End of Life Care
While some pets die of old age in the comfort of their own home, many others become seriously ill, get injured in some way or experience a significantly diminished quality of life as they grow old. In these situations, it may be necessary for you to consider having your pet euthanized. Here are some suggestions for dealing with this difficult decision, as well as some information about the euthanasia procedure itself.
Knowing when it’s time
Making the decision on ‘if it is time’ is a difficult one. Your veterinarian is the best-qualified person to help guide you through this difficult process. In some cases your veterinarian may be able to tell you definitively that it is time to euthanize your pet, but in other cases you may ultimately need to make the decision based on your pet’s behavior and attitude. Here are some signs that may indicate your pet is suffering or no longer enjoying a good quality of life.
- He is experiencing chronic pain that cannot be controlled with medication (your veterinarian can help you determine if your pet is in pain.)
- He has frequent vomiting or diarrhea that is causing dehydration and/or significant weight loss.
- He has stopped eating or will only eat if you force feed him
- He is incontinent to the degree that he frequently soils himself
- He has lost interest in all or most of his favorite activities, such as going for walks, playing with toys or other pets, eating treats or soliciting attention and petting from family members
- He cannot stand on his own or falls down when trying to walk
- He has chronic labored breathing or coughing
Once you have made this very difficult decision, you will also need to decide how and where you and your family will say the final goodbye.
- Before the appointment is scheduled to take place, make sure that all members of your family have time to say a private goodbye.
- If you have children, make sure that you explain the decision to them and prepare them for the loss of the pet in advance. This may be your child’s first experience with death, and it is very important for you to help him or her through the grieving process. Books that address the subject, such as When a Pet Dies by Fred Rogers or Remembering My Pet by Machama Liss-Levinson and Molly Phinney Baskette, may be very beneficial in helping your child to deal with the loss.
- It is an individual decision whether or not you and your family want to be present during the euthanasia procedure. For some pet owners the emotion may be too overwhelming, but for others, it is a comfort to be with their pet during the final moments.
- Some veterinarians will come to your house, which allows both the pet and the family to share their last moments together in the comfort of their own home.
What to expect
Making the decision to say goodbye to a beloved pet is stressful and your anxiety can be intensified if you do not know what to expect during the euthanasia procedure.
- Your veterinarian will explain the procedure to you before he or she begins. Don’t hesitate to ask your veterinarian for further explanation or clarification if needed.
- Small to medium sized pets are usually placed on a table for the procedure, but larger dogs may be more easily handled on the floor. Regardless of the location, make sure that your pet has a comfortable blanket or bed to lie on.
- In most cases, a trained veterinary technician will hold your pet for the procedure. The veterinary technician has the skill needed to properly hold your pet so that the process goes quickly and smoothly. If you plan to be present during the entire procedure, it is important that you allow enough space for the veterinarian and technician to work. Your veterinarian will probably show you where to stand so that your pet can see you and hear your voice.
- A catheter is placed in a leg to make it easier to administer the medication. Your veterinarian will give your pet an overdose of an anesthetic drug which gently puts them to sleep and stops the heart. The injection is not painful to your pet.
- After the medication is administered, the veterinarian will use a stethoscope to confirm that the heart has stopped.
- Your pet may experience some muscle twitching and/or release of bladder or bowels. These events are normal and should not be cause for alarm.
- After your veterinarian has confirmed that your pet has passed, he or she will usually ask if you would like to have a few final minutes alone with your pet.
Burial and Cremation Options
Your veterinarian and their staff will answer any questions you have about options for your pet’s final resting place.
- Cremation is a widely used choice, and you can choose whether or not you would like to have your pet’s ashes returned to you. Most cremation services offer a choice of urns and personalized memorials
- You may choose to bury your pet at home. Just make sure that there are no local restrictions preventing this.
Please let us know if there are any questions you might have. We want to make sure we have done everything possible to help you and your family during this difficult time.
Coping with Grief
While grief is a personal experience, you need not face your loss alone. Many forms of support are available including pet loss bereavement counseling services, books, videos, and magazine articles.
Here are a few suggestions to help you cope:
- Acknowledge your grief and give yourself permission to express it.
- Don’t be afraid to reach out to others who can lend a sympathetic ear.
- Write about your feelings
- Prepare a memorial for your pet
If you have other pets in the home, prepare for them to grieve in some way as well. Pets may whimper, refuse to eat or drink, and suffer lethargy especially if they had a close bond with the deceased pet. Even if they were not the best of friends, the change in circumstances and your emotional state may distress them. Give surviving pets plenty of TLC and try to maintain a normal routine.
Information taken from www.americanhumane.org
The Rainbow Bridge
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge. When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable. All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health
and vigour; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers.
Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster. You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again.
The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together
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