Discussion: End of Life Decisions

As we rally against the needless killing of shelter pets for convenience, we sometimes tend to skip meaningful discussion on true euthanasia for our own pets.  This is such an important issue to explore as it is often complicated and always heartbreaking.  One way to lift the veil is by sharing our experiences, something I have tried to do on the blog each time one of my own pets dies.  I am inviting readers to share their experiences, questions and thoughts on the subject in the comments.

For myself, one of the questions I have struggled with regarding euthanasia is timing.  I know this is a common challenge for pet owners.  None of us wants to wait too long but of course we don’t want to make the decision too soon either.  With some pets, I have questioned myself on both accounts – that is, wondering if I waited too long and if I should have waited a little longer.  Hearing other people’s experiences has been very helpful to me and I hope this discussion will be helpful to others.  I will pose some questions to get the ball rolling but please feel welcome to share any related thoughts that are on your mind.

  • In euthanizing a pet, how much have you relied on input from your veterinarian?  Do you feel that ultimately, only you know when it’s time, due to the bond you have with your pet?
  • Have you ever made a decision to provide hospice care for a pet and allow the pet to die at home?  If yes, were you closely involved with a vet during the process and do you wish you had – or had not – been?
  • Have you ever scheduled a euthanasia appointment with your vet in advance and then spent a final special day with your pet or do you typically end up at the emergency clinic during the night?
  • What about when you die – do you have a plan in place to provide care for your pets once you are gone?  Is there any reliable way to protect them from being seized by animal control and killed for convenience after your death?

20 thoughts on “Discussion: End of Life Decisions

  1. This topic is very close to home as we just “put down” our 15 year old English Setter 6 days ago after a long, slow decline. We knew she had chronic kidney disease but with good management she had almost three good years. I like to think that I will know when the time has come. That is how it has been for just about all our pets though the pet I had last euthanized before the setter was a particularly beloved cat who also had a long decline (IBD). By the time I took her in it was almost an “emergency room” situation but she had an unforeseen vestibular event and I was lucky that my vet’s office was open at the time.

    In the case of the setter, I was grateful to my vet for just reminding me to not wait too long. As a long time customer and friend, he agreed to come to the house and I also had his cell phone number should I have needed it. I did not want to abuse the privilege so I did keep that in mind. In the case of this particular dog, though we all hoped she would just go in her sleep, that was never her style. Even on the day she died, she had had a good walk out to the garden and she wolfed down a bunch of biscuits. But she had started having episodes where her back end would give our (it was weakening over the years) and she would have awful panic attacks – howling, snapping at anyone who did not know how to soothe her. After about five of these episodes, and seeing the panic in her face, I knew I did not want her to have one and be stuck in it so I made the call. He came to the house and she passed on her bed by our wood stove.

    You are so right about the timing. All I did for the last two weeks was second guess myself. We kept going with “Can she drag us out to the garden?” and “Has she given up on biscuits?” Though we didn’t know the next day would be her last, we happened to spend the better part of a sunny winter afternoon with her while she napped on my bed, sun streaming in, and we watched movies. Of course, she didn’t give up on those ever. But, for me, there is a look of confusion that is my rule of thumb. I have known people who have scheduled euthanizations in advance. I even went to a “dinner party” for one dog where all the guests were invited to come say goodbye. (I brought her a cream puff.) I’m still not sure if that is a more “grown up” approach but it’s not for me. It seems a little too – cold? But I know these people have their pet’s best interest in mind. So I guess I am somewhere in the middle, trusting my instinct to know when it’s time.

    1. “Has she given up on biscuits?”

      I can so relate to this Lorene. When Randi stopped eating her meals, she would still take occasional bites of various treats we were offering her. We kept hoping from that. Then she stopped accepting the bites and we kept hoping she would have a sudden change for the better. Hope is the hardest thing to let go of.

  2. What a timely topic for me, as well. I have had so many experiences with letting pets go when it’s time. It seems with each one I am more “comfortable” with that final decision and being with them.

