The decision to say goodbye
Some companion animals die of old age. However, others may have to be euthanised because they are seriously ill or suffering from an incurable disease. Others may be so badly injured that they can’t be saved, or their health may have deteriorated so much in old age that they have no quality of life to speak of. In the most critical cases – for example, when a pet has an incurable disease such as cancer or is seriously injured – the decision to euthanise may be taken out of the owner’s hands. However, there are other circumstances when an owner may feel there is still some chance that their pet might pull through, such as when their pet has severely reduced quality of life. But alleviating the suffering of animals is one of the golden rules of animal welfare. Feelings that are focused on our own personal needs – such as when we tell ourselves “I’m not ready to let my pet go yet” or “I can’t bring myself to do it” or “I’m scared of losing them” – are misplaced and may not reflect the animal’s best interests.
The decision to let your pet go can be one of the most difficult decisions you have to make in your life. Although it is your personal decision, it doesn’t have to be one that you make on your own. Your vet, your family and your friends can help and support you.
You are not alone
FOUR PAWS, too, would like to help by suggesting ways of handling this decision, ways of preparing for the moment when you say goodbye, and ways of coping with your grief afterwards. We have prepared some guides for you on these and related issues. The authors of the guides have themselves had to make the painful decision to put a pet to sleep. They have personally experienced what they are writing about and know how it feels. We hope that reading the guides will give you hope and strength, as well as some useful insights.