After I turned the corner at sixty-eight last year, whatever is ailing me makes it into most conversations with my friends. But, as we know, your canine BFF speaks a different language. As veterinarians, we are trained to recognize distress in the animal world. Sadly, over the years, my veterinary eyes and ears have witnessed far too many suffering pets. Next comes the question: But Doc, I don’t think he is in pain? So, I ask, what is your definition of pain?  Most often that question is followed by a moment of silence and confusion.

Warning signs that your pet is struggling:

5 symptoms of orthopedic pain                           

  • Reluctance to use stairs
  • Struggling to lie down or get up
  • Panting while at rest
  • Walking slower
  • Decreased desire for outside walks

Five reasons to worry and call your vet!

  • Lack of appetite and weight loss – often early signs of malignant tumors and organ failure
  • Staggering or a loss of balance – can easily fall over
  • Isolation from family members and other pets – staying in a single room or closet
  • Change in breathing pattern – a signal for respiratory distress
  • Restlessness or aimless wandering – often a sign of dementia

Once a beloved pet has suffered past the point of any legitimate hope, I can determine there is needless suffering. Simply put – all the good days are gone. Now, there are only more bad days ahead. When I council pet owners traveling down this rocky road, I’m focused on asking questions that surround ‘quality of life’ issues. When did your dog loose interest or the ability to enjoy outdoor walks with you? When did your pet stop playing with favorite toys or other family pets? When did you notice your pet’s change in appetite? These questions help pet owners to understand when their pet started to transition into a patient. Now, with a heavy heart, the pet owner(s) are in the role of caretaker. As I relieve them from that duty, no more bad days as caretaker. Now, the healing begins.

What I know for sure is which activities and foods my pets truly enjoy. It’s important, not trivial, to recognize a happy and healthy pet. I’m grateful for their well-being each and every day. Now it’s time for pet owners to take inventory of their pet’s ability to enjoy life. For sure they bring us joy and unconditional love –that bond runs deep. I think about it like this: grief is the price we will ultimately pay for their devotion. As I finish this writing, Bertha Buttercup is napping near my desk and Kit Kat lies next to the keyboard. It’s another good day!

Note: Some mobile veterinarians will provide euthanasia services in the comfort and privacy of your home. Find one in your area – just ask Google.