    A lot of where I am now stems from a decision to let a beautiful older Samoyed go before her time. My life was in chaos, she had diabetes and things were not going well. I made that decision to send her to the vet for that last time (didn’t even have the courage to go with her, a decision I regret to this day). She deserved better from me. I hope, in time, that we will meet again and I can ask her forgiveness.

    In March of 2013, I had to make that decision to let my old cat girl go. She was a survivor of the pet food poisoning of 2006-2007 and we had some really amazing bonus time, although she battled with so many medical conditions that people were astounded that she lived so long. At that time, a vet we had seen at MSU had started a hospice program, so as soon as it was clear that we were done with making her better, she went into hospice. The vet and I made a quality of life plan and followed that plan until the day that she had less than we wanted her to have. I held her in my arms as she peacefully passed on at home. She was ready, although she did enjoy her kitty treats right before we let her go. It was evident from her behavior, her eyes lost that sparkle and she seemed incredibly tired to me. The vet took her body to be cremated and I have her ashes (and those of many others) here at home with me.

    My current situation is similar, however MSU made the decision to discontinue the hospice program (that’s another story). I have a 7 year old cat with chronic lymphocytic leukemia who wasn’t supposed to survive until 2014. When he was diagnosed, I got him into hospice right away to do palliative care here at home. He is holding his own, and when our former hospice vet left for OSU, another vet agreed to help with those already in hospice. I know her and like her, so it’s the best option right now. With CLL he is on a roller coaster ride and the knowing “when” is going to be a tough decision. However, we did make a quality of life plan and I will stay with that when his time comes.

    My other cats are old(er) ranging in age from 12 – 15 and I will use hospice for them, if at all possible. A vet in private practice is starting a hospice program and I will get them involved. It’s amazing to be able to have them home, to be able to be involved in their care and decisions, and to know they will never again have to know the stress of that final vet visit.

    I hope that this isn’t more than you wanted, but I believe in hospice (for pets and people) and when I am an “empty nester” plan to take in either seniors or hospice pets. And I have learned a lot about dying with dignity and grace from my pets. They do not fear death, nor do they agonize over their impending death. It’s as natural to them as breathing. What they do is live in the moment and savor life. That’s a huge lesson for me to remember.

    Thanks for allowing me to share so much of what is so important to me. I look forward to reading other people’s experiences.

    1. It’s not too much – this is exactly what I was hoping people would share db. Thank you. Can you please tell us more about the “quality of life plan” you had for your pets? Was it a specific checklist to guide you in your decision on euthanasia?

      1. Okay, I can do that. When we first met about entering hospice, the vet asked what QOL would be, in my opinion. We did look at the checklist, but mostly it was what made CJ’s QOL “quality” for us. Since she had known CJ since the first ER visit in 2006 (she was the one who admitted her to MSU and followed her the entire time) she explained to me what we might expect with her particular medical issues. I shared what QOL meant to me, we talked for a bit and listed a few things that would maintain QOL for her. Eating was one, being pain-free and comfortable was another, being interested in her surroundings (she loved to survey her kingdom from the top of her cat tree), and maintaining a relationship with me (that final day she wanted to be left alone, even turning her back to me when the hospice vet arrived to let her go) were the main factors.

        With my boy now, eating is one, pain free another and being engaged with people is also a factor, since he is the happiest, most loving cat I’ve ever met. When I thought it might be time, he was isolating, lethargic, not eating although clearly not in “pain”. He got a good check up (another advantage of hospice – he stays home, the hospice vet comes here), a couple of injections for severe nausea and a couple of days to see if that would help. Thank God, it did.

        One interesting thing that I learned from a holistic vet who came here to do acupuncture with CJ was that many animals tend to spiral down for a bit and then level off for a while. I was agonizing with some of the same questions you brought up here. The vet suggested I wait for 3 days before making a decision for CJ and I’ve done that with Buffy. He seems to have a decline and then stabilize at a slightly lower level. Of course, you need to make a decision for an animal who is actively dying or seriously injured. But for the chronic conditions we have had (and still have) this has been a good rule of thumb for me.

