How do I know when my pet is ready to go?

Australian animal communicator Sarah Messina - Wild Insights

© by Animal Communicator Sarah Messina


It's the hardest decision a pet owner can make - deciding when is the right time to let go. When your pet is terminally ill, severely wounded, or very old, the question remains - how do I know when is the right time? I cannot advise one path over another. My experience as an animal communicator has shown me that there is no universal 'right'. Some animals prefer euthanasia while others insist upon natural death. Sometimes animals are ready and sometimes they are not. Here are some considerations which may assist in making the decision.

Pet Life Quality

  • Behaviour - is your pet having trouble drinking / eating / going to the toilet? Do they have desire to do these things? How is their mobility? Can they sit, stand, walk around?
  • Quality of Life - Does your pet appear to be happy? Are they having more good days than bad days? Is there a reasonable possibility that they will improve?

What Others Say

  • Vets - Your vet can assess your animal and should advise you on all options. The opinion of a trusted vet is invaluable. If you are not comfortable with your vets' guidance, pay attention to your gut feelings. Get a second opinion, and a third if you like. It's worth it.
  • Friends / Family - All too often, well-meaning partners, family and friends provide terrible advice. It might seem awful to say it, but I recommend you discard any advice that doesn't sit well with you. YOU are the expert in knowing your pet. Don't let anybody convince you that they know better than you.
  • Pets - I always ask the pets what they want. Ask yourself, ask in a private moment with your animal, and ask out loud. They will tell you. For so many, animal communication has been the guiding light in the fog. Whether before euthanasia, or after death, pets can share with you what they want and need from you.

Know Yourself

  • Motives - It's important to get extremely honest with yourself. Face your own motives. If you think you might be holding on too long, look at why. If you think you might be jumping to solutions because you can't bear discomfort, look at why. Ask yourself what your pet would want. Ask yourself if you know what should be done, if anything. Ask your guts, not your brain.
  • Coping Mechanisms - Are you scared of death, human or animal? Do you know how to process grief? Can you let go, and can you allow your pet to let go? Will you be okay with your decision? Can you take responsibility and find coping strategies that are healthy for you?

Here are some of the questions I'm asked about pet euthanasia decisions.

I think my pet is ready, what are my options?
1) Vet-assisted euthanasia. This can be done at home, or at the vet. When asked, most pets have told me that they want their people to be present with them during the process.
2) Un-assisted 'natural' death. Your pet chooses when and where they pass. 
My experience is 50/50 between assisted and natural death preferences. One is not better than the other. It's personal. My advice... ask them, and let them choose.

I've heard putting a pet down a day early is better than a day late. Is this true?
Not in my experience. I've had more of the opposite with my clients. Take the time it takes to make the decision. Don't rush it and make a decision you'll regret. I'm not suggesting you use this as an excuse to procrastinate, but go easy on yourself. It's not something you decide in an instant.

I feel pressured to make this decision, I don't know what to do.
Firstly, assess the risk. What will happen if you don't decide immediately? In 24 hours? In a week? Be realistic about the consequences. Get informed by talking to your vet and your pet. Don't listen to anyone who doesn't understand the bond you have with your animal. Get support from good people. Sit with your pet, and just open your heart. Let them tell you what they need.

My pet is being treated, but there's no improvement. Do I try another solution or let go?
Look at all the options. Is there reasonable chance for cure or significant improvement on another treatment, or are you delaying the inevitable? When pets are very old or very sick, they can prefer no treatment over invasive treatments. You need to weigh up the likeliness of a new treatment working vs any discomfort caused by the treatment, and whether that is what your animal would want.

My partner says I'm being selfish holding on too long.
This is one of the most common issues I hear. Usually, the person I'm talking to knows exactly what's right for them and their animal, but someone else's opinion is interfering. If this is the case, understand that they are only trying to help prevent further suffering for you or your animal. Tell them that you understand that, and kindly tell them to mind their own.

I feel so cruel when I see my pet in pain. What do I do?
This is really tough. My heart goes out when I see an animal in pain. But there is pain and there is suffering. My 91 year old grandma is often in pain, but she wouldn't dream of being put down! Her feisty spirit lives on in her degenerating body. Medication helps, but pain still exists. Some days are worse, but her overall quality of life is good. Some pain is normal and acceptable for old age and illness. Suffering is debilitating, unbearable, consistent. So what you really need to ask is, is my animal experiencing acceptable pain, or is my animal suffering?

I get the feeling my pet is holding on.. why?
Pets hold on for a few key reasons. There might be something unresolved, a relationship that needs repairing or a conflict that needs settling. Often they are keenly aware that their human can't let them go, so then they can't go. Sometimes they're just waiting to pass on a message before they go. In a few cases, medication has prevented an animal from transitioning, but if you suspect this be sensible - talk to your vet for advice on withdrawing medication.

Wild Insights animal communicator Sarah Messina offers an online animal communication course
designed to help you learn to talk to the animals. Learn more about animal communication courses.