Possibly one of the hardest things you will do is make the decision to have your beloved pet euthanatized. But, as a responsible, caring pet owner, it is sometimes the only choice to prevent pain and suffering.
Pets are well-loved family members, often taking the place of children and grandchildren. Many of you will have had a family member or friend who has been terminally ill and wished there was some way to end their suffering. However hard, this is the one last loving, responsible thing we can do for pets suffering from pain.
Veterinary staff must deal with these situations on an almost daily basis, but it is never easy. As animal lovers ourselves we can empathise with owners and feel their pain with them. Veterinarians will never discuss euthanasia with a pet owner if they don’t believe it is the right thing to do.
Often pet owners want to know how they can tell when it is the best time to put their pets to sleep. It is important to understand that every pet, and every situation, is different. For elderly or terminally ill pets this can be a grey area but there is help available. Make an appointment to see the vet for an examination and then discuss with them any diseases present, and the treatment options. This allows you to make an informed decision when the time comes.
It is equally important to discuss everything with family members so that everyone understands what is happening. If you feel you are unable to trust your decision, ask a friend or family member who is more objective to help you.
Consider your pet’s quality of life. This can be hard as they will often have good days and bad days rather than a steady decline; it might help to keep a diary. Consider the following:
- Is he eating, enjoying his food?
- Does he drink enough water?
- Can he still get up and about?
- Does he still greet family members?
- Has he retained his toilet training?
- Is able to keep himself clean?
Remember, in the final analysis, your pet’s well-being is what is important.
There are other times when it will be necessary to consider euthanasia, such as after a serious accident. Sometimes euthanasia has to be performed in less than ideal circumstances which can lead to much soul searching, pain and distress. Such circumstances are an aggressive dog, the owner no longer being able to care for the pet due to their own illness, the owner being unable to afford necessary veterinary care, or the owner having to move to a new house and being unable to take pets with. If you find yourself getting close to euthanising your pet in any of these circumstances speak to, a rescue organisation or a pet behaviourist first.
It is best to make an appointment when you know it is time to say goodbye. Let the receptionist know why you are coming so they can try to book you at a quiet time.
Before you see a professional, discuss cremation or burial with your family. We do not recommend home burial for many reasons; all pets left with us are cremated at a pet crematorium. Pets sent for communal cremation have their ashes scattered in the Garden of Rest at Legacy Pet Crematorium. Should you wish to have your pet’s ashes back to scatter, or for burial a private cremation, this can be arranged. There are different options for the return of the ashes, please discuss this with the veterinarian or receptionist.
The actual euthanasia of the pet is a quiet and painless procedure. It is your personal choice if you would like to stay while the vet administers the drug or not. It is practice policy to place a catheter in the vein for all euthanasia procedures so there can be no complications with the administration of the drug.
A kennel assistant will hold your pet while the doctor administers the drug, which is a very highly concentrated anaesthetic. As soon as the doctor starts to inject the drug, your pet will become sleepy, the pet’s respiration will deepen as they become unconscious. After just a few seconds all movement will stop. The doctor will listen for your pet’s heartbeat to assure you they have passed.
Don’t be worried about showing emotions at this time. Everyone reacts differently, many people cry, while some go in to shock and are unable to show any emotion. However you feel, just be you. You will not be judged by staff as they have seen the whole spectrum of emotion at this time.
It is important to understand that you will go through the grieving process. The loss of a pet leaves a big hole in the home, and this will affect you every day. Commonly there are five stages of grief recognised: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Every person and every situation is different. You may experience all of these or just some. You may experience them in this order or not, or you may go backwards and forwards between the stages. You may stay in one stage much longer than others. What is important is that you make it to acceptance which, for some, will take weeks and for others months and even years. If you are struggling to do this alone ask for help, talk things through with a friend, your vet or a counsellor. Do not think just because it was an animal and not a human your emotions are any less valid. If this how you feel, it is how you feel.