Pet Euthanasia

Some people would say that euthanasia is wrong, some would say that it is the most humane solution. I am an advocate of euthanasia in many situations. It is never easy, but sometimes it is best.

The decision

We have the option of releasing our friends from their pain and misery. Some may say that their pet is telling them “it’s time.” I don’t necessarily think that is the case. Animals, humans as well, have a survival instinct despite what they may be going through. They don’t want to die, but I am very sure that they do not want to suffer either. It is up to us as caregivers to make that decision. Of course, this can be the most difficult decision a person can make. Reasons for euthanasia vary from severe behavioral issues to terminal disease. The best way to make your decision is discuss it with your veterinarian.

After the decision is made, you will have to decide on how to handle the remains. For your house pet cremation is usually the next step. You may have the option to get the ashes back, which can be expensive. For many, this is the preferred choice.

Most veterinarians will have you sign the legal forms and make payment before the procedure is done. This is mostly a compassionate gesture. After the procedure is done, you probably will want to leave immediately to begin your grieving. At some clinics, you may be able to leave through a private door.

How animals are euthanized

Euthanasia is an overdose of a barbiturate anesthetic which is injected into a vein. The animal will first become unconscious, and will be unaware of anything that follows. Shortly followed will be respiratory arrest, and finally cardiac arrest. Generally, it will all occur within one minute. It may take larger animals longer to achieve cardiac arrest.

Be prepared for that day

The day that you bring your animal to the veterinarian for euthanasia, you will already be very emotional. But, you must be aware of what you may see if you decide to be in the same room as it happens.

After the animal stops breathing and before or after cardiac arrest, it is common to see what appears to be a gasp for breath, twitching, urination, and defecation. These signs should not be taken as suffering in any way. Occasionally, it may be required to give another dose. Anytime I have seen this done, the animal is already unconscious and is not aware of it.

I have been present for many of these procedures (my own animals and other owners), and have hated every one of them. Nearly all of them have gone smoothly, but a couple have been worse than it should be. I have seen an animal fight hard to avoid the procedure, and we were forced to take the animal into another room away from the owner to complete it. This is very stressful for the animal, and not a good way to go. A solution to this may be to give the animal a sedative. You may want to discuss this with your veterinarian if your animal is usually resistant to normal procedures.

Grieving for the loss of your animal

Everyone grieves differently. But, no matter how tough you think you are, your emotions will still show through at some point. Hiding your emotions is not the best option. Your animal has become a part of your life, and grieving for that loss is important. For some people, having a cry in an empty room is enough. Others may need more help. There are forums, hotlines, friends, and family. Your veterinarian may have some suggestions for you. Don’t be afraid to ask.

Best wishes to you and your pets

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