End of Life - Is It Time?
If you are considering euthanasia - when is it the right time?
Quality of life is usually discussed, but what does that really mean?
Here are some questions to ask yourself that may help with understanding if your pet has a good quality of life or what level of suffering he or she may be experiencing.
- Is your pet able to climb stairs or hop in the car? Many older pets lose mobility over the years, but is your pet at a stage that they struggle to get to their feet or collapse when trying to lie down? Can your pet handle basic functions like squatting to urinate? Does your pet whimper or growl if you try to help move them?
- Is your pet able to eat or drink normally? Is your pet getting enough calories to maintain his or her weight? Do you think your pet is enjoying eating or do you have to coax every bite?
- Is your pet having difficulty breathing? Many medical conditions like cancer and heart disease can impact their ability to breath easily. Your pet may pant when it’s not hot or you’ll see a pumping movement near the pet’s flank which says they are working hard to breath.
- Does your pet recognize you? Some older pets have diminished mental capacity and seem to forget things like where a toy is. Occasionally pets get more confused and can become fearful of their surroundings. The confusion may come from partial vision and/or hearing loss.
- Is your pet in pain? Instinctively a pet will try to hide or mask any pain. This is a sign of weakness and would signal to predators their vulnerability. Watching for posture changes like a hunched back is one possible sign. Often painful animals are very restless and circle for longer periods trying to find a position to get comfortable. Pets hiding or seeking out unusual places to lie down like under a bed or inside a closet may indicate pain as well. If a pet hisses, snarls, or snaps when touched this could indicate pain.
- Is your pet happy? This is a very subjective thing. Does your pet seem interested when you come home or leave? Does your pet find any pleasure from his or her toys? Does your pet enjoy any activities that the pet use to? Is your pet interacting with other pets in the house? Most pets are easy to please so if you can’t raise a purr or a tail wag then you can be fairly certain your pet is not enjoying life.
- Could the care being given to your pet be causing more stress or harm then enhancing the quality of life? If your pet is ill, the natural response is to provide treatment to the best of your ability. That often includes tests, medications, and sometimes surgery. But drugs can have side effects, repeated visits to the hospital can create stress, and some involved treatments can take a toll on the pet and family alike.
- Can or should I make this decision to end my pet’s life? Often times when the thought of euthanizing a pet arises, some owners reflect on “letting nature take its course.” Before going down that path (or postponing action), owners should realize that they have already thwarted the course of nature. When providing food, shelter, protection from predators, and medical care over the years, they have stepped in where nature is concerned. In nature, when an animal becomes too ill to get food or protect itself, it will perish. Sometimes quickly, but it may be quite slow and painful. Letting nature take its course with a pet may be very drawn out and uncomfortable as well. Should our pet suffer longer because we don’t want to feel the hurt and pain of making a decision? Sometimes the most unselfish act of love is ending our pet’s suffering.
Making the choice to euthanize is always difficult. If you have more questions, our staff would like to help.
Hospice and Comfort Care Resources
Hospice care is a relatively new concept in the animal world. It is focused on giving pets a safe, caring, intimate and pain-free end-of-life experience in a familiar environment with family. In advanced stages of diseases such as cancer, kidney failure, or neurologic disorders, some treatments can cause pain or illness without the benefit of “curing” the disease. Sometimes, treatment is cost-prohibitive and cannot be pursued. Pet owners have the option of denying or stopping aggressive treatments and working on managing their pet’s quality of life over their quantity of life. Brooklyn Park Pet Hospital is able to discuss options for your pet and provide resources to help assist in providing dignity and comfort in his or her last days.
Here are some areas where we can help with alternative care:
- Acupuncture, Herbal Supplements and Food Therapy
- MNpets - Acupuncture Services - Dr. Alanna Monn, DVM
- Chiropractic Care
- Dr. Mark LaVallie, D.C., CVSMT – 651.332.1633
- Physical Therapy
- Twin Cities Animal Rehabilitation Clinic – 952.224.9354
- U of M Rehabilitation Services
- In-home Hospice Care
- Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice & In-Home Euthanasia - 612.314.3003
- Pain Management
- Massage Therapy
Brooklyn Park Pet Hospital offers euthanasia in a room that is specifically designed for a calm and peaceful setting and is located away from the regular appointment rooms. In addition, a door that leads directly into the parking lot, while avoiding the lobby, provides you more privacy when grieving your loved one.
In home euthanasia services are provided on a case-by-case basis through BPPH or you may contact MN Pets (gentle end of life care at home) at 612.354.8500.
Offered through BPPH with Veterinary Hospitals Association™ (VHA)
Cremation Urns and Unique Keepsakes - Click on the link to browse our selection of cremation urns and unique keepsakes. Call us at 763.566.6000 to inquire on prices.
Pet Cremation Services of Minnesota – Ethical Individual Same Day Private Pet Cremation - another option for care of your pet's remains. You contact them directly for their services.
Grief / Support Groups
Pet Loss Hotlines/Counseling
Grief Recovery Hotline – 800.445.4808
National 24-hour pet loss hotline – 877.474.3310
University of Minnesota Veterinary Social Services – 612.626.8387
Center for Grief, Loss and Transition – 651.641.0177
Grief Connections – 952.925.3533
Animal Humane Society – 763.522.4325
845 Meadow Lane, Golden Valley, MN 55422
This support group meets every Monday evening (except holidays) from 7:00-9:00 p.m. and is open to the public at no charge.
Animal Emergency Clinic – 651.501.3766
1163 Helmo Avenue North, Oakdale, MN, 55128
This support group meets on the fourth Tuesday of each month from 7:00-8:30 p.m.
Companion Animal Love, Loss, and Memories Group – 612.624.9372
University of Minnesota Veterinary Social Work Services
1365 Gortner Ave., St. Paul, MN 55108
This support group meets on the second and fourth Wednesday evenings of every month, from 6:30-8:00 p.m., and is open to the public at no charge. All attendees must call in advance to be pre-screened and to reserve a seat.