Unfortunately there will come a time when your pet is tired and their body is worn out and ready to pass. We all hope it will be peaceful and quick. There are lots of emotions and factors that influence decisions at a time like this. Here are some common sentiments and thoughts that go through our heads.
“I Wish He Would Just Go to Sleep and Naturally Die”
Most dogs and cats don’t fall sleep and then pass away gently in their sleep. 95% of our pets will have many days of challenging stages of deterioration and pain before they finally pass.
“But My Pet is Not Crying So He is Not in Pain”
The problem with dogs and cats is they hide their pain and make it difficult to know they are suffering. They are predators and to show pain is a sign of weakness that could make them vulnerable. They are also very stoic and this also contributes to missing signs of discomfort and suffering. This means we as their caregivers must learn to read the small subtle signs. Pets wont cry and whine, instead they may become quieter and seem more sleepy. This lethargy is from feeling sick too unwell to move around more. Appetite decrease can also be seen from experiencing pain. Shivering and trembling can be mistaken for being cold, whereas often it is pain and anxiety.
“He Is Walking Around at Night and Panting, He Seems to Have a Lot of Energy”
The body has a natural steroid called cortisol. Cortisol has a natural rhythm and increases during the day and falls at night. A steroid reduces inflammation which is often a cause of pain or discomfort. Therefore at night when the body’s natural steroid is decreased the body experiences difficult sensations. Animals will pace and seem restless, they can’t sleep or lay for any length of time to rest. The increased breathing rate and panting is a sign of pain and anxiety. Remember that hospice care for humans is far more advanced than for animals and adequacy of pain control is insufficient for our pets at home towards the end.
We All Wish They Would Die Gently in Their Sleep
If you do decide to try to let nature take its course be prepared for some difficult times. You may come to realize that you can’t bear to watch your pet suffering and suddenly want to humanely put your pet to sleep. Pain can become intense quickly. Try to have friends or family that you can reach out to for support to help support you.
Natural death is not peaceful and gentle. With humane euthanasia the animal will drift into a sleep with sedation and then pass away with the second medication. There may be twitches and their eyes often stay open but it is gentle and easy for them. Unlike this a natural death can take hours or days, the legs can become stretched out in front and their head lifted with difficult breaths. Seizures and vocalizing are frequently seen right before the pet passes and be difficult to watch.
We are here for you and will do our best to be with you exactly when you want us. Please know it is much more peaceful and kind to be a day early then a day too late. Grief is inevitable but guilt can be avoided with a little planning and preparedness.