To make the decision that it’s time to end your pet’s life is likely the most difficult one you’ll face in the human-animal relationship. The decision comes with feelings of guilt, sadness and grief. The animal trusts you and looks to you to end its pain and keep it safe. Oftentimes the decision to euthanize is the last comfort you can give to a dog or cat that you have nurtured, cared for and loved.
There are some guidelines to help you make your decision, to know when the time is right and to plan the process of saying good-bye to your beloved companion. Unless you are in an emergency situation, such as your pet being critically injured or not recovering from a surgery, there is often time to consider these factors before the process takes place. It will be best for you and your pet if you make these decisions while consulting with a veterinarian with whom you have a trusting relationship.
Reasons for the Decision
There are many reasons pet guardians may decide that euthanasia is the right choice for their pets. These reasons include a pet being terminally ill and suffering; being unable to afford necessary care for an ill pet; or, the pet having a behavior problem that cannot be corrected.
Deciding It’s Time
Below are some factors to consider when deciding if it’s time to euthanize your pet.
Does your pet still eat well? Does your pet enjoy food?
Does your pet respond to you and seek out affection from you?
Is your pet in pain?
Can you afford the care necessary for a pet that is ill?
Do you have time to care for a pet that is ill?
Can your pet walk on its own?
Can your pet see? Can your pet hear?
Is your pet incontinent? Does your pet have problems controlling its bowels?
Details to Consider
If you have time to plan for the day when you will say good-bye to your pet, consider the following questions about how you want the process to be handled. Dealing with these details in advance will help to make the actual process less stressful for you, your family members and your pet.
What will you do in the days and/or hours leading up to the appointment to have your pet euthanized? How will you spend this last time together and say your good-byes? Many pet guardians like to take their dog for a final walk in a favorite park or give their cat its favorite meal.
Do you want to take your pet to the veterinary clinic to have the procedure done or would you prefer to have the veterinarian come to your home? Many veterinarians offer home euthanasia services.
Do you want to be present during the euthanasia? Do other family members want to be present?
What do you want to do with your pet’s body following the euthanasia. Many pet guardians take the body home for burial. There are also pet funeral homes and cremation services that will handle this part of the process for you. If you do not wish to bury your pet or to have your pet’s ashes returned to you, most veterinary clinics will dispose of the body for you.
What will you do after the procedure? Those hours immediately following the death of your pet will in some ways be the hardest. Plan for what you’ll do after the procedure.
Knowing what to expect will make it easier for you when it is time for the euthanasia procedure to take place. Making the event the least stressful for you will help your pet. Though each veterinarian may do the process a little differently, the following is generally true in almost all instances.
A catheter will be placed in your pet’s leg. The veterinarian will then inject a drug that will relax your pet. The veterinarian will then inject pentobarbital into the vein. This is the drug that stops the pet’s heart from beating. In most instances, the pet dies within a few second of this injection.
Holly Nash DVM, The Decision of Euthanizing Your Pet, Doctors Foster and Smith, http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?c=0+1278+1494&aid=633
Lisa Violet’s Cat House, Making the Difficult Decision, http://www.lisaviolet.com/cathouse/goodbye.html