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Time to say goodbye - when pets are nearing the end of life

Updated: Oct 24, 2023

By Kirsty Richards DipHomNZ

Saying goodbye to a pet is never easy. It’s even harder when you have to make that heartbreaking decision to have them euthanised if their quality of life is diminished.

Generally, this is when a pet is elderly and their health is deteriorating and no matter what you try, they’re just not getting any better. While the easiest thing for us as the owner is for the pet to gently and painlessly slip away over the rainbow bridge - this often isn’t the case.

It can be a huge dilemma for a pet owner - it can almost feel like you’re murdering your pet! “Am I making the right decision? Am I cutting her life short? Will she hate me?”

It’s one of the hardest decisions I had to make - as the owner of a beautiful 14 year old Huntaway/Labrador/Staffy X (Molly) - to have her euthanised. She was in constant pain, her mobility was affected, and she just looked sad.

She didn’t have incontinence or loss of appetite - two key indicators when it’s time to let a pet go - but she was losing the sparkle in her eye. Her love of life was rapidly fading and she was unable to do the things she used to enjoy. Even little walks had become painstakingly slow.

So how do you know when it’s time to help your pet pass over, and why should you?

Some of the key indications are:

  • Your pet is elderly with increasing health issues

  • Their health is severely compromised and they aren’t getting better

  • They are in pain (whining, they wince when touched, they find it hard to get comfortable)

  • They lose their appetite

  • They are having frequent “accidents” inside - urinary and bowel incontinence

  • They look miserable

  • They no longer seem interested in usual activities that used to bring them joy

  • They aren’t interested in their family/loved ones

  • They have lost the sparkle in their eyes

  • Their mobility is severely impacted

  • They seem disorientated or distressed

Why should you help your pet on your journey?

Ultimately, that’s a personal decision and it’s not my role to tell anyone what to do! All I can suggest is ask yourself some questions:

  • Does your pet have a good quality of life?

  • Are they going to get better?

  • Are you just delaying the inevitable?

  • What is kinder to the pet?

  • Are they going to suffer by delaying the process?

  • Are you keeping the pet alive for them, or for you?

How can Homeopathy help?

Homeopathy can prepare both you, the owner, and the pet for the time of transition. Whether your pet passes naturally, or it’s assisted - Ignatia for grief is the first remedy to reach for.

If you are having your pet euthanized, you can give your pet a couple of doses of Ignatia a day or two before the event (or just on the day if it is a quick decision).

If the passing is sudden, you can have a dose of Aconite for shock, followed by Ignatia.

Arsenicum Album is a good remedy to think of to help a pet who is in the transition between life and passing on.

Tips to help if it’s an assisted passing:

  • Talk to your pet in the day/s leading up to the event. I suggest scheduling the event no more than two days in advance (otherwise it’s lingering over your head)

  • Take photos

  • Have a farewell family event

  • Remember the good times

  • Include younger children - be honest with them about what is happening. Encourage them to make cards, pick flowers, draw pictures

  • Let yourself be sad and cry when you need to

  • Have the vet come to you if possible, it’s less stressful for you and your pet.

  • Afterward, spend some time with them to say goodbye. Take your time with this process.

Once your pet has passed away, allow yourself time to grieve. It can take weeks or months to fully come to terms with losing a beloved pet.

Ignatia daily for the first few days can help reduce that impact. If you seem unable to cope - not sleeping, bouts of crying for days on end - that’s the time to see a Homeopath for more specific guidance and support.

When I had Molly euthanised, the Vet came to my home and both my (teenage) children were present. It was a quick, painless procedure and I held Molly while it happened. She was asleep in seconds. I held her for a few minutes afterwards and then we as a family sat talking about her and celebrated her life. We sat and toasted her life well lived - and then had a beautiful burial and ceremony.

I was upset the day of the procedure but felt surprisingly at peace and relief once it was over. She was no longer in pain and I knew I made the right decision.

Months later and yes, we still miss Molly. She was the best dog I ever had (and I’ve had a few!). But she had a great life. She was loved, and to me, helping her cross that rainbow bridge was the greatest act of love I could give her. It wasn’t about what I wanted - it was for her.

For all your pet owners out there facing this very difficult time, here’s a poem for you x

I’m Free

Don’t grieve for me, for now I’m free

I’ve left behind some misery

My days of youthful agility

Were no longer a possibility

My weak joints and cloudy eyes

Were longing for the heavenly skies

Before I lost all dignity

You let me enter eternity

Don’t grieve for me

You’ve set me free

Just remember how I used to be!!

In loving memory of Molly Lollies - December 2006- 10 September 2020. “The best dog in the World"


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