Euthanasia- the time to say goodbye

This week I’ve decided to address one of the most painful aspects in raising pets- When is it the right time to say goodbye to your darling pet? Well, that is probably the hardest question veterinarians have to answer to pet owners. The decision to end a life is never easy. It is a personal, loving decision to euthanize a pet for which the quality of life has deteriorated. It takes courage to assume this last duty and it is our last responsibility to a pet which has given us love and companionship. One of the hardest ideas people are having hard time with, is taking the decision for the animal that obviously can’t express its wants.
Euthanasia is recommended by veterinarians when the pet is sick or very old and when its quality of life has deteriorated in a irreversible manner. When a pet is showing signs of illness your veterinarian will probably recommend performing some tests in order to evaluate the general health status of your pet and the extent of the damage caused by the disease. The decision of performing euthanasia is a very hard one for both pet owners and veterinarians, hence the tests are recommended. Euthanasia is recommended when a medical condition is uncontrollable, or is going to cause pain and suffering to your pet. Medical tests are helping veterinarians assess the severity of the pet’s condition and making it easier to reach decision whether to try to treat the animal or it is time to let go.
So when is it the right time to say goodbye? There is no one answer for this question. The answer is very personal and individual. The first question you need to ask yourself is, is my pet suffering? Is it in pain? Does it have good quality of life? Does it eat and drink well? Is it uncomfortable? Is treating and trying to prolong it’s life is going to cause suffering to my pet? Can I afford the treatment my pet needs? Am I just holding on because I simply can’t say goodbye…
The legitimacy of ending one’s has been a controversial issue for decades for both humans and animals. Many people believe in letting nature taking its course. Personally as a veterinarian I feel privileged to be able to help animals and put an end to their misery in a humane manner.
So what should you expect when you have decided to euthanize your pet. At the vet’s office you will be asked to give a written permission to perform the euthanasia. The euthanasia is done by intravenous injection of lethal dose of anesthetic drug. Depending on your pet’s nature and condition the vet will decide whether sedation is needed prior to the euthanasia. The process is very quick and peaceful. As soon as the vet establishes access to the vain and injects the drug the pet will immediately relax and within couple of minutes will just stop breathing. The vet will listen with a stethoscope to confirm that the pet has passed away. Usually the procedure is very quiet, painless and peaceful. Rarely the animal will make strange sounds, express excited reaction or take deep breaths. All of those reactions are just reflexes and are not signs for pain and suffering, it is just a side effect of the medication and the nerve system’s reaction to it. Some people prefer not to be present for the procedure itself and that is a very legitimate choice.
Last decision you will need to face is what to do with the remains.  Your options are either burial or cremation. There two kinds of cremation- either communal or private in which you will get the pet’s ashes back.
Deciding whether to euthanize your pet is probably one of the hardest decisions you’ll ever need to make for your pet. This decision should be taken very seriously. Please consult with your veterinarian when the time comes. Your veterinarian will support and guide you through this emotional process and will make the experience for you and your family as easy as possible.