Pet Euthanasia and How Will you Know It Is Time

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Tired 20-year-old cat
Tired 20-year-old Cat

Here are some questions to consider when evaluating the quality of life for your pet. A general rule of thumb to follow is when the bad days outnumber the good days, but that can be difficult to assess. Becoming familiar with these guidelines will help pet owners determine the best course of action for a terminally ill, geriatric, or injured pet. When does euthanasia become one of the answers?

  • Is your pet enjoying the activities that s/he used to? Is s/he eating, walking, and playing as what would be appropriate for his/her age and ability? Is your pet interested when you leave or come home?
  • Is your pet able to eat and drink normally, and eating regular amounts? If your pet needs to be assisted, is your pet getting adequate fluid and nutrition?
  • Is your pet able to urinate and defecate ok? Is your pet still housebroken, or having more accidents? Pets that are housebroken but are unable to maintain hygiene will often be distressed—they know that it is wrong, yet are unable to control the behavior. Also, health issues can arise from the soiled skin and fur (infections, ulcerations).
  • Is your pet in pain often? Is pain adequately controlled with medication?
  • Is your pet part of the family, or alone most of the time? Do the pet's age or illness-related behaviors alienate family members?
  • Does your pet become stressed or afraid when left alone, assuming this was not a problem before?
  • Does your pet continue to recognize you?
  • Does your pet seem to enjoy interacting with other pets and family members?


  • The thought of losing a beloved pet is really hard. Making the decision to euthanize your pet and shouldering the weight of that can be emotionally painful. You do not have to go it alone. Discuss your feelings with family members, friends, and your vet. Actively seek a support group or talk to a professional counselor to help you navigate any feelings of loss and grief.