When is it Time?

There is usually not one perfect moment in time in which to make that ultimate choice of euthanasia (unless the pet is truly suffering). Rather, there is a time period in which euthanasia is an appropriate decision to make.  This time period could be hours, days, weeks, or even months. Euthanasia should be chosen to prevent further physical or emotional suffering for your pet and the emotional suffering of your family.

Ask your veterinarian for the exact signs of suffering likely to be associated with your pet’s condition or disease. Observing and keeping an accurate record of your pet in his daily activities can help you to decide. If you observe that moments of discomfort outweigh his capacity to enjoy life, it may be time to euthanize, even if your pet still experiences pleasure in eating or socializing. If your pet is in pain, your main goal should be to minimize his suffering.

When you contact us, our Care Team will explain the entire process to you and answer any questions that you might have. In addition, at the appointment, our veterinarians will also go over the process and answer your questions. However, the decision is always yours to make.

Dogs and Cats

When cats and dogs are suffering, they may not show outward signs like whimpering or crying. Sometimes an animal will continue to eat or drink in spite of pain. The following is a list of behaviors that may indicate your pet is experiencing pain:

  • Irregular behavior patterns
  • A higher than normal anxiety level
  • Excessive panting or gasping for breath
  • Your pet no longer enjoys or seeks out contact with you and the rest of its family
  • Reluctance to move or consistent pacing especially at night; restlessness
  • Avoidance of his favorite activities
  • Changes in the dynamic between him and other pets in the house
  • Seeking out unusual places to sleep or hide


The following is a list of behaviors that may indicate it is time:

  • Suffering untreatable pain from a large tumor;
  • No longer able to eat or drink normally;
  • Can no longer breathe properly;
  • Can no longer empty its bowels or bladder without pain or is incontinent;
  • Unable to stand or move normally; and/or,
  • Is blind and/or deaf and cannot live a fulfilled life.


The following is a list of behaviors that may indicate it is time:

  • Most ferrets will begin to refuse food. This is different, again, from the temporary anorexia associated with the green virus, the flu, or other lesser illnesses. While force-feeding is necessary – sometimes for weeks – with these diseases, a terminally ill ferret should not be further stressed by forcing food. If they have a terminal illness, not eating is one of the signs they are ready to pass on.
  • The muscles in their hindquarters weaken and they can barely stand on all legs and must crawl to their litter pans. (And many will! It’s amazing how even the very ill will try not to soil themselves or their bedding.)
  • Unable to get to their litter.
  • Carefully observe and interpret your ferret’s movements and reactions. A healthy ferret enjoys being petted and responds positively to ear scratches, rib rubs, or back massages. Even an ill animal will show signs of comfort being held quietly in your lap. An extremely ill ferret will be unresponsive – will not pick up their head, or may even try to move away as if your touch was too tiring for them.
  • When death is rapidly approaching, you may find your ferret collapsed, taking deep breaths. Their body temperature will drop to 97 degrees or less. If they are moaning or wheezing with each breath, they are near to death. If they are comatose, with their back arched and their head stiffly pointing up, the muscle contractions prior to death have begun. There is nothing you or anyone can do to at this point.
  • Internal cancers may grow to the point that collapse major organs causing your pet to hemorrhage internally. A sign of this may be a black tarry stool (unless you’ve been feeding too many raisins).
  • A severe loss of blood, either eliminated or vomited.