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The decision to euthanize a pet is a personal one. Petside can guide you though the considerations surrounding pet euthanasia.
The decision to euthanize a pet is a personal one.
Families caring for a suffering pet can get help in deciding whether and when to consider pet euthanasia, and provide support afterwards.
The word euthanasia, meaning good death, makes people wince.
Partners helping you choose:
Although your veterinarian is in the best judge of your pet's physical condition; you are the best judge of your pet's quality of life. "This is a decision you should consider together," says Dr. Merry Crimi.
"When you have an animal healthcare provider who considers you, your pet and your pet's disease a unique situation, you can be confident you are working with a good partner."
Your pet is also a partner in the process. "Animals usually give signs their quality of life is gone and all that's left is suffering," says Crimi. "They won't eat or respond well, and don't interact in the ways they always have. If you see these signs, your pet is communicating with you."
Weighing the signs:
Talk with your vet about the course of the illness. Have you passed the milestones you discussed as indicators that it was time to make decision to euthanize?
Robin Downing, DVM, in her book Pets Living with Cancer, suggests finding a very specific answer to this question: At what point is the pet's quality of life unacceptable? Is it when the pet can't control elimination? When she can't stand or walk? When she is disoriented and does not know where it is? When her pain is out of control?
Crimi cautions that your idea of the right boundary may change during the course of your pet's illness. Nevertheless, she agrees that talking about boundaries to cross before euthanasia early is a good approach.
Enid Traisman, MSW and Certified Grief Counselor suggests pet companions keep in mind a pet's experience of his terminal illness changes each day. The pet care provider's situation also changes. "Caretakers," she says, "can make a new decision each day based on the day's experience."
"The act of euthanasia can become a companion's final gift of comfort to an animal in a great deal of pain," says Downing. Crimi agrees, and adds, "These are individual choices best made inside a strong partnership of veterinarian, companion, and pet."
Pet loss support group:
Traisman directs the DoveLewis Pet Loss Support Group for pet companions anticipating pet death and the euthanasia decision, as well as those whose pets have died.
Group members share support and information with each other. Sessions benefit companions making the decision by identifying companions' fears and concerns, planning for last photos, paw prints and fur clippings, considering how to make the pet's end of life meaningful for the pet and for the rest of the family.
These are all great ideas for your family as well. DoveLewis also offers information and a 24 hour support line.
When you are ready:
Some veterinarians will come to your home to euthanize your pet. For personal reasons, you may prefer to take your pet to the veterinarian's office. Either way, most veterinarians will give you the option of being with your pet at the time of euthanasia.
Typically, veterinarians give a first injection that makes your pet drowsy. A second injection suppresses respiration and heartbeat.
Any choice is difficult:
Exploring all aspects of the decision with your veterinarian and with others whom you trust is very important. Keep in mind, however, that in the end, the decision belongs to you and you alone.
Questions to consider
- Is your pet still happy with a zest for life, terminally ill and in pain, or critically injured with no hope of recovery?
- Is your pet living with dignity?
- Can you afford the time, money, and emotional strain of care required?
- Will more tests, treatments or surgery make your pet better?
- Do you consider euthanisia an act of compassion?
- Are there signs from your pet that she has given up?
- Are you keeping your pet alive to meet your needs rather than his?
Share your story:
Saying goodbye to your pet is one of the hardest things to do. Do you have advice you can give to help others? Do you have a personal story you would like to share? Please post it here.
To read the next part of our "Coping with Loss" series, click on the links below.
Get more information on pet health in our Pet Vet section.