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PET’S CORNER Knowing when to say goodbye



Deciding when to let go is the hardest decision a pet owner has to make in the life of their pet.
Deciding when to let go is the hardest decision a pet owner has to make in the life of their pet.

A final act of love

Ask the vet
Esther Van Luipen

When is the right time to say goodbye? It’s the question every pet lover dreads, and it’s one to which there is no easy answer.
It is the hardest decision a pet owner has to make in the life of their pet. You can ask advice and people will sympathise with you, but in the end you have to make that decision yourself. Because of the love you feel for your pet you are stricken with grief over having to look into your animal’s eyes while it suffers as well as the loss you will feel when your pet is gone.
Everyone makes this decision differently. Some people decide to do it when their animal has lost their appetite or ability to walk. Other people wait until the suffering is unbearable and they can’t stand to see the animal in so much pain. Those people often end up wondering if they should not have made the decision much sooner.
Modern-day veterinary medicine hasn’t made it any easier to make this decision. With the progression of human medicine, most of the treatments that would be available to humans are now also available to animals. So you should wonder if you are improving the quality of life of your pet, or just prolonging it. Is your pet comfortable or are you just trying to hold on for dear life because you can’t part with your beloved pet. Even though veterinary medicine has progressed, the bottom line is still the animal’s pain and comfort versus your own.
So how do you know it’s time? In my opinion there are a few basic things in life an animal should be able to do. A pet should be able to eat, drink and enjoy basic activities like companionship and sleep. You know your pet better than anyone, and you know whether he or she is enjoying her usual standard of living. For example, if your pet loved to go for walks, is going for a walk no longer possible? Ultimately, and very importantly, an animal should be free from debilitating pain.
However hard it may be, choosing to end an animal’s suffering is a final act of love. Remember that when the time comes to make a choice, love is the guide you use when making this decision. Hopefully, this will help you deal with the sad and lonely time you have after the loss of your beloved companion and leave you with happy memories of your pet.

Esther van Luipen is a veterinary surgeon in Claremorris Small Animal Practice. She can be contacted at 094 9373955 or at