How Can I Know if my Pet is Suffering?


My Lily was diagnosed with cancer 10 months ago. I had the tumor removed and then she had 3 treatments of chemo but more tumors occurred. It was my vet’s suggestion that we stop chemo and let her live out her life. She has already outlived her expected prognosis but she has several large tumors. Cats can’t talk as we know, but I am afraid she might be in pain and quite frankly am afraid to take her to the vet–it is a quandary–I am not ready to let go but nor do I want her to suffer.

Is there anything I should be looking for as signs she is in pain. Her appetite and energy are both good but she is a bit more attached to me. Thank you I am new to the forum.

Newport News, VA

The most difficult pet-related decision a person can face is the timing of euthanasia.

Conscientious pet owners do not want their companions to suffer. But no person wants to put his or her pet to sleep prematurely. When is it appropriate to euthanize a pet?

Like all difficult decisions in life, there is no simple answer. However, I use the following guideline. Euthanasia is appropriate when an animal is suffering and there is no feasible alternative way to alleviate the suffering.

Unfortunately, advanced cancer with a poor response to chemotherapy will ultimately be fatal. It sounds like you have exhausted most options except for eventual euthanasia (although you should talk to your vet about hospice options such as opiate pain killers).

Deborah, you ask how to tell whether your cat is in pain. Symptoms of pain include hiding, acting withdrawn, lack of appetite, behavior changes (for instance, gentle animals may become aggressive and vocal animals may become silent), and panting or rapid breathing. Sudden pain may cause animals to vocalize. Chronic pain rarely causes this. Click the link the second sentence of this paragraph for more information on the signs of pain in cats and dogs.

Remember that it is possible to suffer without being in pain. Nausea and profound weakness can cause suffering, even though they aren’t painful.

In my experience the most consistent indicators of a pet’s condition are appetite and adherence to routines. Although there are exceptions, suffering animals often lose their appetites. Conversely, if your pet is eating well she probably is still enjoying life.

Finally, monitor your pet’s desire to engage in her favorite routines. Only you know what those are for your pet. But for many cats, questions you could ask include the following. Does she still meet you at the door? Does she still follow the sunbeam around the living room to sleep in it? Does she still beg for tuna when you break out the can opener?

In the end, you will have to look into your heart and make the best decision you can. It won’t be easy. I’m sorry.

Photo: Rocky looks comfortable as he sleeps in the sun.

Get Catster in your inbox!

Stay informed! Get tips and exclusive deals.

Let Catster answer all of your most baffling feline questions!

Starting at just


Follow Us

Shopping Cart