Pet Euthanasia – How to decide and Cope

By Dr. Dirk Dekens, DVM

It is never easy for a family to come to terms with the fact that their beloved dog or cat may need to be euthanized.

We welcome our family pets into our homes and they crawl into our hearts, creating deep and loving bonds. They contribute so much to our lives and yet we often fail to realize how much they have given us until we face losing them. It’s hard to prepare ourselves for death and dying. Our pets may live into old age where they begin to experience a slow and steady demise of their abilities. Other times it can happen quickly and unexpectedly with a sudden onset of illness or, in some cases, a critical accident. As our pets can only communicate with us through their behaviors, deciding as to when to euthanize can be very challenging.

Allowing your pet to pass with dignity

However, there comes a time when we must make these difficult decisions when our companion pets are ill to ensure that they do not suffer needlessly and are allowed to die with compassion and dignity surrounded by those they love. Letting go is never easy and it’s hard accept that our pet companions will not live forever. On the other hand, they rely on us to help to pass on with as much dignity as possible.

What to look for if you are considering euthanasia

Families often look for changes in the pet’s behaviours to let them know their time might be close.

Families considering euthanasia often observe many of the following in their beloved pet:

  • chronic and uncontrolled pain
  • frequent vomiting and diarrhea that causes dehydration and weight loss
  • incontinence
  • a loss of interest in their favorite activities, toys, walks, other pets, food or time spent with family members
  • inability to stand or walk
  • breathing difficulties
  • general deterioration in quality of life with no foreseeable chance of recovery
  • a diagnosis of a severe illness where medical intervention will not help improve the quality of life

Your veterinarian is there for you to consult with, review the needs of your pet and help you make the best decision possible while respecting individual wishes for dealing with the euthanasia.

Some families, in preparation for the loss of their loved one, may wish to have end of life photos taken prior. There are many pet photographers who offer this service or people may do so on their own.

Should I tell my children our pet is being put down?

For families with children, it is important to explain and prepare them for the loss of their family pet. We all need to find ways to say our good-byes and to grieve. The decision to have younger children and family present is a personal one and you should discuss your wishes with your housecall veterinarian to make a choice that is right for you.

Can I request where my pet is euthanized?

Having your pet euthanized at home allows for you to make it personal, private and observe whatever ceremony you may wish.

It may be that your family dog loved being in the garden or out by a favorite tree, or your pet cat had a favorite chair he liked to lie on. These personal wishes can be honoured through an in-home euthanasia process.

What is euthanasia?

The process of euthanasia offers a peaceful and painless ending to your companion pet’s life.

Your veterinarian is there to guide you through the process and ensure your understanding. At Montgomery Village Vet Clinic & Dekens Housecall Veterinary Services your pet will be given an initial injection with a sedative as well as a strong painkiller ensuring there will be no awareness or perceived pain prior to the administration of the actual euthanizing agent.

We explain everything we do to avoid any surprises during the procedure and questions are welcome. We encourage for all the family members, caregivers and other pets to be present if possible to assist with the grieving process and obtain closure.

What happens after my pet is put to sleep?

The aftercare is also taken care of during the same visit, which involves us taking the animal with us to be cremated. There is an option to have a private cremation where we return the ashes to you. Paw prints and other keepsakes are also available at that time.

Grieving is a natural response to losing those we love. While the stages of grieving may follow similar stages – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally, acceptance. The way we grieve and the time it takes varies from person to person. It is very individual and personal, and expressing sadness over your loss is understandable and normal.

Many deal with loss through story telling, creating special keepsakes of their pet and ceremony. Children may benefit from storybooks related to loosing a pet, older family members may benefit from talking to others, keeping a journal or creating a memorial. Other family pets may also experience their own sense of loss as grief is not exclusive to people. What matters most is to take care of yourself and those around you and seek out support.

If you are worried that your dog or cat is coming to the end of their life or is suffering, have questions or would like your pet assessed, please give us a call at 403-615-8016.