Euthanasing a Pet
• How do I know when it is time?
• What should I do?
• How do I tell my family?
• Will it be painless?
• How can I say goodbye?
• They may not understand.
• I feel as if I can’t cope.
• Should I get another pet?
• Remembering your pet.
How do I know when it is time?
Your relationship with your pet is a uniquely special one, where you are responsible for decisions of its care and welfare. Sometimes, owners are faced with making life or death decisions for their pets. A decision concerning euthanasia can be one of the most difficult decisions you will ever make regarding your pet. Euthanasia can be the last way to show your love for your pet when such a decision may become necessary for the welfare of your pet (for instance if your pet is terminally ill, critically injured, so sick or so severely injured that he or she will never recover). If your pet can no longer do with you and your family the things he or she once enjoyed, if your pet cannot respond to you in the usual ways, if there is far more pain than pleasure in his or her life, having your family veterinarian quietly and humanely assisting you with euthanasia may be a valid option. Your decision is a personal one, but it need not be a solitary one. Your decision is serious and seldom easy to make, but your family veterinarian along with family and friends can assist and support you. Consider not only what is best for your pet, but also what is best for you and your family. Quality of life is important for pets and people alike.
What should I do?
Your veterinarian is a highly skilled professional who will examine and evaluate your pet’s condition, estimate your pet’s chances of recovery, and discuss potential disabilities and long-term problems. He or she will understand your attachment to your pet, and explain the medical options and possible outcomes. Because your veterinarian cannot make the euthanasia decision for you, it is important that you fully understand your pet’s condition. If there is any part of the diagnosis or the implications for your pet’s future that you don’t understand, ask to have it explained again. We are more than happy to keep you informed of all diagnostic outcomes, and work with you to make the best decisions for your pet. Rarely will the situation require an immediate decision, giving you time to review the facts before making your decision. As you make your decision, you may wish to discuss the care of your pet’s remains with your family and veterinarian. All euthanased animals are ultimately sent for cremation, but you may choose to have a “private cremation” via Pets in Peace, whereby your pet’s ashes are returned to you. Our nurses can help you choose the best option for you and your family.
How do I tell my family?
Family members are normally very aware of a pet’s problems, allowing you to review with them the information you have received from your veterinarian. Even if you have reached a decision, encourage family members to express their thoughts and feelings too. Children respect simple, straightforward and truthful answers. If they are adequately prepared, children are usually able to accept a pet’s death.
Will it be painless?
The painless act of euthanasia is performed by a veterinarian at Bulimba Vet Surgery, who will administer an injection of a highly concentrated barbiturate euthanasia solution. When you first arrive at the clinic on the day of your final farewell, we will place an intra-venous catheter into your pet’s forelimb. The euthanasia solution is injected via this catheter, allowing your pet to slip into a quiet and irreversible deep unconsciousness. Death will come quickly and painlessly, and is a very peaceful process.
How can I say goodbye?
The act of saying goodbye is a very important step in managing the natural feelings of grief, sorrow, and sense of loss. Your pet is an important part of your life and it is natural to feel you are losing a friend. Once the decision for euthanasia has been made, you and other family members may want to say goodbye to your pet. A last evening with your pet at home or a visit to your pet at the clinic may be appropriate. Our vets appreciate that farewells are always difficult and will normally allow you time alone with your pet. We are all pet owners ourselves, so we understand how difficult these occasions can be, and we aim to do all that we can to help you through these difficult times.
They may not understand.
Often well meaning family and friends may not realise how important your pet was to you or even understand the intensity of your grief. It is best to be honest with yourself and others about how you feel. It is part of your recovery to talk to people who will listen about your pet’s life, illness and even death.
I feel as if I can not cope
If you or another family member are having difficulty accepting your pet’s death and unable to resolve feelings of grief and sorrow, you can discuss those feelings with a person who is trained to understand the grieving process such as a grief counsellor, minister or your doctor. Your veterinarian certainly understands the loving relationship you have lost and may be able to direct you to community resources, such as a pet loss support group. Pets in Peace have grief brochures that can help. Talking about your loss will also help.
Should I get another pet?
The death of a pet can be upsetting emotionally, especially when euthanasia is involved. Some people feel they could never have another pet, but for others a new pet can help them get over the loss quicker. Just as grief is a personal experience, the decision of when, if ever, to bring a new pet into your home is also a personal one. All family members should come to an agreement on the appropriate time to acquire a new pet, not as a replacement, but to share your family life.
Remembering your pet
The period from birth to old age is much briefer for an animal life than a person. Whilst death is part of the life cycle for all creatures, and it cannot be avoided, the impact can be met with understanding and compassion. By remembering the pleasure of the good times you spent with your pet, you will realise your pet was worthy of your grief. Saying goodbye is very hard, although we feel it eases the pain if you are comfortable with those who are taking care of your pet. Having the ashes returned either to scatter at your pet’s favourite place or to be kept by your family in a special urn may help to continue the special bond and relationship you have with your pet. Knowing that you will always have your pet’s ashes is a comforting thought to many. You may also wish to establish a memorial of some type in honour of your pet.