Saying the final goodbye to a pet is never easy, but one B.C. veterinarian is urging owners to prioritize quality of life over length of life.
“Most owners regret letting go too late versus letting go too early,” Dr. Elizabeth Kuan said in a news release to mark World Pet Memorial Day on Tuesday.
“With terminal diseases where we’re expecting quality of life to slowly deteriorate, it’s better to let them go when they’re having a ‘good day’ rather than after they’ve suffered for weeks.”
Kuan, who works out of the BC SPCA’s hospital in Burnaby, said that owners can work with their vet to determine how much pain or suffering their furry friend is in by using quality of life scales and surveys. Factors to consider include symptoms a pet may already have, such as trembling or shaking, their mobility and overall behaviour.
“The bond that we share with our pets is incredibly special,” said Lorie Chortyk, general manager of communications for the BC SPCA.
“They bring so much love, joy, companionship and laughter to our lives. We never want to think about losing them.
“But when our pets reach the point where they can no longer live without pain or distress, we owe it to them to put our own feelings aside and to make the right decision for them.”
When the time does come to put an animal down, the BC SPCA has a number of tips in dealing with pet grief – which can sometimes take longer than expected.
“It’s important to understand that this is a genuine loss and that your feelings of grief are real and valid,” Chortyk said. “Seek out the support of friends and family during this difficult time. Some communities even have pet loss support groups where people can share and work through these feelings together.”
Ways to memorialize a beloved pet can include:
- Keep pet tags and put them on a key ring
- Record the happy memories in a journal
- Create a collage of photographs
- Make a donation to an animal welfare organization in the pet’s name
- Write a poem about the pet
- Plant a memorial tree