hand+pawWhat is Euthanasia?

The word Euthanasia literally means ‘gentle death’ and it is a means of inducing a painless and peaceful death for pets that are suffering. This is sometimes referred to as ‘put to sleep’ or ‘put down’ and it is carried out by way of an intravenous injection of an anaesthetic drug by your Vet.

Deciding that it is time to end an animals life is never easy and for the pets owners and family this can be a devastating and difficult time. Your pet may have grown up with your children and be an integral part of your family that has shared holidays, family events or given you comfort and company once the kids have left home.

It takes great courage as a pet owner to assume the responsibility to end a beloved pets life when its quality of life has deteriorated to an unacceptable level. Our pet has looked to us all of its life to provide it with every aspect of its care and in return it has given us unconditional love and companionship. It is now that your pet needs you to make a decision that will require you to try and put your needs and emotions aside for the love of your pet.

Your Vet is trained to diagnose, treat and preserve life so euthanasia is never suggested lightly. It is always seen as a last option when simply extending an animals life will just delay the inevitable and bring further pain and suffering for both the pet and its family. Euthanasia is the best way to mercifully end a pet’s suffering.

Euthanasia for your pet is probably the most difficult decision a pet owner can make and your Vet will be able to help you deal with your emotions around this decision. The best decision is to do what is best for your pet; not for you and not for your family. By prolonging and wishing and hoping for a recovery that is not going to happen just distresses everyone and your pet.

Ask yourself a few questions and consider the following when you are trying to decide whether to euthanise.

  • What is my pet’s quality of life?
  • Does my pet have a disease, illness or injury from which they will not recover?
  • Does my pet have a disease, illness or injury which I am unable to provide for?
  • Can my pet still eat and drink all that it requires?
  • Is my pet able to go to the toilet or is it incontinent?
  • Is my pet comfortable and pain free?
  • Is my pet unwilling to move about?
  • Is my pet lethargic and slow?
  • Is my pet able to hold its head up when at rest?
  • Is my pet affectionate and playful toward me?
  • Are any other treatment options available for its condition?

It is important to remember that the welfare of your pet is the prime consideration when making this decision and it is their quality of life that is important not quantity.

Sometimes it is possible to delay euthanasia for a day or two without causing greater suffering. You might want to give your pet a night at home with the family where you can all say goodbye and shower lots of love on to your pet. This will help you, your family and your pet to feel reassured about the decision you have made and give your pet some extra pampering.

What is the process?

You may stay with your pet however we encourage you to wait in the consulting room as both your pet and your Vet, will need you to remain calm to reassure your pet. If you are calm, your pet will be calm, allowing your Vet to help your pet transition quietly, quickly and peacefully.

Your pet will be placed on the examination table. A cannula is placed into a vein in their leg in order to maintain a very safe and painless line and this may cause slight discomfort as the cannula passes through the skin. This is no different to giving them an anaesthetic. Within a few seconds the injection will take effect and your pet will lose consciousness. Seconds later they will stop breathing and their heart will stop. Your pet may exhale and then become completely relaxed and heavy. Occasionally your pets bladder may release urine as its bladder muscles relax.

Your Vet will check your pets reflexes and pulse to determine any signs of life.

Your pet will be wrapped and either returned to you for burial or we can organise this for you. We can also hold your pet for you until you are ready to collect them. Should you need a few minutes to sit quietly after your pets euthanasia your are welcome to sit a while and have a cuppa.

You will be very sad after your pet has gone. Do not be embarrassed about your emotions as they are normal and unfortunately we see this often in our clinic.

A final resting place

We can look after your pet for you until you are ready to make a final decision about where you would like your pets remain to go or you can take them home straight away. You do have a number of options available as a final resting place such as burial at home, burial in a pet cemetery, individual cremation (where the ashes are returned to you in a casket) and communal cremation. Petfocus Vetcare are able to assist you with both individual and communal cremation through Edenhills Pet Cremation.

What about my other pets?

Grieving pets exhibit many symptoms similar to us such as restlessness, anxiety, depression, lethargy, loss of appetite and disturbed sleep as well as doing a lot of ‘sighing’. Often, grieving pets will search for their dead companions and crave more attention from their owners.

Try and keep the surviving pets routines as normal as possible and allow them to adjust over time. They will need to create a new pecking order amongst themselves and some scuffles may occur.

Your Vet will help you with any additional questions you may have so please ask.