Your pet does not know what is going to happen, so it cannot fear death itself. However, animals do feel more secure in the company of people they know, especially their owners. If you do choose to be present during euthanasia, your presence can do much to help make your pet’s last moments more peaceful.
You are the one who knows best what you are capable of handling. Some owners cannot handle the pain of being present, while others feel that being present is the last and most precious gift they can give to their beloved pet. Follow your heart. You want to make sure you have no regrets later.
Children deserve the truth, but they need to hear it in terms they can understand. Use age-appropriate language. Allow the child to ask questions and explain what will happen in simple terms. Be patient if the child does not understand, becomes upset, or asks the same questions repeatedly.
This is a question that you and your veterinarian should discuss. Your veterinarian will leave the final decision up to you. There are cases where immediate euthanasia may clearly be indicated, for example, if the animal is clearly struggling and in obvious pain, or has been severely injured and medical intervention will not help. In other cases, as in a prolonged illness like cancer, you may be able to have more time with your pet, provided you can maintain some quality of life and keep any pain under control. Quality of life and pain control are the standards on which you should base any decisions concerning euthanasia.
Each situation is unique, and you will need to judge for yourself. Choosing between in-office or in-home euthanasia depends on various factors such as your pet’s ability to handle stress, its physical condition, and the urgency of the situation. In cases where the pet is large, or unable to walk, moving it may be more stressful than having a vet do a home visit. If your pet is in acute distress, or you do not think you have enough time to schedule a home euthanasia visit, then you may need to take it to the clinic.
Euthanasia can be administered at the veterinarian clinic or at home. Some owners may want to have their pet euthanized at home, to minimize the stress on their pet during its final moments. Many veterinarians offer home euthanasia as part of their services.
The most common form of euthanasia for most animals is through direct injection of an intravenously given barbiturate drug called pentobarbitone. In effect, the veterinarian is giving the animal an overdose of veterinary anesthetic.
As soon as the drug enters the animal’s blood stream, it acts immediately to suppress heart and brain functions, resulting in instant loss of consciousness and pain sensation, basically putting the animal into a deep sleep.
At the same time, the heart also stops beating, so the animal passes from a deep sleep into death without regaining consciousness or feeling any pain.
Properly administered, euthanasia is painless and swift.
Making the decision to let your pet go is a personal and very difficult decision. There are no clear cut answers, but you can follow a few general guidelines.
- Talk with your vet to be sure you have the best possible understanding of your pet’s current health condition and most likely prognosis.
- If possible, develop a plan in advance so you will be better prepared if your pet’s condition worsens. Ideally, you should make note of your pet’s “normal” behavior, habits, etc. while he is still more or less healthy. You are then in a better position to observe if any of these behaviors change at some point. Drastic changes in behavior, for example, not eating, not playing, etc. can signal a downturn in your pet’s condition.
- Be aware of any actions or behaviors that may signal your pet is in pain. Talk with your vet about any changes you observe. Pain control is of the utmost importance. If your pet is in constant pain that cannot be significantly reduced or relieved through medical intervention, then it may be time to let him go.
Quality of Life
- If your pet can no longer do many of the things he used to enjoy doing, due to physical problems and/or pain, his quality of life is less than ideal. For instance, he may not be able to walk, go up steps, may become incontinent, or lack appetite due to disease or some other condition. If quality of life cannot be significantly improved through medicine or other modifications to diet, environment, etc., it may be time to let him go.
In the end, it is your personal decision when it is time to say good-bye to your pet. Work in partnership with your vet to assure that your pet’s remaining time with you is the best it can be, and know that you have done all you could do when the time does arrive for you to say good-bye.
Some veterinarians will come to your home to perform euthanasia if you request this service. They may also work in partnership with their local pet cremation provider to provide this service as a way to make things easier for both the pet and the owner. There is usually an additional fee for this service.