How do you know when it's time to let them go?

I've never had to deal with the death of a pet before. I've had Senji for 11 years. He's 16 1/2 now. The past 6 months have been bad for him. Balance and depth perception problems. His allergies have been horrible. This past week, he hasn't been eating much, but drinks a good bit. He's lost a fair amount of weight. He just sits and stares at his food, like he's forgotten how to eat it. Somehow, he manages to eat the $10/lb salmon, but turns his nose up at the ground turkey breast that he's always eaten. I made some turkey breast with lamb broth and he ate that, but he won't eat leftovers. Just making small amounts of fresh food for him. He'll go out in the front yard to pee, but I'm lucky if he poops once a day. He doesn't want to walk much anymore. He can still jump up on the sofa, but sometimes loses his balance when he jumps down. He gets snarky when I try to help him down. He's mostly deaf, but somehow hears the birds chirping at 5am, when he wakes me up to take him outside. He doesn't seem to be in any pain. Just lethargic. I'm mostly frustrated. I started a new job last month, but my mom stays with him while I'm gone.

I found that you will just know when it is their time to go. We just went through this a month and a half ago when we found out or Toller had lymphoma. We gave him some prednisone and even on that he stopped eating. I made the decision that when he would no longer eat that we would have to take him in to be put to sleep. Hardest decision that we ever had to make. Really listen to what your intuition is telling you and try not to second guess your decision. I found that was the hardest thing to deal with. I knew that what we did was the best thing for him but it did not make it easier. Know that there are people here who have had to go through this before and we are here to support you.

If he has been vetted and there is nothing physically wrong, his loss of appetite may be his way of 'signing off'. Humans and many animals lose their appetite and just don't feel hungry or want to eat. Hence his only eating really special yummy things, not routine foods. 16 1/2 is a very nice old age and all his time is Bonus Time with you.
We recently lost an elderly human friend who pretty much starved to death. He stopped eating, and eventually would only take tiny sips of water. He was never hungry or thirsty, we had to really encourage him to have a sip. If he had been a pet, I would have taken him to the vet for euthanasia, as he got so thin he was in pain just lying in a very soft bed. But we cannot be that kind to our human friends, only to our beloved pets.

Keep giving him special yummies and encouraging as much activity as he will accept, plenty of fresh water and a soft place to sleep. Talk to your vet, he may give you something g to stimulate his appetite, and he will be able to counsel you about signs that 'it's time'. It is a very hard decision, especially when it's just old age.

I think that you are looking for an answer that unfortunately no one can give you but Senji. I agree with Krunzer though, truly listening to what your heart is telling you will allow you to make a decision. Like Krunzer make a bottom line, that if that is crosses then you really know its time…for some it's stopping eating, for others its not being
able to stand or when they are truly incontinent...for some it's the look they give you, I find dogs know (soon before us) that the end is near. Comfort him and let him comfort you. Eventually both of you will make the decision. My heart goes out to those with seniors and the thoughts of the impending that you have to go through. I really do believe the senior years are the most precious and rewarding, I have such empathy for the trials and tribulations.

I had the experience to put to sleep my fanconni B, one year ago. It's so simple , He will tell you when he can't do it anymore, just in my case I cried every day by several months and we decide the whole family that wasn't fair to live like you said just lethargic. I just saw it to his eyes and he said to me I'm ready it is a time to go over the rainbow…it's so sad, Just I'm crying now because my oldie Anubis is almost 14 and I know she's over time.
Any way we're here with good or bad time to support you, barooos from Anubis, Kimba and Khufu

When our cat Spot was diagnosed with cancer, we had a talk with our vet about "when will we know it's time?" Our vet said that it is always hard question to answer but one that they are frequently asked to weigh in on. Everyone always talks about quality of life but it is a nebulous term that doesn't really help a person to know. So for her, she decided that as long as she can keep them pain free, and eating ok, then quality of life means spending at least 50% of their time doing the things they enjoy doing, whatever those things are.

here's a quality of life scale that may help:

http://virtuavet.wordpress.com/petqualityoflife/qualityoflifescale/

and this book might be helpful:
http://www.amazon.com/Good-Old-Dog-Keeping-Comfortable/dp/0547662416

Hopefully you will know and can find peace with this very difficult descision.

Thanks to everyone for your responses! Senji doesn't seem like he wants to die yet. He still drinks lots of water and can jump up on the couch. He wasn't eating very much, though. His breathing seemed labored, and then I discovered why. His nostrils were completely occluded with hard snot plugs! I tried using a warm wash cloth to remove them, but it didn't work. So I did what any respectable basenji owner would do. I picked my dog's nose! He was able to breathe a lot better after that. He also ate a little bit more. I guess he couldn't smell his food. We've been trying to wait until my brother and his family (his original owners) came back from vacation to see him one last time. His allergies are still very bad, and he keeps having asthma attacks. He managed a benadryl pill this morning. I think he knows it helps him. He lost a lot of weight these past few weeks, but he was overweight to begin with. The weather is oppressively hot, and it's very difficult for him to breathe outside.
In the meantime, I called around to various vet offices to ask about the euthanasia. Most of them don't want to take you unless you are already a client. I was hoping to take him to someone besides his own vet, because he gets so stressed out going to the vet's office.

