Quality of life for your pet should always be a priority, especially during treatment for serious illness, including cancer and other diseases. Your pet’s quality of life needs to be assessed, and adjustments made, to support diagnosis and treatment decisions. Issues such as chronic pain or temporary disability can often be addressed through medication and changes to your pet’s living area, so your pet may move around your home more easily.
Eventually, there may come a time when it is impossible to control the effects of cancer or other serious disease, and the animal may be in a great deal of pain, unable to eat, or unable to respond to others trying to comfort them. It may no longer be possible to control the animal’s anguish or distress, leaving them without much quality of life.
A peaceful and humane death is usually the best option in situations when prolonging an animal’s life is worse than providing a peaceful ending. Your veterinarian and staff will be able to provide information so you may make an informed decision when the time euthanize your pet has arrived. There are 3 goals when providing euthanasia.
3 Considerations Include:
- To relieve pain and suffering
- To minimize fear, anxiety or distress before consciousness is lost
- Provide a distress-free death
Euthanasia involves injecting a high dose of anesthetic that allows the animal to go to sleep, lose consciousness and die peacefully. Your veterinarian will monitor your pet’s behavior and bodily responses to make sure the dosage works properly and provides the best level of comfort, both for you and your pet. The process of euthanasia has been developed so the loss of bodily functions does not cause further stress and fear in the animal.
First, there will be a loss of consciousness, followed by an inability to move, before your pet’s breathing and heart stop. Finally, a permanent loss of brain function occurs; however throughout this process, the primary concern is the humane treatment of your pet. Many people feel guilty about making this decision, as it’s usually the most difficult decision a pet parent must make. Your veterinarian will be able to provide a professional opinion and serve as a sounding board throughout the process of making this difficult decision.
Pets are a part of the family, and it’s natural for pet parents and other family members to feel grief, anger and stress over the loss. Even your veterinarian, staff and neighbors who knew your pet well may grieve the loss. Since most pets live a relatively short time, owners will face the loss of several pets during a lifetime. The decisions to euthanize a pet can generate overwhelming feelings of grief, guilt and stress. In some cases, owners may want to have the procedure done at home, where it is more private and the pet will be in familiar surroundings.
Others may decide to have the procedure done in their local veterinary clinic, some of which may offer a special room with more comfortable surroundings instead of a clinical room. Many like to stay by their pet’s side right up to the moment of death and take their time to say good-bye. Still others may find the entire procedure unbearable, and opt to say good-bye to their pet before taking them to their veterinarian.
Keep in mind there are counseling services and hotlines for pet loss to support grieving parents who find support and comfort through these programs. It takes time to recover from the loss of a pet, and it may take a full year to recover completely; however the love of our pets will always remain in our heart.
Reviewed and approved by Dr. David L. Roberts, DVM
Photo: Courtesy of bobmarley753 via Flickr (CC by 2.0)