As you know I was a cat mom to my precious furballs Precious and Dusty. Precious happened to pass away on her own in my arms however Dusty was a different story. If you are a pet parent dealing with a terminal illness your pet is battling, you may need to consider euthanasia. I’m an eternal optimist however I’m also a realist. Miracles do happen and I do believe in the power of prayer however I also firmly believe when your number is up, it’s time to go. I wrote a previous blog post about my experience regarding finding out about Dusty’s terminal illness called The Phone Call That changed My Life.
In this post, I’m going to tell you about my experience in deciding how I knew it was time to euthanize my pet. Here are some of the factors I considered before having Dusty put down. You may find that this list may help you in your own decision-making process to see what’s right for you and your pet.
I discovered Dusty had a tumor by her thyroid and was told it was inoperable by my vet. Well after the initial shock, I went into mommy mode. I had to get all the information and look at all my options and do what was best for my pumpkin.
Here are factors I had to consider.
I had a very good veterinarian and was always happy with their service and friendliness. However when I was told they were not comfortable operating on Dusty since the tumor position was in the midst of vital arteries, I felt that answer was not good enough. I had to get another opinion. After doing an internet search and reading reviews, I found another veterinarian that was well-respected in the community and had decades of good reviews and trust from other happy satisfied patients.
Dusty, my husband and I went to visit the second vet and felt optimistic because he was able to tell in 30 seconds, “Yep. It’s a tumor on her thyroid.” He reviewed my vet’s records and actually gave them praise for their detail and reputable staff. However they were not willing to do what he was. So I asked him, “I was told it’s inoperable. Is that certain? Can you remove it?” He said “Yes. I think so. Cost will be about …”
“The cost will be about $2000…” The news was bittersweet. I was overjoyed that she could have her tumor removed but $2000 was money I didn’t expect to spend let alone have. I was about to charge it! Until he added, “…and then after surgery, we’ll need to have her on chemo treatments, and testing and follow up…all for additional costs of course. The receptionist can work up some numbers for you, or take time to think about it this week.”
After hearing the cost I could understand and relate to people who say they just cannot afford to pay. I was willing to charge my Visa however what halted my decision on moving forward was having Dusty on chemo, dragging out the suffering. I started to wonder, at what cost? Would this end up being a means to an end? She was a senior cat at this point and I needed to really give this some thought.
Type of illness and treatment options
Along with the cost, I had to consider her treatment options. Before visiting the vet for a second opinion I had already searched online for holistic treatments and nutrients for my cat online. I had ordered holistic treatments for cancer and Dusty seemed to perk up and respond well energy wise however the tumor continued to grow. Now, considering this second vet’s option of surgery sounded good however there was no guarantee at her age as a senior she’d do well under anesthesia. Also, the prospect of immediately having her do chemotherapy appointments seemed like torture on her little petite frame.
There is also the issue of age to consider. Dusty was 13 ½ years old almost going to be 14 years old. She was battling cancer and her weight was reduced to 5.5 pounds at one point. She was nothing but bones and fur. I didn’t think she was strong enough to handle surgery and chemo, so I decided to get a fresh perspective.
I searched online for stories and testimonies of pet parents who were going through the same ordeal. After reading a number of blogs and testimonials from other pet parents who when forward with surgery with their older pets, it was saddening to know so many testimonies included stories of pets being in a lot of pain afterwards, getting infections or dying after surgery from complications. I thought to myself, “Would I just be fighting to spare extra time at this point? She is almost 14 years old. It’s easier for a younger pet to recover from surgery vs. an older pet” I didn’t want to be selfish and have her suffer unnecessarily just so I could have more time with her. So then I had to think of quality of life.
Consider basic ability to function (bathroom, eating, breathing, pain)
When faced with all these factors one of the most important ones that helped me make a decision was quality of life! Can your pet use the bathroom? Are they still eating and drinking water regularly? Do they have problems breathing? Do they appear in pain?
As a few weeks went by I could tell that her condition worsened. Dusty started getting more lethargic. And her tumor continued to grow on the side of her throat. Ironically the steroid medication I had been giving her from my vet keep her blood count number steady and she started to gain a little weight by Christmas. However, right after the New Year she took a turn for the worst and didn’t eat as much. She appeared uncomfortable and then 2 days before she passed you could hear her labored breathing. Dusty looked like it took all her energy to breathe comfortably. She also did not use the restroom the whole day before she passed and spent most of her last hours in her favorite spot on her kitty condo where she felt most comfortable.
One of the other things I had to do is some self-reflection. If it was me in that position, would I want quality of life or just to exist? I knew my answer. And knowing Dusty’s vibrant loveable nature, she’d want quality over quantity of days hands down.
People say “You’ll know when it’s time” to let go. I was never quite sure until it happened to me. After all these things considered, I knew my time was almost up with Dusty, especially since her breathing was now labored and she wasn’t eating. You know in your gut. It’s instinctual. The following day as my husband was petting Dusty and checking on her she started to have coughing and gagging reflex. She couldn’t stop and I tried to pet and console her.
Something in my gut let me know “She’s going. It’s time.” We called our 24 hr emergency vet and took her to urgent care. In less than 30 minutes we were in the urgent care. The compassionate vet took a look at her and took her vitals and his prognosis confirmed what we already knew; she was crashing. It was time. The time had come for Dusty to make her transition to a better place of no pain.
The doctor left the room so we could say our goodbyes. I remember whispering in her ear and telling her “Dusty, I told you we would make sure you wouldn’t have to suffer and give you the best quality of life. I love you. Now fly free.” I could see one last time the flicker of light in her eyes.
That evening was heart-wrenching and difficult but I know we made the right choice for she was no longer in pain and discomfort. She was now free. We miss her every day as she was one of the family but never forgotten. As painful as it is to lose a beloved pet, you never regret one moment you’ve spent on Earth with them.
I hope sharing my experience helps you, or someone you know, currently deciding if euthanasia is right for them. We as pet parents want the best for our fur babies and sometimes the best thing we can do for them is show the greatest act of love by learning to let go.
Have you ever dealt with the decision to euthanize your pet? What tips would you add? Comment and share below.
Post originally published March 2017. Updated October 2021.