It can be nerve-wracking when your fur-baby is seriously ill or feeling the effects of old age. Because they cannot speak to us directly, it’s hard to know for certain how our animal companions are feeling or what’s going through their minds. That uncertainty can lead you to asking yourself a lot of difficult questions.
How do you know that it’s time to say goodbye? Is it normal for your pet to start acting differently toward the end? How can you tell if this is the end, or if it’s just a rough day? What should you be doing to support them?
These aren’t simple questions to answer. But by knowing a little bit about how animals perceive the world, and by working closely with your veterinarian, you can come closer to finding some peace when confronting your companion’s mortality.
Have you ever heard someone talking about an old cat or dog wandering off to “find somewhere to die?” It’s true that, sometimes, animals will seek out a hiding place when they’re seriously ill or injured. However, it’s not universal, and their desire for alone time does not necessarily mean that they are dying.
As animals, dogs and cats have carried over some instincts from their untamed ancestors. In the wild, illness and injury can make an animal more vulnerable. The instinct to hide is often one of self-preservation. If your pet is sick, their desire to hide under the bed or behind the couch may simply mean that they aren’t feeling well.
Sometimes, that instinct is engaged when a pet’s body is slowing down and approaching death. But it can also be triggered by pain, fever, and other treatable signs. If you notice your pet seeking solitude or acting more aloof than usual, your best course of action is to contact your veterinarian.
Because our fur-kids love and trust us, they often turn to us for comfort when they’re feeling sick. Don’t be offended if your pet grows more distant when she’s under the weather, but don’t be alarmed if she gets unusually clingy or needy, either.
Some pets are very stoic. Others are extremely expressive. And some can experience personality changes as they age due to cognitive decline, pain, and other factors. For the most part, it’s best to let your pet be the guide when deciding how to act.
If they want more cuddles and attention, by all means shower them with love and affection. If they’re feeling more irritable and standoffish, you might want to find a different way of providing attention, like offering treats or talking to them in a soothing voice.
If your pet has been diagnosed with a serious illness or a chronic condition, you’ll need to work closely with your veterinarian to make a plan for identifying disease progression and deciding when it’s time to intervene and consider euthanasia. Your vet knows your pet’s medical history, and you know your pet’s personality and day-to-day life better than anyone. Together, you can identify some signs that your companion’s quality of life may be declining.
Some things you may look out for include:
• Changes in behavior, like sudden clinginess or stoicism
• Hiding or sleeping in unusual places
• More frequent accidents indoors
• Loss of interest in favorite foods and activities
• Pain or loss of mobility
• More “bad” days than good ones
By deciding early on what to look out for, you can save yourself the uncertainty of wondering whether it’s time to put your pet to sleep, and the anguish of worrying that you waited too long.
At Best Friends Pet Passings and Cremations, we exist to provide Albuquerque pet parents with as many resources as we can to help make saying goodbye as peaceful as possible. We can help you find an at-home euthanasia service, provide grief resources, and of course can handle every aspect of your pet’s cremation. Call 505-345-5615 with questions and to learn how we can help you in this difficult time.
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