This video may help when you are considering this difficult decision.

How do I know when it's time?

Several tools or techniques may provide more concrete answers to this subjective question.

• When your pet’s health, mobility, or comfort have been declining slowly, changes are gradual and therefore hard to recognize. It may be helpful to view photos or videos of your pet from before the illness. Remember how your pet looked, behaved, and interacted with you.

• Make a list of three to five things your pet likes to do, such as going for walks, playing with other pets, or enjoying their meals. When your pet is no longer able to enjoy these things, it may be time to discuss euthanasia.

• Mark good and bad days on a calendar. This could be as simple as a happy or sad face for good or bad. As the bad days start to outnumber the good, it may be time to consider euthanasia.

• It may be helpful to ask those closest to you (and your pet) for their honest opinion about your pet’s health and quality of life. You may want to ask someone who sees your pet less frequently, since your pet’s gradual decline in health may be more obvious to them.

Signs that your pet is no longer enjoying a good quality of life

• Your pet is having trouble breathing, experiencing weakness, or extreme lethargy

• Your pet has nausea, frequent vomiting, or diarrhea that cannot be resolved by treatment and is resulting in weight loss and/or dehydration

• Your pet experiences chronic and intractable pain that doesn't go away even with medication

• Your pet finds it very difficult to walk or cannot get up

• Your pet is refusing to eat or drink

• Your pet is having trouble urinating or defecating

• Your pet has had a significant behavior change and has lost interest in surroundings, family activities, or his/her favorite activities

Euthanasia for behavioral issues

The choice to euthanize your companion animal is particularly painful when your pet is otherwise young and physically healthy. However, quality of life is determined by both physical health and mental well-being, and many behavioral problems cause the afflicted animal to suffer.

Environmental factors

Your living situation may be unchangeable, and the most serious behavior problems require a good deal of environmental modification (avoiding triggers to aggression). Young children and elderly relatives may be more at-risk for bites and recommended behavioral modification might be extraordinarily difficult or impossible to implement given your living situation.

Rehoming is not an option

Some animals may not be safe in any environment. For example, a large-breed dog that is aggressive toward strangers will remain a safety concern regardless of who adopts them. Most shelters will not adopt out animals with aggression or separation anxiety, and you maintain a legal and ethical responsibility to disclose this information. Elderly pets or animals with other medical conditions may be more difficult to find placement options.


Animals with behavioral problems have underlying fear, anxiety, and distress and the owners of these pets often report sharing these feelings as a result. Mental suffering may not be as visible as physical pain but detracts from your pet’s quality of life. Ask yourself: Is my pet having more bad days than good? Can he still enjoy his favorite activities? Is he able to spend time with his people, or does he need to be isolated for safety? Additionally, these pets can create significant stress and anxiety for their human family members. Many people find it helpful to create a quality-of-life log for both themselves and their pet to assess the emotional toll the behavioral problem(s) may be causing.

Severity of the problem and progression of signs

Dogs do not reach “social maturity” until two to four years of age, and it is common for behavioral problems to worsen until this time if the underlying causes have not been addressed. Similarly, behavioral problems that begin to generalize (start with a few specific triggers and progress to many common triggers) will be increasingly difficult to manage.