Care Professional. Schedule some time to talk with them about any of your concerns. Be sure and write down any questions you may have. Consider bringing a trusted friend or family member with you.

 Write A Letter To Your Pet – Sit down and write a letter to your pet letting him/her know how you are feeling and what the experience was like for you. If you feel like you can, try writing a letter from your pet to you. What do you think your pet would want you to know?

Get The Support You Need– Seek out the help from others who understand. There are Pet Loss Counselors and Groups all over the country filled with other pet parents that understand and can help you deal with these feelings.

As difficult as it is, the responsibility of ending the suffering for our beloved pets is one we must take on. We owe it to them for all the love they have shared with us. Most of all, know that the feelings you are having are completely normal and understandable. This is all part of the grieving process, and coming to terms with your decision and beginning to heal is possible and will happen.

As you begin to heal you will realize that as difficult as the decision was, it will never take away from the life of love that you shared with them. That is what their legacy is about, and that is what will always be a part of your heart

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