Making the Tough Decision to Euthanize Your Pet
By Michelle Liew Tsui-Lin
This topic is sensitive and everyone has different views. All perspectives are offered in the spirit of respect.
When should I euthanize my pet?
It was two heartbreaking years ago that illness forced my husband and I to decide whether to put my beloved Jack Russell Terrier, Rosco, to sleep. The previously frisky little dog had lymphoma in its advanced stages.
Watching him suffer daily, with an oversized lump on his foreleg hindering his walk, was absolutely agonizing.
Through tears, I made the heart wrenching decision to say goodbye to him at the hands of a sensitive and caring veterinarian.
Fortunately, time padded my grief. Rosco had tucked himself in a little corner of my study and left peacefully a few days before his appointment. My decision didn’t affect his passing.
The decision to euthanize a pet is a heartbreaking choice no one favors. Subjective and difficult, it should never be judged.
When should we decide to euthanize their beloved pets? Where should the goodbye take place, and how should they grieve?
Why making the decision is tough
You won’t discover pet owners who euthanize their pets of their own volition. The decision to part in this way comes after a maelstrom of emotions and addressing the conflict within.
1. A pet is part of the family.
A pet is an indispensable part of the family unit. It is an identifiable part of the family in the way a child is. It bonds with the family in the evenings in front of the TV and accompanies it to bed at night.
This isn’t often noticed, and is even annoying. But a dog protects the family when it barks at strangers who come to your door.
Being as valuable as he is, the choice to release is a heavy burden.
2. A pet’s love is unconditional.
The love of a pet is unconditional, In spite of the harsh words we have for their occasionally difficult behavior, they stay close to us without question. They reciprocate whenever we offer our affection.
It’s their ability to not question or judge that sets them apart from us and makes them more lovable.
4. Is it moral to decide?
Providence teaches us that all life is precious. It’s not surprising that we feel anguish when we bid our pets goodbye.
There are moral considerations to ending their lives that truly pain you. Regardless of whether it is merciful, we wonder if it’s within or moral right to do.
The process of pet euthanasia: What to expect
The process, being a sensitive one, usually begins with your vet explaining it. Don’t hesitate to ask all the questions you need.
Provide a blanket for your pet to rest on, whether he is on the table or the floor. A qualified veterinary technician who has the skill to hold your pet in the appropriate manner, will ensure that the process goes smoothly.
The vet then administers a dose of sodium pentobarbital, which causes unconsciousness and gently slows the heartbeat. If the pet won’t hold still, the vet will administer anaesthetic before this.
Reasons not to euthanize your pet
With all the difficulties, pet euthanasia is not an ideal choice for all owners and raises a few questions.
1. We wonder if we could have saved him.
We wonder if alternatives could have saved our beloved pets. Recently, its illness compelled my mother to bid her elderly Bichon Frise farewell.
She still ponders over whether it was too soon to put down the dog, which found eating arduous.
2. Pet owners feel responsible
Having to hold the dog in the process creates a lingering sense of guilt. We feel responsible for its death.
Being the survivor instead burdens us more heavily.
When to euthanize your pet
Reasons to release him peacefully: When it’s time
To decide to euthanize a pet is never pleasant, but is a fairer and less painful alternative that relieves a pet of its suffering.
1. The pet leaves peacefully.
The pet says his farewells peacefully in the comforting arms of its owner. It leaves, assured of affection and kindness.
2. The injection is painless.
Euthanizing injections are painless and render the pet unconscious, There is little physical suffering in the process.
3. Pet owners are able to part gracefully with their pets.
I preferred that Rosco said goodbye of his own will, but others want the opportunity to say their goodbyes.
Pet euthanasia avails owners of that chance.
4. The pet dies with dignity.
The pet leaves this world with dignity and not in a prolonged state of suffering.
Personally, I would rationally decide on euthanasia in fairness to a suffering pet. You can choose to have a vet perform the euthanasia at home, a place that comforts him.
When to relieve your pet of his suffering
We never stop asking the question for fear of making the difficult decision too soon. When do we know when the right time is?
1. You have already started asking the question.
If you have a terminally ill pet and have already asked yourself if you should relieve it, the question is a sign of your intuition that it is now.
We will know instinctively when needful should be done.
2. Your family has unanimously agreed to euthanize your pet.
This is a decision that your family will want to avoid, but if it is unanimous after discussion, you should take the next steps.
3. Your vet has advised it.
Consult your veterinarian, several if you need to. If they deem it advisable, consider making the preparations.
4. Base the decision on your observation
Monitor your pet. Observe if:
it responds when called or petted
it can still walk
it defecates normally
it has lost a great amount of weight
it has been hospitalized often within short periods
its respiratory rate is decreasing
Your answers to these will determine your decision.
Easing the process
The day itself will be a painful one, but some coping mechanisms can help to ease the process.
1. Take a friend with you.
A clear-headed friend will be helpful at this time. He is not likely to grieve as much as you are and will offer a rational and comforting perspective.
You will require him to help with paperwork and other administration you won’t be in the mood to complete.
2. Choose a quiet time.
The best time for this unwanted procedure is when the clinic is quiet. This allows a little privacy. Book an ideal time frame of about 30 minutes with your vet.
3. Leave the clinic by the back door.
Ask if you can leave the clinic by the back door. You’re less likely to grieve in front of other patients.
4. Have the euthanasia at home
The home is a viable alternative. It is where a pet draws familiarity and comfort.
Some vets perform in-house calls. Mobile vets drive around performing such services.
Deciding to bury or cremate
Decide, before the euthanasia, how you would like to handle your pet’s body. Would you like it cremated or buried?
If the decision is to bury, be certain of local laws and climate factors. It’s easier to bury a pet in the winter when the ground is softer.
Seclude the burial site so that other animals have no chance to dig up the body.
Grieving for a pet
Owners experience stages of grief ranging from denial, anger and finally, acceptance. This varies from person to person.
Explain to children factually that their pet has passed away. Children are perceptive and read your body language. They know if you are being truthful. Be tactful with what you say to them.
Other pets may feel the loss of their companions too. They display the same symptoms of restlessness and depression. Some pets may not show any signs of loss. You can treat them as you have always done. Allow those who are grieving more time with the family.
Pet euthanasia is a devastating process, but thinking ahead will ease it.
Original Work by Michelle Liew Tsui-Lin all rights reserved
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