I am frequently asked by my clients how they will know when (and if) it is time to put their pet to sleep. My answer is always the same “there are no rules on this-you have to go with your gut.” But, how do you go with your gut, when you are feeling scared, worried, unsure, bad and insecure? When a pet’s health starts to go downhill, there are a few things to consider when making the decision:
First, is your pet just not able to enjoy life anymore? There are different levels to quality of life. A dog that can’t run and jump anymore, but who still gets excited for treats and kisses, this can still be a great quality of life-the life has just changed a bit. A dog that can’t eat or defecate, that can’t lay down comfortably or sleep… well then it’s time to ask yourself if she might be ready to move on to the other side.
Next, could you be putting your own human “stuff” into the decision making process? As an animal ages, he’ll often experience the breakdown of his body-such as deafness or blindness. For many of us, this is the hardest piece to watch happen – and many of us assume that not being able to see or hear is a good sign that the animal is ready to go. This, however, is not always (and not even most often) the case. First, animals have an incredibly keen sense of smell. They can easily know who is around them without ever seeing or hearing them! Second, they are also very in touch with the spiritual world. Taking away physical sight does not mean that spiritual sight is gone. I’ve met many animals who are very happy being blind or deaf-they have so many other fun and exciting senses!
Do you worry about what your life will be like without him? If your primary concern is how will you make it through dinner time without Coco around-you may be putting your own needs before those of your pet. If you’ve heard yourself say “I could never live without him” – that’s probably a good sign that you may be keeping him around too long.
We also have several human-caused signs of distress that, rather than signaling that it is time for the animal to pass-can often be relieved at least a little by the human. Many times, out of love and concern for our pets, we don’t realize that we are contributing to our pets distress. Some of these signs are:
Sleeping: is your pet unable to sleep? Is this because he is truly unable or could it be that, out of worry, you keep waking him to make sure he is ok?
Eating: is your pet able to eat? Sometimes, we are so worried that our pets are unable to eat that we unconsciously create a pressured or fearful atmosphere around the food. Try to relax and be nonchalant about feeding time – shift the energy and THEN see if he is still unable to eat.
Anxiety: Is your pet displaying a high level of anxiety or fear? This is often unknowingly caused by humans who have a lot of anxiety over whether or not their pet is “ok.” Be sure to manage your own anxiety around your pet. They pick up on the energy really well-even fish!
Putting a beloved pet to sleep is one of the hardest things most people will every have to do – even with a healthy understanding that the soul never dies. Work on listening to your own intuition on this – not your fear, but what does your gut say. In the end, the gut is the best guidepost a human can have – and your pet will thank you for being so conscientious in your decision making process.