If you’re growing more concerned about your pet’s condition, many veterinarians suggest you consult the Quality of Life Scale. It was developed by veterinarian Alice Villalobosand you simply rank your pet in seven different areas with a score of 0 to 10 (0 being worst):

  • hurt
  • hunger
  • hydration
  • hygiene
  • happiness
  • mobility
  • more good days than bad

If their total score is 35 or more, they likely have an acceptable quality of life. Anything lower may mean it’s time to talk to your veterinarian.

When you do have to let your pet go, it’s common to wonder if you’re making the right choice.

“The decision is often accompanied by shame and guilt,” Linda Simon, a member of the veterinary consult team for Pawleakssays in an email. “However, we should look at euthanasia as a ‘final kindness,’ something we can offer our pet, to prevent [their] suffering. While it can feel alien to book an appointment for this, I always tell my clients it is better to say goodbye a day too early rather than a day too late.”

The actual process is usually very peaceful for a pet and in some circumstances, can even come as a relief.

Some veterinarians will provide the services at your home, but nearly all veterinarians offer end-of-life pet services in their clinics. If you do choose to go to your vet’s clinic, they may have a special area or grief room for your family.

“Your pet will be brought right away into an exam room and made as comfortable as possible,” says Megan Conrad, a licensed veterinarian living in Oregon and working as a member of Hello Ralphiea telehealth company providing virtual care to pet parents across the U.S. “Depending on your pet’s health conditions and discomfort level, they may be given a mild sedative first by the vet.”

Typically, you’re given plenty of time to love on your pet as he gently relaxes. Then, as you caress him and give him words of affection, your veterinarian will give him a final injection “of what is basically an overdose of a sedative,” Conrad says. “This slows down the heart until it stops.” He feels no pain.

You should be prepared to either take your pet home for burial or to ask the veterinarian for recommendations for cremation or burial services. Most vets also will preserve a lock of hair from your pet or create a mold of their footprint for your remembrance.

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