The term euthanasia comes from the Greek words meaning “a gentle death.” It is a gift of kindness to be able to avoid pain and suffering and to allow an animal to die quickly and painlessly. It is a very emotional time for the owner as well as the veterinary staff. The decision to let go is not easy, and our veterinary staff can guide you about when the time is right. Here are some questions that will help in your decision process:
Is your pet …
- Suffering from pain or distress that cannot be effectively controlled?
- Having difficulty walking or balancing?
- Suffering with painful tumors that are inoperable or untreatable?
- Having difficulty breathing?
- Suffering from urinary or fecal incontinence, or having difficulty urinating or defecating?
- Suffering from abnormal behavior”
Are you, the owner …
- Unable to cope physically or emotionally with nursing care or medicating that may be required to manage your pet’s condition or return your pet to health?
- Unable to afford the financial cost of treatments that may be required?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then it may be time to talk with one of our veterinarians about whether euthanasia may be the best option for your pet.
What happens when an animal is euthanized
When you decide to have your pet put to sleep at our medical center, a veterinarian or veterinary assistant will explain the process to you. You may be too upset at the time to discuss details, so don’t be afraid to ask questions beforehand. Also, you may want to schedule the appointment for a time when the hospital is not as busy.
You will be asked to sign a consent form that will give our veterinary staff permission to carry out the euthanasia. You will need to decide whether you will stay with your pet for the procedure – there are no rules about whether you should stay with your pet or not while it has the injection. Some find it comforting, others find it distressing.
Your pet will be given an injection, usually in a vein in the front leg. The injection is a type of barbiturate anesthetic, and the pet will usually fall asleep within seconds. Once the animal loses consciousness, it will stop breathing and then the heart will stop. This usually takes about a minute but can take longer in patients with poor circulation. There may be a few muscle tremors or deep shallow breaths. The eyes normally stay open, and sometimes the animal loses control of its bladder. You should then be given some time to be alone with your pet if you want to finish saying goodbye. You may choose to have your pet cremated or buried.
The grieving process
It is normal to go through the stages of grief following euthanasia. The first stage is characterized by disbelief and shock, when it can be hard to accept that the animal is no longer with you. The next stage is often pain, anger and depression. This is the time when support from family and friends is helpful. Many people experience feelings of guilt and question whether the right decision was made or if there was something that you could have done to prevent the death. This is common and normal, and will subside in time. The final stage is acceptance. Once you have accepted the reality of the loss of your pet, you can look back on the many pleasant memories you shared together.
There are many ways to pay tribute to your pet’s life, including memorial donations.