Having to make the decision to end a pets life is the ultimate act of love, however, this in turn brings enormous feelings of guilt. If the pet's life is terminated prematurely or the pet carer has delayed in making the decision, this will compound the feelings of guilt afterwards, which a pet carer can carry with them for years. I have witnessed pet carers doing both. Recently one family, ignored the advice of their Vet to Euthanise their dog, because they felt that "the dog knew what they were about to do", and in turn the family reassured their dog they wouldn't do it! As a result the dog suffered and had no quality of life. Pets do not have the same comprehension of dying, in the manner in which a human does.
The problem generally arises in the interpretation of the word 'suffering'. Many wrongly assume that a pet has to be in pain to be suffering. With Veterinary Science advancing at such a rate, pain can be controlled and managed. Even with pain control and management, a pet can begin to suffer when their 'quality of life' starts to slip away. When a pet looses interest in life, has difficulty eating, wants to sleep all day, finds it difficult to interact with their carers, stops drinking water, and has difficulty in walking or going to the toilet. When some or all these factors are evident, the pet is moving from quality of life into quantity of life, and suffering begins. Many pet carers believe that if their dog is still wagging their tail that this means they are not suffering. This is not true, many a seriously ill or dying dog will still wag their tail. The Vet will be able to guide a pet carer as to how much they can actually do to alleviate pain and the symptoms of a pet suffering, and when no more can be done to sustain any quality of life for the pet.
I usually tell the pet carer to trust in their own judgement when the 'time is right', they will know within their own heart, coupled with the advice of the Vet. I know many pet carers reading this, will have been in this situation before, and can identify with how difficult it is to decide when the time is right, but I hope this is will be of use to those who are faced with making the decision for the first time.