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Published: Sep 21, 2012

One of the hardest decisions you may encounter as a pet owner is deciding when to put your dog or cat down. It's a sad and frustrating fact that our beloved pets have shorter life spans, but part of being a caring owner means understanding when your canine or feline companion is experiencing too much pain to make his or her life worth living. If you're struggling with this decision, here are some tips to help guide you.

What does the vet say?
Vets are always the best people to talk to about possibly putting your dog or cat down. They will be able to tell you how long your pet may have to live, what his or her quality of life may be like, and what other owners have done in similar circumstances. Vets can also give you an objective opinion, and offer advice on how to cope with pet loss after making this difficult and heartbreaking choice.

Is your pet's illness curable?
Many pet owners come to a decision about euthanasia after their pet has received a diagnosis. Some illnesses, like diabetes insipidus in dogs or obesity in dogs or cats are not fatal and with proper treatment, afflicted pets can still live full and happy lives. Other illnesses may contribute to a decline in quality of living, and thus may prompt you to put your dog or cat down. Some of the diseases or changes in health that may warrant such a choice include blindness, incurable cancer, pain associated with severe arthritis in dogs or kidney failure in cats or dogs.

Does your pet still enjoy life?
When you boil it down, the question you must ask yourself is if your dog or cat still truly enjoys life. You must do your best to separate yourself from this question, as it's likely you want your pet to remain a part of your life for as long as possible. You may want to ask your vet to go over veterinarian Dr. Alice Villalobos' quality-of-life scale, which aims to provide an objective outlook on an animal's end of life experience. It rates pain in dogs or cats, as well as animals' hunger, hydration, hygiene, happiness, mobility, and whether they are having "more good days than bad." Each is rated on a scale from one to 10, which may help put your pet's life quality in perspective.