The decision to have your pet euthanased is a serious one and it is difficult to make. Your relationship with your pet is special. You are responsible for their care and welfare ensuring they have a good quality life.
Euthanasia may be necessary if your pet:
- Can no longer do the things they enjoy.
- Cannot respond to you in the usual way.
- If there is more pain than pleasure in life.
- If your pet is terminally ill or critically injured.
- If the financial or emotional cost of treatment or care is beyond your means.
Your veterinarian understands the emotional attachment you have to your pet and can help guide you in this incredibly hard decision. They can evaluate your pet’s condition, estimate your pet’s chances for recovery, discuss potential disabilities, long-term problems and possible options.
Be sure to review the facts, ask for further information if there is something you are unsure of or do not understand and discuss your options with friends or family.
Family members should be able to express their thoughts and feelings even if you have reached a decision. Children have special relationships with pets and if given straightforward, truthful, simple answers they will accept a pet’s death as part of life’s normal cycle.
WHEN IS THE RIGHT TIME?
Often owners struggle with when is the right time to euthanase particularly in animals suffering ongoing or terminal disease where the extent of suffering isn’t clear and unfortunately your pet can’t tell you how they are feeling. Your vet can help guide you in this decision but ultimately you know your pet best and must decide when is right.
If you are unsure whether their quality of life is good, make a list of 5 things they love doing. For example going for a walk, snuggling on your lap at night or eating their favourite treats. Stick the list on your fridge and every day check they are doing the majority of these things. If you have a few consecutive days where they are not performing these it might be time to say goodbye.
WHAT IS EUTHANASIA?
Euthanasia is accomplished by an injection of a very strong anaesthetic drug. It causes the pet to immediately go into a quiet and irreversible deep unconsciousness followed quickly by the heart and brain stopping resulting in a painless death.
At Thornleigh Vet Hospital, a staff member will outline the euthanasia process to the owner of the pet prior to it occurring and allow you time to process and reassure your pet wherever possible. Where possible we suggest discussing and organising an option for your pet’s remains and settling the invoice prior to the euthanasia so afterwards you can leave when you are ready without any processing at reception.
An intravenous port is placed in your pet’s leg to ensure smooth administration of the euthanasia drug. In some cases sedation may be given to ensure your pet is calm and pain-free prior to euthanasia. It is entirely up to you whether you remain with your pet for the euthanasia process or choose to say goodbye prior to it. If you stay, when you are ready we will administer the intravenous euthanasia drug and within one minute your pet will have passed.
Occasionally as your pet passes they may release a few gasps of air, vocalise, tremor/twitch or toilet. These primarily occur within a few minutes of your pet passing and are a natural reaction to death.
You may stay with your pet for as long as you like after their passing. If you have any particular wishes regarding the euthanasia process such as performing it at home, bringing in candles or playing music, please discuss this with the vet team prior and we’ll make every attempt to accommodate them. We want this to be as peaceful as possible for you and your pet.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER EUTHANASIA?
Following euthanasia there are a few options as to how we care for your pet’s body:
- They can be buried at home. Please ensure they are at least 2 feet deep to ensure wildlife or other pets cannot reach them. We can provide biodegradable bags if you wish.
- They can be cremated with other deceased pets (i.e. the ashes will not be returned to you).
- They can be cremated privately with ashes returned to you in a variety of options such as a scatter box or urn.
- They can be buried at a pet cemetery.
The staff will discuss these options with you prior to the euthanasia.
Autopsy (called necropsy in veterinary medicine) is available and is compatible with any of the options listed above. There are different levels of detail for this procedure. If you have unanswered questions or a legal interest in these results, please discuss the details with your veterinarian.
HOW TO SAY GOODBYE?
Your pet is an important part of your life, it is natural to feel you are losing a friend. Although farewells are difficult, the act of saying goodbye is an important step in managing the natural and healthy feelings of grief, sorrow and sense of loss.
There are many signs of grief and not everyone experiences them all. Initially there may be denial that it is in your pet’s best interests to be euthanased. It can be hard to accept the reality that they are gone and will not return. Anger may follow – you may blame yourself and others for not recognising an illness earlier or for being careless which resulted in the pet being injured. You may feel guilt and depression, day-to-day tasks may seem impossible. These feelings of sorrow and grief are a normal and natural response to death. They confirm the love and special feelings you have for your pet. Once you come to terms with your feelings you can begin to resolve and accept your pet’s death.
The feelings of anger, denial, guilt and depression will slowly be replaced with fond memories. If you or a family member has difficulty in accepting your pets’ death and cannot resolve feelings of grief or sorrow then you may want to speak to someone trained to understand the grieving process (eg. a trained grief counsellor, clergyman, social worker, doctor or psychologist). There are also some pet loss support groups you can find on the internet.
Establishing a memorial of some type in honour of your pet (eg. a special candle, a tree, a plaque) may also help.
Try to recall the good times spent with your pet. By remembering the pleasure of those good times you will realise your pet was worthy of your grief.
HELP WITH THE GRIEVING PROCESS
In time you will heal and be able to reflect on the wonderful memories of your beloved pet.
There are several things you can do to help speed up the grieving process.
- Give yourself permission to grieve.
- Memorialise your pet, this makes loss real and will help with closure.
- Rest, exercise and eat well.
- Surround yourself with people who understand you and your loss, allow others to care for you.
- Accept the feelings that come with grief.
- Indulge yourself in small pleasures.
- Be patient with yourself, grief is an individual process, don’t allow others and society to dictate how long your mourning should last.
- Give yourself permission to backslide. The pain will end and you will feel normal again.
- Don’t be afraid to get help. There are support groups and councillors that understand your situation.
SHOULD YOU GET ANOTHER PET?
The loss of a pet is emotionally upsetting, and it may make you feel you can never want another pet. Although you can never replace the pet you lost, you can learn to love and share your life with another pet without loving the departed pet any less. The decision of when, if ever, to bring a new pet into your life is a personal one. Family members should come to an agreement on when the timing is appropriate for everyone. In most cases we recommend waiting at least a few weeks before getting another pet to allow time for you to process your grief and recognise that the new pet will be different and not a direct replacement of your late pet’s personality.
The Jean Griffen Counselling Service Ph- 9763 1104
David Foote (pet loss counsellor and veterinarian) Ph- 0425281424
Grief Line: 03 993507400 (from 12pm-3pm 7 days a week)
Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement: 1800 642 066