How can we make that difficult decision to end the life of a Pet whom we
have loved and nurtured, played with and lived with? The Pet may have been
with us for a short time or for many years. It may protect us, serve us or just
be there when we need something to cuddle.
Our domestic pets have maintained many of their "wild" instincts. One of the
most important instincts, however, is to mask pain and illness. Many pet
owners advised that their pet is suffering from a serious disease, comment
"But he's not acting very sick"; what happens to a wild dog or cat that "acts sick"?
Invariably they are killed by other animals -- sometimes even by members of
their own pack.
When we have to make that final decision we feel guilty, we are torn by
feelings of helplessness, guilt, anger and sometimes the misguided notion
that we owe it to the pet to keep it alive at all costs. How can I tell my
veterinarian to give my pet an injection that will kill it?
When a pet becomes ill or is seriously injured, we must make a decision
based on several factors. We must set realistic limits which include
emotional expense to the pet's family, physical costs to the pet, and many
times, unfortunately, financial cost. It is best for the family members, or the
single owner, to sit down with all the facts in front of them and, as
as possible, set those limits. This is the fairest thing pet owners can do for
the pet and for themselves.
So, we come to that difficult decision-making time, we have to decide what is
best for the pet, regardless of the decision, we face the possibility of
guilty because we made the wrong one.
We feel guilty if we elect to have our pet euthanized. We feel guilty if we
choose treatment and its unsuccessful. We should put ourselves in our
Pet's position. "What would I want done if I were in this situation"?
If an owner, after evaluating all the available information, decides euthanasia
is necessary, he or she must tell the veterinarian. In those cases, the owner
must realize that sometimes we have to love our Pets enough to let them go.
REASONS FOR EUTHANASIA
We are never quite prepared for the death of a pet. Whether death is swift and
unexpected or whether it comes at the end of a slow decline, we are never fully
aware of what a pet has brought to our lives until our companion is gone.
Our involvement with the final outcome may be passive. We may simply not
pursue medical or surgical treatment in an aging pet. Perhaps its ailment
cure and the best we can do is alleviate some of its suffering so that it
the remainder of its days in relative comfort. An illness or accident may
Everyone secretly hopes for a pet's peaceful passing, hoping to find it
its favorite spot in the morning. The impact of a pet's death is significantly
increased when, as responsible and loving caretakers, we decide to have the
Euthanasia is the induction of painless death. In veterinary practice, it is
accomplished by intravenous injection of a concentrated dose of anesthetic.
The animal may feel slight discomfort when the needle tip passes through the
skin, but this is no greater than for any other injection. The euthanasia
takes only seconds to induce a total loss of consciousness. This is soon
followed by respiratory depression and cardiac arrest.
Doctors of veterinary medicine do not exercise this option lightly. Their
training and professional lives are dedicated to diagnosis and treatment of
disease. Veterinarians are keenly aware of the balance between extending an
animal's life and its suffering. Euthanasia is the ultimate tool to
mercifully end a
To request euthanasia of a pet is probably the most difficult decision a pet
owner can make. All the stages of mourning may flood together, alternating
rapidly. We may resent the position of power. We may feel angry at our pet
for forcing us to make the decision. We may postpone the decision, bargaining
with ourselves that if we wait another day, the decision will not be necessary.
Guilt sits heavily on the one who must decide. The fundamental guideline is to
do what is best for your pet, even if you suffer in doing this. Remember
much as your pet has the right to a painless death, you have the right to
Each of us mourns differently, some more privately than others, and some
recover more quickly. Some pet owners find great comfort in acquiring a new
pet soon after the loss of another. Others, however, become angry at the
suggestion of another pet. They may feel that they are being disloyal to the
memory of the preceding pet. Do not rush into selecting a replacement pet.
Take the time to work through your grief.
To help you to prepare for the decision to euthanize your pet, consider the
following questions. They are intended as a guide; only you can decide what is
the best solution for you and your pet. Take your time. Speak with your
veterinarian. Which choice will bring you the least cause for regret after
the pet is gone?
Consider the following:
What is the current quality of my pet's life?
Is my pet still eating well? Playful? Affectionate toward me?
Is my pet interested in the activity surrounding it?
Does my pet seem tired and withdrawn most of the time?
Is my pet in pain?
Is there anything I can do to make my pet more comfortable?
Are any other treatment options available?
If a behavioral problem has led me to this decision, have I sought the
expertise of a veterinary behavior consultant?
Do I still love my pet the way I used to, or am I angry and resentful of
the restrictions its condition has placed on my lifestyle?
Does my pet sense that I am withdrawing from it?
What is the quality of my life and how will this change?
Will I want to be present during the euthanasia?
Will I say goodbye to my pet before the euthanasia because it is too
painful for me to assist?
Will I want to wait in the reception area until it is over?
Do I want to be alone or should I ask a friend to be present?
Do I want any special burial arrangements made?
Can my veterinarian store the body so that I can delay burial
arrangements until later?
Do I want to adopt another pet?
Do I need time to recover from this loss before even considering another
THE FIVE MAIN CRITERIA FOR EUTHANASIA
1. CAN YOUR PET WALK ON ITS OWN AND HOW MUCH PAIN DOES IT
SUFFER WHEN WALKING?
2. HOW ARE ITS SIGHT AND HEARING AND WHAT IS THE PROSPECT
THAT THESE PROBLEMS CAN BE REVERSED?
3. IS THERE IRREVERSIBLE ORGAN DAMAGE, IE: HEART, KIDNEY,
LIVER, OR BRAIN DAMAGE?
4. IS THERE ANY HUMANE VETERINARY TREATMENT AVAILABLE?
5. IS INCONTINENCE THROUGH URINARY OR BOWEL CONTROL A
The final decision must be made by all members of the family, you may have to overcome your feeling of love for the pet and consider what is fairest for him. Do not let your emotions override the fact that your pet may be leading a painful, suffering life.