As Serissa, my 13-year-old Samoyed, neared the end of her life, I promised her that her quality of life would remain good, she would not suffer, her end would be peaceful, and she would not die alone. These promises sound easy and are what many would want for their own pet, but with the exception of not dying alone, they are highly subjective.
What is a good quality of life? What does suffering mean to me and what did it mean to Serissa? What qualifies as a peaceful ending?
Veterinarians are constantly asked, When is it time? Too often owners are told, You will know or They will give you a look. The problem is that owners do not always know and pets will not always give a specific look. Even trained veterinary professionals find it difficult to know when the time has come, so how can families be expected to know, especially when they are also dealing with anticipatory grief ? They rely on the veterinary team to guide them through the decision process. (See Resources.)