        The final thought I have is that the original hospice vet and I talked a lot about what “actively dying” looks like (or may look like) so I have a better sense of when Buffy is just “off” or if it’s more serious.

  3. I will share what I’m doing for own my end-of-life plan for my pets: I have made a rescue group I foster for (and trust) the beneficiary of a small life insurance policy and my 401K/Roth IRA plans. I have also written up a “pet trust agreement” (based on one I found at rocketlawyer.com–I rewrote it to suit my particular situation) to specify the particulars of their care, etc. The one thing I haven’t been able to do is fund a living trust for my pets’ care should I be alive but incapacitated (I have to pay off some debts first), but that is something I will do if I ever get financially stable again.

  4. Great topic. this is such a hard thing for people to understand No Kill advocates do understand the use of euthanasia in irredeemably suffering pets. And it is harder for those of us that believe that each life should be judged individually to make this type of decision. I did exactly as you said, both wondered if I waited to long or not. With our last cat, we scheduled and appointment three times and cancelled as she seemed to bounce back. It was heartrending to know if we were making the right decisions with her rebounding and worrying about her suffering for days if we waited.

    On the questions posed I do rely on vets less and less than I used to. I find they have a propensity to try anything to lengthen a pets life and have to be drawn out to talk about quality of life. They are important for diagnosis and predicting what type of change will happen to a pet, but in the end, I believe there is far better understanding between a person and pet of when the time has come.

    To date, we kept them home until the time came, but everyone was suffer4ing to the point we could not bear to see them die of starvation or dehydration. We will never bring a pet to a doctor’s office for euthanasia. Paying triple for that is of no consequence. If they could live comfortably without it, hospice is definitely always the option we would take.

    Basically I think it is hard to spoil pets when you already treat them as part of the family every day. But I will say that food becomes less of an issue when you know the end is near. If diet will help, they be less happy as we would be very strict on that, but once we know we have days or weeks left, we definitely get some amazing treats (Both healthy and “junk food”. for them.

    We are more valuable to our pets dead than alive according to our wills. ;)

    1. When we took Randi in to the emergency clinic, they were so backed up, they told us it would be an hour’s wait. While we sat in the car with her, I called another nearby clinic I didn’t know, just on the off chance they may be able to see us sooner. It was not a good experience – being placed on hold repeatedly while my dog appeared to be dying next to me, each time being asked for another bit of information (“Are you a client here?” etc.) then finally a second employee coming on the line and asking “What’s going on?” After explaining the situation over again, she pressed me for a commitment on whether I wanted to definitely euthanize at the appointment. I again explained I was wanting a consult to help in making that decision at which point she offered me a “quality of life consultation” appointment for the following week. I thought I had done a reasonable job in explaining that our pet was dying, that we were at an emergency clinic already, etc yet somehow this offer apparently did not sound as absurd to her as it did to me. It made me wonder how many other pet owners this place must have treated similarly and the thought still makes me angry.

      1. There is no reason for that kind of treatment for a possibly dying animal. I hope you can find other options for your surviving dogs. This is just inexcusable. I’m sorry you and Randi had to go through that. When I was still using a private vet (vs MSU) they actually triaged the animals and a potentially dying animal was seen immediately. I cannot imagine any of those who had to wait wouldn’t have wanted their own pet to be treated just the same. I’m so sorry it had to be such a dreadful experience.

  5. “When” I think is the hardest part.

    The guideline of “far better a week too soon than a day too late” is something that I’ve taken to heart. Mostly because I held on to a dog too long… kept her going when I probably shouldn’t have until it became “middle of a rainy night to the emergency vet” because she was having so much trouble breathing… I will regret that forever. It was selfish and I will try with all I’ve got to not do it again. She deserved better than that from me.

    The whole “party before you go thing” is not something I think I could do, either. In my mind, if an animal is well enough to enjoy the company of friends and can eat those cheeseburgers or whatever, then that animal probably has more quality time left. Is this the other side of the selfishness? Where you choose to euthanize before the animal’s illness becomes too distressing for YOU? Or is it the ultimate in selflessness, sending the animal out on a high note, before the illness makes them miserable? Is one more day lying in the sun worth the risk? I just don’t know.

