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Euthanasia: How to say Goodbye

Posted 07.10.19 by Ellen Barry Buco, DVM

How do you know it’s time?

Quality of life assessments are one of the hardest decisions a pet owner faces. Euthanasia offers a peaceful death that alleviates suffering and pain for animals. The hard part is determining if it is time to consider euthanasia. As a general rule when the bad days outnumber the good days it is time to make a quality of life assessment. Your veterinarian can definitely help navigate this difficult decision. Every pet and every situation is different and thus looking at some of the things that your pet has always loved to do can help with the decision. If your pet loves to chase a ball, watch squirrels/birds or watch TV on the couch is he/she still doing these things? Another standard assessment that is evaluated is appetite – does your pet still eat with enthusiasm or have they stopped eating and only intermittently try to eat. Does your pet live with chronic pain that is no longer well controlled on medications or does your pet improve after your veterinarian prescribes medications. Asking these questions and making a chart of good and bad days can help with this decision.

What happens when it’s time?

Dr. Gant and senior catOnce the difficult decision has been decided  the next step is determining where you and your family would like to say goodbye. Some families want to stay with their pet throughout the entire euthanasia and be there for their pets final moments. Some families are overwhelmed with emotion and concern that remaining throughout the procedure would not be in the best interest for the pet or family. My advice is always do what would bring you and your family the most closure throughout this difficult process. The veterinarian will ensure that the pet has a peaceful, relaxing passing.

Dr. Gant and german shepherdWhen you have scheduled your pet’s euthanasia you are welcome to do some of their favorite things with them or bring any special snack they may enjoy. The veterinarian will usually supply a blanket or dog bed to keep your dog comfy during the euthanasia process but if your dog has a favorite blanket or dog bed from home feel free to bring it along.

Once you have decided it is time for euthanasia your veterinarian will discuss the euthanasia process with you. For every veterinarian the process varies slightly so feel free to ask any questions about the process ahead of time. Many veterinarians will place a catheter and sedate the pet first to help the pet relax and allow you some additional time to say goodbye. When you and your family are ready the veterinarian will give the euthanasia solution to allow your pet to peacefully pass.

What happens after?

German shepherd and ownerThe final difficult decision associated with the euthanasia process involves what to do with your pet after euthanasia. This is again a very personal decision. Some people find it comforting to bury their pet at home or bring the ashes home after having them cremated. For some families having a sweet picture or ink paw print brings more closure and peace than bringing any remains home.

For every family the grieving process varies and thus so does decisions that will help a family through saying goodbye to their beloved family member. Euthanasia helps so many animals avoid unnecessary suffering and pain. Whenever you are worried it may be time to consider euthanasia, rely on your veterinarian to help you and your family navigate this difficult decision.

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