Start by asking your veterinarian what types of symptoms to expect as your pet's illness progresses. What stages will the disease take? How long before kidney disease produces incontinence or renal failure? How long before tumor cells invade the lungs or other organs? How long before symptoms become medically unmanageable, before pain becomes severe and untreatable? At what point will your pet become unable to function normally; at what point will its suffering become extreme?
This information can help your decision. For example, you may decide to seriously consider euthanasia when your pet can no longer breathe easily, or eat or drink, or find a comfortable position in which to sleep, or when it seems to find your touch painful. By defining a "decision point" in advance, you place boundaries on the suffering your pet is likely to endure.
Pet loss and grief
Grieving is the natural way that your mind and body adjust to a loss and heal your emotional wounds. We strongly encourage you to allow yourself to grieve in a way that gives you the most comfort. Allowing yourself to feel the sadness, anger, anguish, and loss will aid the healing process. Conversely, repressing your feelings may actually prolong your sadness and the time for recovery. During this time you may need the emotional support of family, friends and your veterinarian.
Euthanasia and Children
Being truthful with your children will also aid in their healing. If your pet is going to be euthanized, avoid using phrases like “put to sleep”, “is very sick”, or “is going away.” These can be difficult concepts for children to understand. “We are helping Fluffy to die because we love her very much and do not want her to suffer” is a more truthful and less ambiguous statement. Make your pet’s death more meaningful by asking your children how they would like to memorialize their animal friend.
Do you want to be present during euthanasia?
Some people feel it is important for their pet that they be present. Others feel that their anxiety will stress their pet unnecessarily. You may decide to stay and then realize you are unable to. Whatever your initial decision, you have the option to stay or leave at any point. Understanding the procedure and knowing what to expect can help you make a decision that’s best for both of you.
Prior to euthanasia, you should discuss with your veterinarian options for body care.
You might decide on burial or you may ask your veterinarian to take care of the body. You can request a private cremation (your pet’s ashes will be returned to you), or a cremation with other pets. Because the private cremation is carried out for a single pet only, it can be more costly. The staff can go over these costs with you.
Generally the veterinarian will begin with an injection of a tranquilizer to help sedate your pet. While your pet is relaxing, you will have some private time with him. Some people choose to leave once their pet is sedated. Others choose to stay until the end. For the actual euthanasia, an intravenous injection of a very strong anesthetic solution is given. Your veterinarian may choose to place an intravenous catheter prior to giving the injection for ease in accessing the vein. The only discomfort your pet will feel is the prick of the needle – no different than taking a blood sample. Sedated pets may not even notice this.
Once your veterinarian commences with the intravenous injection, the process is very swift. Within seconds of administration, the overdose of anesthetic stops the function of your pet’s brain and heart as he slips into a final ‘sleep’. Your veterinarian will check to see that your pet’s heart has stopped and will tell you he has passed away.
At this time, you may want to spend a few moments with your companion to say goodbye.
Several things that can happen during euthanasia can be quite disconcerting if you don’t expect them. Your pet’s bladder and bowels may release following death. Some dogs have ‘phantom breaths’ or muscle twitches. These are only muscle reflexes. Also, your pet’s eyes will not close.
The euthanasia process is not just about giving an injection. There are a lot of decisions that must be made. You need to consider what is best for both you and your pet. You also need to feel comfortable with how your pet will spend his final moments.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or concerns.