    And that’s what it comes down to, I think. There’s no one “right” answer. It’s what’s right for the owner and what’s right for the animal as individuals. Unfairly, although there is no one “right”, there are a whole bunch of “wrongs”.

    I had to make this decision recently for my beloved young, healthy cat. Three years old, robust and full of fun. And then came the FIP. For those not familiar with FIP, it generally strikes young kittens and older cats with FIV or FeLeuk or some other immune compromise. To see it in a young adult with a fully functional immune system is highly unusual. But from the moment the diagnosis is made, the clock is ticking. There is no cure. You do your best to mitigate the symptoms, but the clock is always ticking because your cat will die from it. You may have days. You may have weeks. Some even get months. But it will kill your cat. Average lifespan after diagnosis is one week, but mostly I think because it can be hard to diagnose and can look like other things.

    Cats with FIP stop eating. I did everything I could to tempt my boy into eating, but I absolutely would not force feed him as he HATED me putting anything into his mouth, even when he was a little kitten (his mom was feral and it took us 24 hours to catch her, so we tried bottle feeding, which he violently refused). With cats, not eating isn’t just “not eating” like it is with dogs. It can often lead to liver failure, too. Which it did with my boy.

    We were at a vet visit for more subQ fluids (he wasn’t drinking, either) and more B-12 when the vet said, “Is he a bit … yellow?” At first we weren’t sure if it was the lighting, it was so faint. But yes, he was a bit yellow. Jaundice. The only way to fight this form of liver failure (hepatic lipidosis) is force feeding small meals many times a day. To do this to a cat who was already dying from FIP would be unforgivable, so I didn’t.

    We took him home to see if the fluids and b-12 perked him up at all like it had in the past. He had a terrible night – uncomfortable, moving around unable to rest, and I don’t think he peed, despite the fluids. In the morning, he seemed to be feeling better – almost perky. But the next day was going to be a holiday, the vet’s office would be closed and this cat was not going to get better, he was only going to get worse and I absolutely could not risk making this harder for him than it had to be.

    So, even though he was perky and walking around and interested, we went to the vet’s office. We had lots of time (although the sedative did not work as effectively as the vet would have liked, due to the liver failure), we sat in a quiet room with his favorite blankie, and it was as absolutely stress free as I could have made it. It was also INCREDIBLY hard on me, but it was the right thing to do and the right way to do it. I would not have that cat suffer one more terrible night only to end up the emergency vet the next day with noise and smells and dogs barking.

    But I *knew* what was going on medically with this cat. And I knew that we were up against something that would not get better, that the only way was down. When you don’t know, when you don’t have that data, it’s much harder to make the call, I think. Especially in the case of long-standing chronic diseases where they decline bit by bit and can rally and end up with another good month, maybe…

    The one time I chose to have a pet die at home in their own time was the one time I didn’t have a vet closely involved with that pet’s care. This cat was stressed by vet visits and somewhere along the line of her renal failure, I just stopped taking her in. I had fluids and injectable b vitamins and iron supplements and whatnot at home, so I just kept caring for her there. We had some rough patches and the person I am now would have taken her in for at least another set of eyeballs on her to help me gauge what was happening, but the person I was then figured that I knew her best and we muddled through it. Her death was fairly quiet, on my bed, just the two of us together. She was not aware of what was going on around her the last couple of hours and then it was over. It wasn’t so much her death that I regret as the two weeks before it with the rough patches. *Should* we have muddled through them? Was that fair to her? Was dying quietly at home worth the fight to get there?

    Looking back, I’d do things differently with that cat. More vet involvement, more discussion with someone who was not me for perspective on how this cat was really doing, and was I making the decisions I was making for her or for me? I’m older and wiser now and better able to tell a figure of authority “no” than I was then…better at using my vet as a consultant rather than a decision-maker…

    Hospice care is something that I wish more vets would take advantage of. This is what’s going on, this is what to expect, this is what you can try, this is what pain will look like, this is what suffering will look like, here is my number, you call me if you have any concern. Let’s write it all down because when you’re done crying, it’s going to be hard to remember it all straight…

    1. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I too wish more vets would embrace the idea of hospice care, particularly for those of us who have no desire for heroic measures to extend our pets’ lives at any cost. We need to be told what dying naturally looks like, what suffering looks like and yes, we need to have it written down so we can refer to it when necessary.

