All pet owners have faced it: the decision about when the time is right to euthanize your animal. I have never yet heard of an instance when this decision was easy. How do you know when the right time comes?
I’ve had people say–and said myself–your pet will tell you. But there are some things to consider as you weigh whether the message you’re getting is a true one.
For example, many dogs are put down because their pain becomes obviously unbearable to them. But have you made sure that the dog is getting enough pain medication? An authority on veterinary ethics was quoted in the NY Times as saying that many dogs are treated ineffectively or given pain meds for too short a time or in too low a dose. (Sept. 23, 2012) It might be worth re-checking this with your vet before you make the decision to put your dog down.
One hospice care hospital for animals has posted a “quality of life scale” on their web site: http://www.pawspice.com. They suggest you rate your pet on a scale of 0-10 on a number of different factors, from whether the dog is eating and walking to whether s/he seems happy. There’s not a rule of numbers: they don’t suggest that when you get 10s on some of the factors, it’s time to do something. But this does at least offer a means of assessing your dog before you make your own decision.
I think it’s true that your dog tells you when it’s time to go. But I want to be sure I’m listening to the dog, and not to the emotional pain that I’m feeling at the loss.