Anna Akana on When To Put Your Pet Down

After my last post, I was scrolling through my YouTube ‘Watch Later’ playlist when I saw this video. It may have been masochistic but I watched it and thought it might be relevant to post here, especially after my last post.

Our experiences (my recent experience at least) are very different as her cat was ill for an extended period and Lucky, although struggling physically, was happy and engaged and as healthy as an old dog could be until the night before. There wasn’t really time to come to the decision comfortably (or as comfortably as possible) but, for me, as distressing as it was, I knew it was time. It felt like he was telling us that. So again, (potentially) different scenarios.

She talks about Quality of Life scales and I looked them up but again, that sort of thing wasn’t really applicable in our situation. The change was so dramatic that we would’ve taken him to the vet regardless. In my opinion, I’m not sure a scale or internet numbers can make that sort of decision for you. I think that’s a decision only you and your vet can make.

She mentions financial situations, which is an important point. We were lucky (a pun that never got old – at least for me) that Lucky was insured so we were able to get him the painkillers and medications he needed, the hydrotherapy to build and then manage muscle mass, and cover the vet appointments. If I could give anyone with a pet one piece of advice, it would be to insure said pet. It’s been a life saver, quite literally at times, with our animals and I’m so grateful. It’s also given us the time to get used to the idea of the loss of them because it’s often been less sudden (Lucky might’ve deteriorated in a day but he’d been struggling – with support – for a while so we were aware of the situation).

“If your pet is terminally ill, you may have to put them down before you feel comfortable doing so and if that’s the case, it’s okay. I want you to know it’s okay.”

She mentions five factors that help you to make this decision:

  1. Do they have more good days than bad? – As I’ve said all the way through, Lucky deteriorated in one day so although he had bad days, his health was pretty consistent day to day. It was a very sudden decision.
  2. Mobility – Lucky’s mobility was always his weakest area, health wise, so this was an issue and ultimately the one that made the decision for us. In the end, he just couldn’t use his back legs. He couldn’t stand and that, I think, was what left him so low and uninterested in everything. He suddenly couldn’t move and I can’t imagine how difficult that sudden change was for him.
  3. Are they in pain? She talks about how her vet says you can tell an animal’s in pain when they stop interacting. – Lucky had constant pain from his inherited arthritis but we were managing it with medications and hydrotherapy but after his bout of Geriatric Vestibular Disease, his  existing problems seemed to become worse. But he was so loving and excitable that even when he could no longer jump up to greet you, he bounced on his paws out of joy. It makes me cry to remember that.
  4. Are meals difficult? Are they losing weight? – As a Labrador, Lucky was always very excited about food. That continued to the end of his life but he was losing weight and muscle mass and in the end, he couldn’t get up to eat.
  5. “You. How is this affecting you? Are you financially able to support your pet down this road? Is it more compassionate for the both of you to end their suffering now? Does the illness require you to be at home all the time to monitor them?”

She also explains the process of the in home euthanasia of her cat, Jimmy.

“What I found most comforting in this time is the following words from my therapist: ‘Jimmy found a loving and wonderful mother in you. That is a part of life that transcends time and gets to be yours always. Your time with your pet is yours, always. And you’ll know when it’s time to let them go. It’s a very brave, compassionate, and really hard decision but I and your furbaby trust that you will do right by them.'”

She ends with a variation on her usual closing: “I’m Anna Akana. Go and adopt some fucking cats and love them for me. Goodbye.”