  6. Its a decision that sucks, all the way around, doesn’t it.

    I’ve only had to make it once in my adult life. Previously my parents made it, and though I was involved in the process I wasn’t involved in the decision making.

    Janie was my first cat of “my own”. She was an adult rescue, so we didn’t know how old she was for sure, but they guessed “about 2”. Winter of 2010-2011 she would have been 6 or so by that standard when she was diagnosed with hyperthyroid. In retrospect she’d been having symptoms for at least a year (possibly longer) but I’d never put them together to realize that there was an actual problem. I still believe that if I had realized there was a problem sooner she might still be alive today.

    Along with elevated thyroid numbers her kidney and liver numbers were showing poor function. At first this was assumed to be a side effect of the thyroid problem, and it was hoped that they would self correct as her thyroid was returned to normal with medication. And we did see some improvement, but not enough. And none of the treatments tried helped with the kidney function. An ultrasound showed her kidneys to be diseased. During the process to get her thyroid under control she suffered from bouts of pancreatitis.

    But once we got her thyroid under control everything else stabilized. Her kidney numbers were still bad, but not getting worse, and everything else returned to normal. She accepted the regular pills with no fuss, I still think she understood that they made her feel better.

    We stayed at that impasse till summer of 2012, when she started showing signs of high thyroid again, and bloodwork confirmed that her thyroid numbers were high again. We raised her dose, she returned to normal. For a few weeks. Barely two months later we were back in the vets to run bloodwork again, her thyroid was high again. This time we had more comprehensive bloodwork run, and raised her dose of thyroid meds, again. Bloodwork for Addisons was done (yes, its very rare in cats), and came back negative for Addisons, and possibly indicative of Cushings, and yes, her kidney numbers were getting worse and worse. Confirming Cushings would have meant another ultrasound and more bloodwork. And based on her physical symptoms her thyroid had spiked AGAIN, barely 3 weeks after the last dose increase. And every vet visit was making her more stressed and sick. My sweet cat who used to walk out of the carrier to purr and head bump the vet now cowered in the back of it. And she’d come home and have diarrhea and barely be able to keep down food for at least a day afterwards.

    Nothing we’d done to try to treat her kidneys was working, and the vet and I agreed that its was entirely possible that the real problem was that her kidneys were screwing with the absorption of the thyroid meds rather than her thyroid actually getting worse. Although Cushings is treatable there was no guarantee that the treatment would work with her.

    We made the decision to not do any more bloodwork. We’d increase her thyroid pill dosage per the vet’s instructions when she showed symptoms, and otherwise just let her be. Despite it all she was still acting quite perky. Eating well, telling off the dogs, and demanding her share of lap space.

    At the end of January 2013 that changed, she started barely eating, and spent her time curled up in her heated cubby hiding from the world. We made the decision to put her out of her pain.

    Is it possible that if I’d kept pushing, been willing to keep trying, maybe we could have found the “right” treatment that would have kept her going longer? Maybe. But I couldn’t see putting her through what had clearly become torture to her.

    1. I think these are the hardest – with so many complications one treatment causes problems with another condition. When their lives are so miserable and they are not going to get better, the most loving thing (in my opinion) is to let them rest. I believe in my heart that they know and appreciate when we stop trying to treat them and allow them to go on ahead. Then we have to ask, are we prolonging life or prolonging death?

  7. Shirley – your words of “Hope is the hardest thing to let go of” really hit home for me. It’s always been difficult to know “when” to let go – but somehow I’ve known. For me . . . it’s in their eyes. It’s as if they know even before I do.