@elena86:

In the meantime, I called around to various vet offices to ask about the euthanasia. Most of them don't want to take you unless you are already a client. I was hoping to take him to someone besides his own vet, because he gets so stressed out going to the vet's office.

Have you checked to see whether there is a mobile vet in your area? We have one near here who will come out to your home, which is the best possible way to do it. If that isn't possible, can your vet give you something to calm him for the trip? It is a shame to have to stress them at such a time…...

Here is an interesting story…. My Mickii would always be distressed as an older girl going to the Vet... when the day came that we decided that it was time to let her cross over the bridge I put her in the car and there was not a peep out of her... she laid quietly for the short ride... She for sure confirmed our decision that it was the right time

I've always found that I could see it in their eyes when they decided "No more, Mum". Generally while they are still eating and drinking I find that they aren't ready. I always insist that my vet comes to our home for the final injections so that there is no stress.

One of my Basenjis just asked to go out and walked straight down to the brook and laid herself down beside it. She was the one who couldn't resist a swim when water was available so I guess that was appropriate.

Senji is still alive. My brother and his family stopped over Sunday night to say their goodbyes. He's still drinking water, but only ate about 2 little bites of fish yesterday. He ate 2 little bites of chicken the day before. He can still jump up on the couch. All he wants to do is go outside and lay on the pad on the patio. It's been in the 90's all week. I try not to let him stay out there more than a few minutes at a time. Not sure how much longer he can live like this. He's skin and bones practically. The pet hospital at Petsmart is open on the 4th of July, if he needs it. I've been advised by several people not to go to the local emergency pet hospital. My brother's wife and kids don't want him to be "put down." They want him to die a "natural" death. They don't know what we're going through. My mom is especially stressed out, watching him waste away.

Have you tried giving him 1/2 a pepcid? If his tummy is upset/unsettled eating will no appeal to him and the pepcid will help. I might be worth a try.

He actually ate today! He had some pasta with meat sauce. And he was actually interested in a piece of one of his doggie treats. He just finished grooming himself a little. That's a good sign, right? I'm wondering if he might've gotten stung in his mouth by a bee. We'll have to see if he perks up some more, or if this is his last hurrah.

@elena86:

My brother's wife and kids don't want him to be "put down." They want him to die a "natural" death. They don't know what we're going through. My mom is especially stressed out, watching him waste away.

It would be easiest for us if our old dogs would simply pass away in their sleep, but it doesn't usually happen that way. I have had old dogs euthanized – a friend of mine uses the term "eased" -- and some were allowed to die "naturally"... either way it is not easy. It's as hard to watch them linger as it is to make a decision, I know what you're going through. But there is no cure for old, sometimes we have to be brave enough to make that dreaded decision... it is the last gift we can give our old dogs. My heart goes out to you.

@elena86:

He actually ate today! He had some pasta with meat sauce. And he was actually interested in a piece of one of his doggie treats. He just finished grooming himself a little. That's a good sign, right? I'm wondering if he might've gotten stung in his mouth by a bee. We'll have to see if he perks up some more, or if this is his last hurrah.

I am glad he is feeling better today and that he has ate a little and was interested in his treats. I hope this is the beginning of his getting better.

As for the "they want him to die a natural death", people don't understand until it they have had to go through it themselves. I never ever thought I would be able to put an animal to sleep. But until you are the one around them and see them go through so much in the end it is easier to let them go than to watch them suffer.

Watch Senji's good days and bad days and in the end you will know in your heart the right thing to do.

RIP, my dear, sweet Senji! My brother came over today and we took him to the Banfield Animal Hospital at Petsmart. They were open today. It was a good time, because they weren't too busy, being the 4th of July and all. Senji seemed to know that it was time too. The vet was very nice and gentle, and everything went very quickly. He was 16 1/2 years old. He's had a good life, and I didn't want him to suffer. With his previous liver disease, the vet felt that he was probably full of lung cancer too. He was having a lot of difficulty breathing. She said that we did the right thing, and that he probably wouldn't have died a peaceful "natural" death. We'll miss him dearly! The house will feel so empty without him. I'm sure that many of you know how it feels. Thank you for all your kindness and prayers!

I'm sorry for your loss. Even when you know it is the right thing, it is just so hard to let go. I have been down that road too many times, and I feel for you. Spend your time grieving. It helps.

Sorry to hear about Senji, it really is an unselfish decision and it's nice that you can remember him on the fourth of July every year….I hope that you and your family can find peace with his passing.

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