When is right time to say goodbye to a beloved pet?

PETS are beloved members of the family and when they are diagnosed with a terminal illness, deciding when it's the right time to say goodbye can be very traumatic for pet owners.

Oncology specialist, Dr Peter Bennett, University of Sydney, who discussed the topic at the recent Australian Veterinary Association's NSW Division Conference, said that from his experience, breaking bad news to clients and discussing end of life decisions are not easy.

"Just like for people, there's no standard assessment for quality of life when it comes to pets," he said.

"From my perspective and experience, quality of life for pets is about considering the things that appear to be very important to the pet.

"There's the pet who just lives to eat, the pet that goes crazy at the sight or mention of a ball or when a lead is brought out. It's usually a good indicator that the quality of life is poor if there's no longer any interest in these things.

"There may be good days and bad days, but it's a real concern when the good ones are the exception rather than the rule."

Dr Bennett said that with many chronic diseases, where there's a gradual decline in quality of life, it can be hard to define when the most appropriate time is to euthanise.

"There are some situations where the decision time is clear such as when there's uncontrollable pain or distress. But it can be harder when an owner's pet is becoming slowly less mobile, the appetite varies and they are losing weight slowly," he said.

"Another consideration is the amount of time the owner can devote to their pet. Those with limited time can't realistically care for a high dependency patient.

"Vets can provide the equivalent of hospice care and in most cases keep the animal comfortable, but living for long periods in a clinic on high levels of pain relief provides very little quality of life for a dog or cat.

"Regardless of the situation, if euthanasia is inevitable, it's important that owners give themselves the time they need to be able to accept the decision.

"Rushing the process can lead to feelings of intense guilt, that will feed into their grief."

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