    We all want to keep hoping for one more day, one more hour – even down to wanting just a few more minutes before they leave us. I’ve been with several of my dogs as the vet administered the drug to end their life – always amazed at how peaceful my dog looks (and sometimes even looks younger) as they pass. All have been cremated. I’ve also been with friends as their dogs were euthanized. Also very hard on me – but wouldn’t have been anywhere else than there with my friend. The most recent was in a friend’s home and our vet came there – it was as “nice” as it could possibly be and much less stressful for the pet.

    I’ve always been very concerned about what would happen to my dogs if (when) something happened to me — especially considering I live in Memphis with a notorious kill shelter. My plan is that at my death, a good portion of one life insurance policy will go to a specific friend who runs a great rescue group. She will work with my vet (who also knows about this plan) to either find a great home for any of my dogs or to keep them in her rescue (and disperse or use the insurance dollars as appropriate). I’ve also noted what dogs would be best kept together. I trust my friend and my vet implicitly to determine what will happen with my dogs. My pack is made up of rescues and a few have very quirky personalities. I have a system in place for certain people to be called at my death who can get into my house and assist my friend with my dogs. I do, however, worry about the time period between my death until the time my dogs are claimed. I can only hope my dogs are not left alone for long in my house as the notification process starts.

    I held a monthly pet loss group for a few years in Memphis. Lots of people visited – some for only one visit – and then others never missed a chance to be there. Emotions ran the gamut – most all were devastated and going through various stages of the grieving process (which is the exact same as grieving a human). But some moved on quicker than others. Lots of guilt . . . making “that” decision . . . not being there when the death occurred . . . not having the money for further medical care, etc. There was always something about being with like-minded people though – people who loved animals and were not fearful of showing emotion around others who understood.

    My dogs range from 4 years to 14 – so I know I will deal with loss over and over in the next years . . . and it will never, ever be easy. My 14 year old Dalmatian, Jake experienced a bad seizure a few weeks ago. I felt so helpless and thought at any minute he was going to die in my arms. He did come around – and has not had one since. But I was left very shaken and sad.

    Death is part of life . . . even for God’s animals. I try hard to focus on being grateful for each and every pet in my life even as they leave me. What a dull life it would be without experiencing their fun, passion and unconditional love!

  8. We had a dog when I was a child, and when she was 11 she developed cancer. At 13, she let us know that it was time, and my father took her to our trusted vet. She had difficulty getting up and whined, seemingly from pain, for a couple of days. I will never know what really happened, because he told me that she died in the car on the way over there. I’m sure he was trying to protect me. I feel certain he had her euthanized. Since then, I have had 2 cats, both of whom lived long, healthy lives until the very end, and in both cases, they did die at home with no fanfare, and no obvious pain.
    I now have three dogs, all rescued from Memphis Animal Services as puppies or very young (1 y.o.) dogs. They are now 13, 12, and 11 and all seem like young dogs. I dread the days when I need to make a choice, but I hope I will be able to be brave enough to both let them stay as long as they can happily, and not one minute longer. It is such a difficult decision. I will never forget the sorrow in my father’s eyes as he gently carried our beloved Scottie into the back yard and buried her.

  9. I’ve had to make the decision to euthanize more times than I care to count, especially since I have a soft spot for the special needs and senior animals. I’m in rough shape right now, but I’ll see what I can add to the conversation.

    “Have you ever made a decision to provide hospice care for a pet and allow the pet to die at home?”

    I’ve never had it offered via a vet, but I have sat up for a night or three with an animal who was quite obviously close to death. As long as I felt they weren’t suffering, I didn’t feel the need to release them sooner, so I wasn’t really working with a vet in these cases. If it should happen in the future, I hope I will have a vet that will offer hospice. (Recent move, haven’t found a new vet as I haven’t got animals left right now.)

    “In euthanizing a pet, how much have you relied on input from your veterinarian? Do you feel that ultimately, only you know when it’s time, due to the bond you have with your pet?”

    I’ve been able to rely pretty heavily on my vets in the past (hope I find one like that here when I start looking!) as I managed to find some fantastic vets in the past. I think that the final decision is mine with my pets, but I definitely listen closely to what the vet says, because I have that trust and relationship built up. If it were a strange vet, I’d probably be much more inclined to make that decision myself as they aren’t going to KNOW my pet the way I do.

