Waiting too long, hoping for a natural death or persisting with futile treatment
Nobody wants their pet to suffer at the end of their life. However, recognising pain and other uncomfortable symptoms is not always straightforward for a pet owner.
As end-of-life approaches, there can be good moments within bad days, and it is natural to focus on these good moments, no matter how brief, in hope that things may not be as bad as they really are, and to defer or totally avoid the very difficult topic and decision for euthanasia.
Ultimately, in end-of-life situations, most people wish that their pet could die peacefully in their sleep. The reality is that a peaceful ‘natural death’, and one without undue pain or suffering in the build-up to the active dying phase, is very uncommon (particularly in cases of cancer or organ failure). Also, ‘natural death’ does not happen as readily or as quickly as one may hope, as we provide our pets with a protected environment.
Or the situation may be that you wish to ‘do everything possible’ for your pet, despite the odds. You may want further treatment when the possibility of meaningful improvement or quality of life is futile. Or you might request or refuse treatment against medical advice. From your perspective, you want to try everything and preserve hope that things can improve.
Or you simply are not ready to let go yet.
The scenarios of ‘hoping for a natural death’ or ‘doing everything possible against the odds’ is more likely to occur if this is your first experience of a declining or terminal illness in your pet. However, on reflection these people often report that they ‘waited too long’ and the next time they are more likely to make the decision earlier in the course of their next pet’s illness.
Waiting too long risks a sudden or escalating crisis happening and your pet suffering. Such a crisis is especially stressful when it happens out-of-hours when veterinary assistance is not so readily available. We strongly recommend that owners of declining or terminally ill pets seek veterinary guidance with ongoing support and out-of-hours emergency plan options.
If you wish for a peaceful, calm, in-home end-of-life experience for your pet, planning ahead can help make this a reality.