Unfortunately, our companion animals have life spans very different from our own. This means, at some point in our lives, we will experience the illness and death of a cherished pet. Sometimes it’s difficult to know what to do. Be assured your veterinarians are here to help, whether your decision is to continue treatment, keep your pet comfortable, or euthanize your pet. They understand the difficult choices you are facing, and they provide you with the best information they can to help you make decisions that are in the best interest of your pet and your family.
Despite all the advances in veterinary medicine, there will come a time when treatments no longer help or improve your pet’s situation. You will begin to see your pet’s quality of life declining and wonder whether you should consider euthanasia to end your pet’s pain and suffering. How do you know when this time has come? This is not an easy question to answer, but some symptoms may include weight loss, lack of interest in their daily routine, refusing to eat or drink, lack of energy, difficulty getting up and down, increased time sleeping, eyes vacant or distant, failing to respond to your presence or speech, changes in personality, urinating or defecating indoors, or whining and crying frequently. Discussing your concerns with your veterinarian can help you make the right decision for your pet.
Once you have made the decision to euthanize your pet, you will need to decide whether you or other family members want to be present during the procedure. The euthanasia involves the veterinarian injecting a combination of medications that will quickly stop your pet’s heart. Breathing and brain activity will also stop. Due to muscle relaxation at the time of death, you may see muscle twitching or hear the breath being released from your pet’s lungs. Also, the muscle relaxation may cause your pet to urinate or defecate at the time of death. Your pet will remain warm for a period of time, but the body will be limp and heavy. You will have time to say good-bye to your pet before and after the procedure. Your final decision will be whether you want your pet cremated and/or whether you want the remains returned to you.
We understand how difficult this time will be, and we want to help you in every way we can. We will answer your questions and concerns and try to give you peace of mind when making these decisions. To further assist you, we have created a link on our website to Veterinary Wisdom, which provides resources and handouts to help you make end of life decisions for your pet and assist you and your family with the grieving process that follows. For those of you currently grieving the death of your pet, our deepest sympathies go out to you at this time. We hope you will find these resources helpful in easing your pain and one day finding joy in the memories you have of your cherished pet.