Sleeping dog

Letting your pet go 

Knowing when the time has come to say goodbye


When it comes to deciding when to let your pet go, there isn’t one “right time” that applies in all circumstances. In some cases, the vet may tell you the time has come for your pet to be put to sleep. This may happen if all the treatment options have been exhausted, if there is a poor prognosis, and if not putting your pet to sleep will only prolong their physical or mental suffering. In other situations, you may have to make the decision, based on how much your pet’s quality of life has deteriorated.

Quality of life 

The term “quality of life refers to your pet’s overall physical and mental well-being. Here are some signs to look out for that might indicate that your pet is suffering and no longer has a good quality of life:

Your pet...

  • no longer enjoys eating and drinking (perhaps they will only take treats from your hand or need  to be “force-fed”)
  • experiences more pain than pleasure (has more bad days than good)
  • suffers from chronic pain that can’t be relieved with medication
  • has chronic breathing problems (e.g., pants even when resting)
  • vomits and has diarrhoea frequently, leading to significant weight loss and dehydration
  • can no longer stand on their own
  • can no longer move normally and needs assistance
  • doesn’t respond or interact with you in the way they used to
  • no longer likes to play or do activities they used to enjoy
  • has become withdrawn and hides away more than before
  • has undergone behaviour changes
  • has become aggressive due to pain and is now a danger to other animals or to humans
  • has a condition that will only get worse over time
  • no longer seems to enjoy life (seems depressed)
  • is losing weight
  • can’t pee or poo normally
  • starts losing his senses (seeing, hearing etc.)
  • might experience vestibular disorders which can lead to orientation problems or confusion often accompanied by sudden startle behaviour, barks, whining etc.
  • can show changes in the outer appearance (mostly coming from the inside) such as flaky, dull fur, bad breath and body odour etc.

If you notice any of the above signs, write them down and keep a record of how often they occur. Talk to your vet. He or she will do everything possible to improve the situation for your pet. However, eventually the time may come when your vet tells you that any further treatment will only prolong your pet’s life without improving their quality of life.


Learn More About Pain in Pets

Understanding your pet's feelings and signs of pain

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