Saying goodbye to your pets-What to Expect and How to Prepare

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Saying goodbye to your pets-What to Expect and How to Prepare

Saying Goodbye--What to expect and How to prepare

        One of the most difficult parts of being a pet owner is when the time comes to say goodbye to our furry family members. No matter the cause--whether it be a terminal neoplastic disease, a traumatic accident causing severe injuries, sudden infection, or the slow progression of ailments that simply come with old age--in most pets’ lives, a decision will need to be made regarding their quality of life. As pet owners, the responsibility falls on us to ensure that our best friends get the peaceful departure from this world that they deserve.

          Euthanasia is a very difficult subject to consider and it is a personal decision for every pet owner. Many people may decide for ethical, religious, or moral reasons that euthanasia is not the right choice for their pet--there is not a right or wrong answer to the question of euthanasia as it is dependant on each individual situation. However, in current veterinary medicine it is a service that we can offer to prevent undue suffering at the end of an animal’s life in a peaceful way. Prevention of suffering is one of the oaths veterinarians must take before beginning clinical practice, and this is one of the unique gifts we can give our patients.

          Deciding that euthanasia is right for your pet, is never easy. The following are a few questions to consider that may help determine if your furry family member is ready for this transition:

          Is my pet unable to control their urination and/or defecation?

          Has my pet’s appetite decreased?

          Is my pet able to go on regular walks or go to the bathroom outside?

          Is my pet able to socialize with family members normally?

          Is my pet aware of their surroundings?

          Is my pet able to groom themselves normally?

          Is my pet able to maintain normal gastrointestinal function?

          Is my pet able to maintain normal neurological function? (i.e. are they having seizures, are they paralyzed, can they stand/walk, etc.)

Another tool that can be used to evaluate quality of life, is to think of 3-4 activities that you know your pet loves to do and makes them happy. For example, going on walks or hikes, playing or chasing their favorite ball or toy, eating meals, interacting with other household pets, getting excited when you come home from work, etc. If they are unable to do at least 2 of the things that would normally bring them joy, it is likely that they are not experiencing a good quality of life. It can also be helpful to schedule a consultation appointment with your veterinarian to evaluate your pet’s health status and discuss observations you have made at home as well as ask any questions you may have.

          Once you have made the decision that your pet is ready to move on, you can schedule an appointment with you veterinarian to perform euthanasia. Although the exact process varies between hospitals, most euthanasias are performed in a similar manner. Whether you are having your pet put to rest at your home or in a veterinary clinic, most doctors administer injectable sedation to allow your pet to slowly become relaxed and comfortable. Once your pet is ready, your veterinarian will administer euthanasia solution into a vein and your pet will pass on, usually after several minutes, which your veterinarian will confirm. Many pet parents include their own details such as favorite blankets or toys to allow their pet to feel as comfortable as possible during the process. Many hospitals offer cremation services or the option to take your pet home with you afterwards for at-home burial.

          As difficult as end-of-life care and decisions are to think about, it is helpful to discuss with your veterinarian about what signs to look for to know your pet is ready for this final step and what to expect during the process itself. Knowing that this is one final gift you can give your best friend in return for all the love and affection they have given you over the years, can help with this process even though it is often a heart-breaking decision to make. If you think your pet may be nearing their time to cross the Rainbow Bridge, please consult with your local veterinarian for the next best steps to take to ensure your pet receives the best care possible.

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