If you have an ageing or ailing pet, or your pet gets severely injured, you might be faced with the difficult decision of whether or not you should put down your pet. This is one of the hardest choices a pet owner can face, so take your time.

No doubt your pet is your best friend, your companion, your buddy, but unfortunately, their biggest flaw is their limited life span. If your dog or cat gets very sick or injured the decision to put them down might be obvious. Certainly, it may be a case of “it would be cruel to let them live”.

On the other hand, perhaps your canine companion or feline friend has simply gotten old and is having difficulty doing the things they once loved. Or maybe he or she is suffering from age-related pain. In this case, you might need to consider putting your pet to sleep based on the animal’s quality of life (or lack of).

Is it the right time to put your pet down?

One method of assessing your pet’s quality of life is the Quality of Life Scale (also called the HHHHHMM scale). The tool was developed by Dr. Alice Villalobos, California-based vet and pioneer in the field of cancer care for companion animals.

The Quality of Life scale encourages pet owner’s to look at their animal’s hurt, hunger, hydration, hygiene, happiness, mobility and more good days than bad.

Indeed, knowing if it’s the right time to put your dog or cat down is an incredibly hard decision to make. Don’t go it alone—enlist the help of your vet.

You can ask your vet to also assess your pet based on the Scale’s criteria and compare his or her results with that of your own.

Understandably, pet owners can sometimes be guilty of manipulating the numbers to increase the quality of life score, which won’t do you or your pet any good in the long run.

If you’re still having a tough time making a decision about whether or not to put your pet down, you might want to try the simpler ‘good days versus bad days’ decider. If your pet is having more bad days than good days the sad fact is that it may be time to end their suffering.

A difficult decision to make

Another way to assess your pet’s quality of life is to jot down five or so things your furry friend loves doing such as chasing birds, playing ball, doing tricks or dinner time; if they can no longer do these things or can’t enjoy them, this might be a sign that their quality of life has declined.

Additionally, a pet diary can be a good way of indicating how a pet’s health or day-to-day activities have declined. Use it as a daily record of how your pet feels (through your observation), behaves and acts.

Note things like their ability to walk or run, appetite, bowel movements, weight, pain signals (whining or constant meowing), responsiveness (do they come when you call?). It’s important to be honest with yourself and record what you see, not what you want to see. The purpose of the diary is to establish an objective view of whether or not your pet’s health and quality of life is deteriorating.

Coming to terms with the decision to have your pet put down

Still wondering whether having your pet put down is the right thing to do?

Once a pet owner asks themselves or their vet the question “is it time to have my pet put down?” it’s generally a telltale sign that they’ve already made a decision in their heart. Now they just need their head to come to terms with the decision.

Talk to your family and friends as they may help you make that final choice by making a point or sharing a thought that helps confirm things for you.

Vets are well versed in counselling owners and will truly understand what a difficult and emotional decision you are facing. Allow them to share their expert views and advice.

Once you make the final decision to have your companion animal put to sleep, the vet will talk you through the methods and explain the procedure to you so that you can prepare yourself for the day.

It’s not easy dealing with the loss of a pet. It’s important to focus on your own healing and look for positive ways to move on.

Fortunately, pets leave us with many happy memories, which you can continue to cherish for years to come.


Have you had to make the difficult decision to put down a pet?

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Leanne Philpott

Leanne is a freelance writer at contentchameleon.com.au. She works alongside her fur pal Chewie (a border terrier) and is passionate about promoting responsible pet ownership.

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