    “Have you ever scheduled a euthanasia appointment with your vet in advance and then spent a final special day with your pet or do you typically end up at the emergency clinic during the night?”

    I haven’t had to wind up in the emergency clinic yet with any of the ones I’ve had to euthanize, but it typically isn’t a case where I make an appointment ahead of time either. It usually comes down to waking up in the morning and calling in to go in asap because it’s time. The one exception is the dog I had to have put down due to severe psychological issues, and in that case, I did schedule the appointment for two days later and spend her last days giving her a ton of attention and letting her eat all sorts of things that are very bad for dogs. After those years of trying everything to work with her, it was great to be able to bring her such joy before letting her slip away peacefully knowing she was loved. And yes, I still wonder all too much if I could have done more, but most of the time I know that we did everything we could, and she was not ever going to be a normal happy dog.

    “What about when you die – do you have a plan in place to provide care for your pets once you are gone? Is there any reliable way to protect them from being seized by animal control and killed for convenience after your death?”

    I fully intend to set up a fund just for my animals to provide care should I die (once I’m ready to take in a pet or five again). I don’t have a specific plan right now, but what I’d like to do is have at least two options for each pet (or group of pets if they must be kept together) so that if something does happen, there is backup. It will probably be family, as we’ve always been good at taking pets in as needed from/for each other.

    I’m currently struggling to figure out what I can do with my Dad’s cat, as he is in boarding while my Dad is in the hospital, and I don’t live somewhere I can take him. It sucks royally, because the cat is utterly miserable in boarding, and my Dad is afraid he’ll get so depressed from it that he’ll need to euthanize his cat. Said cat is pretty much a one person cat, although he tolerates me to a certain extent, and with Dad being so very ill, we’re just taking everything day by day for now. I wish I knew the right answers or at least had a place where I could keep the cat, so that he could be with SOMEbody familiar, if not loved.

  10. With Snakey, we balanced what we knew about her quality of life with our vet’s opinion. We had made plans ahead of time for our vet to come to our house to do the deed so Snakey would not have to travel. We didn’t plan a date ahead of time. We got up one Saturday, after she had had a particularly bad night on Friday night, looked at each other and just decided then and there. Our vet came to our house after she closed for the day and agreed it was time. We had already talked months before about what we would bury with her and my husband had already made her casket; suitable for a small child but for our fur-child. We learned a lot from the experience and because I have since lost my parents to cancer, I’m more philosophical about the whole process. No one gets to stay. And we cannot keep those we love here out of sheer force of our will.

    My aunt will take our dog if something happens to us. We’ve talked about it already and he’s spent time at her house so we know he would be comfortable there. He’s 15 so we are sure that won’t be necessary; he is likely in his last months with us. But we had the discussion and planned because we had to. For him.

  11. With our Norton – the most recent euthanization in our family – when it became clear he was failing, we just tried to keep him as comfortable for so long as he seemed to happy. That meant daily sub-q fluids, insulin and home-made stinky food, but nothing more complicated than that. We didn’t have a formal plan. My vet gave me all her numbers, so no matter the time I could reach her.

    I knew it was coming on time, paradoxically, when he seemed to be eased late one night and came trotting over to tuck himself under the covers with me. I’ve had this happen a couple of times before with cats I’ve known to be mortally ill, and both times they were ready to die by the next night. This time, too. The next day Norton didn’t perk up with his sub-q, didn’t want to eat – not even his favorite junk-food treats – and he sat in that tucked-in withdrawn way cats do when they don’t feel at all well. So I phoned the vet.

    I’d not had euthanization at home before. It wasn’t all that easier for me, but it was for Norton.

    My vet has said she’s seen that easing prior to death in cats too, and has no real explanation for it.

    1. Trees will do that, sometimes, too – a dying tree that has been weak and shabby for a while will often put out one last burst of leaves in the spring before it dies. I have also heard of it in people – a short period of clarity and communicativeness about a day or two before the end.

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