Watching your pet contend with a difficult illness can be really tough. Letting it go can be even tougher. So how do you make that decision? Five pet owners tell us their stories.
We also look at the advice and support you can get from Blue Cross if your pet passes away.
"Hugo was the best cat and the best friend ever. In November 2017, Hugo got ill. We noticed his right eye was weeping quite a bit and didn't seem that well focused. Sadly, the vets weren't able to make a proper diagnosis. They gave me some eye drops and said that should clear it. Which it did until a few weeks later when we noticed Hugo was wobbly when he walked.
I rushed him to vets. He’d lost his eyesight and was very unlikely to get it back. We were pretty upset but were reassured that cats still do amazingly well and adjust quickly. However, his high blood pressure was very high and the vet kept him in to take some bloods and monitor him. They checked for kidney disease and other such ailments. All came back negative. Everyone scratched their heads.
We collected him a day later and got him home. He was doing exceptionally well for a few days and then he got worse. He was lethargic, not wanting to move far from the litter tray, seeming completely confused by everything. I knew someone was very wrong. Again, back to the vets. This time our boy was diagnosed with kidney cancer. We were devastated.
Roz, our lovely vet, explained that we could do chemo, but it wouldn't really be fair on Hugo. He would have to come in at least twice a week. Put him in a stressful situation and to what avail? The outcome would still be the same. It would only prolong his life by a couple weeks/months? Who knew the amount of pain he was in? It's times like those, I wish I could speak cat!
We knew what we had to do. So, we did. On December 15th, 2017, we said goodbye to our boy. We had wonderful vets supporting us and were very lucky to have insurance - the total bill came to £4,700.
Four months on, we’ve got a new bundle of fluff, Larry. He's not a replacement but another family addition. Hugo will always be our best friend. He currently takes resident on his favourite bench in the house, and you'll often find my wife or I still talking to him."
"He was a tri-colour Basset Hound called Maverick. He was 12 years old. He immigrated from Kenya with us when he was just six months old and spent six months in quarantine kennels before we were all re-united.
He was a typical Basset - very strong willed and fiercely loving! He suffered from degenerative intervertebral disc disease.
He had spinal surgery which he recovered well from. However in the last few months of his life his back legs gradually became paralysed.
We opted for euthanasia. His quality of life was declining rapidly. He was in increasing discomfort and despite medication we were struggling to alleviate this.
From a vet's perspective, the decision to euthanise is of course an extremely difficult and traumatising one. Welfare and quality of life of the pet is the most important consideration.
With chronic disease and debilitation in old age, this decision can become even harder. I ask owners to assess the quality of life by making a diary of good vs bad days. And to consider this before we get to a point where we have no choice but to euthanase immediately.
It is paramount and comforting for owners (and vets) that we treat the pets with utmost care and allow them a dignified end."
"It was our cat Jinx, he was 12. Almost out of the blue he went deaf and blind. Both things seemed to happen at the same time so we're not sure what happened first, but we didn't notice the deafness until his retinas became detached and he went blind.
It was awful as he would walk around the house bumping into things and the only way we could make him aware of our presence was by banging on the floor next to him, so he felt the vibrations.
Sadly, there was no cure. He couldn't find his food bowl or get around at all after that and would just lay in his basket, so we made the difficult decision to put him down."
"My Rottweiler Jonas was diagnosed with cancer and started deteriorating. He was 12 and had had the cancer for some time but we didn't know as he’d never shown any signs.
He became very quiet and would just sit in a corner. Wouldn't eat wouldn't move. Bless, he wouldn’t move for anything but if I called him he would come sit near me. It was a difficult experience because this is when you can see how much dogs love and respect their owner. We called the vet, and he said there was nothing he could do and that we had to put him down.
My dad was away at the time and we couldn’t get in touch, and me and my grandma didn't know what to do, we didn’t want to put him down before my dad had the chance to say good bye.
But his facial expression had changed so much. He would lie with his head in my feet, and when he looked at me I could see he was asking for help - you feel these things, don't you.
We’d also had a Newfoundland which had died of a heart attack a few weeks before that. I think on top of it all Jonas felt lonely as he no longer had his buddy. I couldn’t bear to see him like that anymore. I thought we were only being selfish by keeping him alive until my dad comes back. He was suffering loads, so we had to let him go. It was a tough time for everyone, but it was for the best, I think."
"Fred was a big eater. He’d eat anything he picked up. He was hopeless. Occasionally he’d eat things that wouldn’t agree with him and he’d get diarrhoea. We were quite used to this. He always recovered, it was never a big deal, it was just his thing.
We moved to a house in a village and it had patio doors and he’d zoom out and run around the village nosing around. We had communal bins and people would sometimes dump rubbish on the ground if the bins were full.
One day he ran out and we found him by the bins. He got ill again. For the first day or two we thought same as usual – so gave him dry food, water, etc.
But this time around he was very listless, so we took him to the RSPCA hospital. This time it wasn’t something that he was going to get better from in a couple of days. They thought he might have an obstruction from whatever it is he ate. They did an x-ray, but it didn’t show anything. They then opened him up but didn’t find anything. In the end he was diagnosed with liver failure as the result of severe food poisoning.
The prognosis was really bleak. There was about 90% certainty he wouldn’t make it. It was quite heart-breaking - he was clearly really unhappy and in pain. We could continue with the drips and the intensive care but there was only a very slim chance that he got better? So, we had to make the decision to let him go.
Also, as we didn’t have insurance, at that point we simply couldn’t afford the costs it was going to take to keep him alive on the very tiny off chance that he recovered. You always go back and wonder what if, and I think that had I been able to afford it, I probably would have kept him in intensive care for whatever time he had left and hoped he recovered, even though it seemed quite pointless."