When is the right time?

Making the difficult decision to say goodbye to your companion

As pet owners, we cherish the bond we share with our furry friends. They become an integral part of our lives, offering us companionship, love, and endless joy. But there may come a time when we have to make the heartbreaking decision to say goodbye. As a compassionate veterinary surgeon and pet owner, I understand the weight of this decision and the pain it brings. When I reflect upon the end of my last dog’s life, vivid memories and mixed emotions still come to mind despite it being over three years since we said our final farewells. One day, I will write about my personal experience of loving and losing Puddle but in this article, I will outline the importance of considering your pet's quality of life and putting their needs first when contemplating euthanasia. 

1. Understanding Quality of Life:

Our pets cannot communicate their feelings and emotions in words, making it crucial for us to closely observe their behaviour and condition. Quality of life is a vital aspect to consider when weighing the decision to euthanise. Ask yourself: Is my pet experiencing more pain than pleasure? Are their daily activities becoming increasingly difficult or impossible to carry out? Often, our furry friends let us know through their expressions, lack of appetite, increased weakness, or withdrawal from activities they once loved. Some families find it helpful to measure their companion’s quality of life using score charts or answering key questions about their pet. An example can be found here, from the wonderful animal charity, PDSA. By recognising your pet’s discomfort and being brave enough to admit that difficult decisions may lay ahead, you can carefully prepare for a peaceful ending which is in itself, an act of love and a way to honour their loyalty. 

2. Consultation with a veterinarian:

While you know your pet better than anyone, it is vital to consult with a professional veterinarian, who can provide an objective assessment and help you navigate your choices. A vet can help evaluate your pet's overall condition, discuss available options, and answer any questions you may have. They can offer valuable insights based on their expertise and help you navigate through this difficult time. Finding a vet that shows empathy and care at this time is vital to helping you feel you are arriving at the right decision. You should never feel rushed or pressured during these discussions. 

3. Celebrating the Life Well-Lived:

Euthanasia is a profound responsibility and a final act of love we can provide for our pets. Although it may feel overwhelming, remember that by making the decision, you are relieving your beloved friend of undue suffering. Holding on for a little bit longer may bring you additional time but the quality of this time may be less than you’d hoped and could impact negatively on your pet’s wellbeing. Instead, try to focus on the beautiful memories that you have created together - the wagging tails, the playful purrs and the unconditional love and bond that you’ve shared. Celebrate the joyous moments and honour your pet's well-lived life.

4. Arranging a Peaceful Journey:

In your pet's final moments, it is essential to create a calm and peaceful environment. Some veterinary clinics may offer a dedicated space for euthanasia and they will try their best to reduce the stress that a visit to the vets can have. Unfortunately, despite everyone’s best efforts, many pets struggle going into the vets. If you are lucky, you may be able to get your regular vet to make a house call, but sadly this is becoming a rarity as vet practices don’t have enough staff to offer this service. Thankfully, there are dedicated mobile vets who can meet the needs of families at this time. A visit at your own home is the most peaceful and calm option because it ensures your pet is surrounded by familiar sights, smells, sounds and an abundance of love. 

During a home euthanasia visit you and your companion should be at the centre of everything. You should look for a trusted vet who can put everyone at ease, someone who treats your pet with the highest level of care and dignity. If your pet shows interest in food, it is perfectly fine to spoil them in their final moments. Look for a vet who will give a gentle sedative to relax your pet which will send them into a deep sleep, providing plenty of time for you all to say your goodbyes. There should be no limit to who you want to be there, so consider having loved ones and family members present to provide comfort and support for both you and your pet.

5. Coping with Grief:

Saying goodbye to a cherished pet is an incredibly difficult experience. Remember, it is natural to grieve and mourn their loss. Seek support from friends, family, or even online communities that understand and empathise with your pain. The best veterinary clinics and home vets provide grief support services or can recommend resources that may aid in your healing process.  You can find many bereavement resources here.

Take the time to cherish the memories, and when you're ready, consider honouring your pet's life through a tribute or memorial. Your vet might even offer a web page or social media account where you can share photos of happier times. Posting a photo shares your love with a wider number of people and can help other families who may be going through similar circumstances. 


Making the decision to euthanise a beloved pet is never easy, but it is an act of profound love and compassion. By focusing on your pet's quality of life and putting their needs first, you are ensuring their dignity and wellbeing until the very end. Remember that veterinary professionals are here to guide you through this difficult journey, and there are resources available to support you in your grief. 

Although the loss of your companion may be an overwhelming experience, you can take comfort in knowing that you gave them a dignified and peaceful ending. Knowing that you did your very best for them when they needed you the most will help with the healing process. In time, your grief will be overshadowed by those many cherished memories.