When is it time? That is the question we all ask as a beloved pet ages, has a chronic disease or is diagnosed with cancer.
The decision regarding the euthanasia of a beloved pet may be the most difficult decision one makes in one’s entire life; obviously the consequences are irrevocable. Whatever the decision is, it should be one that you can always look back upon and know that the best decision was made and that you would make the same decision over again in the same situation.
So how do you know if it is time? There are several criteria used in evaluation life quality and you should consider them carefully:
- Is your pet eating? Basically quality of life involves eating or at least interest in food. An animal that is hungry has vitality that must be considered, though this is not the only consideration.
- Is your pet comfortable? The pet should be free of debilitating pains, cramps, aches or even psychological pain that comes from the development of incontinence in an animals who has been housebroken its entire life.
- Does the pet still enjoy favorite activities? The elderly pet does not necessarily need to continue chasing balls or jumping after discs but he should enjoy sleeping comfortably, favorite resting spots, the company of family, etc. You know your pet better than any one and only you can truly answer these questions.
- Do the good days outnumber the bad days? As a family you should define what “a good day” is at this stage of life. Write this description down somewhere for reference, and on a calendar notate a plus for a good day and a minus for a not so good day.
Please make solace in the fact that the last act of love you can bestow on your beloved pet family member is to not let him or her suffer.
Once you have made the quality of life decision there are a few things to consider.
Should You Be Present?
Again, this is a very personal decision. On one hand, you probably do not want your pet to be alone with strangers in the final moments but on the other hand you may not be up to watching your pet’s death. Every owner wants to think of euthanasia as a gentle sleeping into death, much like falling asleep. In reality, the pet will probably not close his eyes, and there may be a final twitch, gasp, or even urination. To help ease this transition between life and death, sometimes a tranquilizer is given first to alleviate some of the above, but you should keep in mind that this may not be how you want to remember your pet.
The issue of children being present is a personal one and the above information should be considered.
How is the Procedure Performed?
Appropriate forms must be signed in order for the procedure to take place. State rabies prevention laws require that the pet has not bitten anyone in the last 10 days. If the owner is to be present, often an intravenous catheter is placed. The catheter ensures clean access to the vein, even if the owner is holding the pet. The catheter also allows for a sedative to be administered prior to the euthanasia solution.
The procedure itself is very fast. If a sedative is to be used, it is given first so that the pet is euthanized from a sleeping status. The euthanasia solution, generally dyed a bright color so that is cannot be mistaken for anything else, is delivered and death comes peacefully in a matter of seconds. The owner is allowed to remain with the pet for final private goodbyes. At the end of this time, after the last goodbyes and caresses are completed, the owner simply exits the room when ready and the hospital staff takes over.
Let the veterinarian know in advance if you would like a lock of hair or the collar as a keepsake.
Grief is a natural part of loss and has predictable stages. Do not feel ashamed or embarrassed about grieving for the loss of an animal. Our pets are beloved family member and their loss is keenly felt. Still, it is important to realize that death is a natural end to life and that love will always continue. There are many resources available to assist you in your grieving process.
The following site may be helpful; www.petloss.com
Other support resources are; family, friends, church support staff and your veterinarian and veterinary staff.
Some people want to get another pet right away, others need some time. Just remember that you are not replacing the deceased pet. That is impossible. You are, however, replacing that emptiness in your heart that a pet occupies.
If you have a pet in which the consideration of a quality of life decision has crossed your mind call your veterinarian as he or she can help you make that decision.