The hardest, but kindest decision

I’M afraid this week’s is not going to be the sunniest of columns. Quite the opposite in fact.

Today I put my beloved orange cat, Harvey, to sleep. He’d had a heart condition for a few months and had been doing really well on medication. But this morning the spark had gone. He’d had enough.

Euthanasia is something that we as vets encounter on an almost daily basis so you’d think that when it comes to our own pets, the decision would somehow be easier. It isn’t. And it got me thinking a bit.

It’s almost never an easy decision to put your pet down. You may worry it’s too soon. That it’s too late. That it’s not right. Yet unless some tragedy befalls them, it’s a decision most of us eventually face.

We all hope our pet will pass painlessly in their sleep, but that rarely happens. And while it may feel like the right thing to let nature take its course, a natural death is rarely kind if it means prolonged pain or suffering. Often, euthanasia a week too soon is better than a day too late.

But how do you know if your pet is suffering, and how do you know the right time?

Before you think about putting your pet to sleep, you need the advice of someone who knows you and your pet well. Share your thoughts and fears with them, and get their input. Talk to your vet — we’ve all been there too. Explore any treatment options with us, and the pros and cons of each option. The only really important goal of any medical care is to give our pets the best chance of a good quality of life.

Ultimately though, no one knows your pet like you do. You’ve been there for the years of love, play, and affection. So think of three or four things your pet really enjoys, such as fetching a ball, playing with a certain toy, or just being with you. Can they still do and enjoy these things?

Then ask: Does your pet still have an appetite? Can they maintain bladder and bowel functions easily? Are they interested in doing the things they normally do? Do they still have that spark, the tail wag, the lust for life?

When there are no effective treatment options, when their bodies are failing or they’re in pain, and when most of your pet’s joys are compromised, it’s probably time to consider humane euthanasia. Just because your pet is alive, it does not mean that they are living.

And so it was with Harv. I’m determined not to use this column to indulge my own sadness so suffice it to say that he was a great cat, head of my household (or so he thought), and will be sorely missed.

Sorry about all that. But maybe these words will help someone wrestling with this most difficult of decisions.

Normal, cheery service will be resumed next week.

Director and Senior Vet

Chris Green