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Euthanizing Pets

Many pet owners face the difficult decision of if and when to euthanize an aged or ill pet. You are responsible for your pet’s health and welfare and, ultimately, must make the decision yourself. Your veterinarian can help you understand what the animal is experiencing physically. If your pet is suffering from a chronic illness or simply old age, the vet will help you make adjustments for any limitations or losses that happen.

How do you make this decision? Generally, you’ll need to make a judgment about the pet’s quality of life. If your pet still engages with you, other people or other pets, if its appetite is stable and if it is not suffering any pain, the time has not arrived. However, if your pet is in pain, cannot or will not eat, has great difficulty moving and/or has withdrawn from the world, it is probably time to bring its life to an end.

In veterinary medicine, euthanasia is a painless process that induces death. The vet makes an intravenous injection of concentrated anesthesia. The injection takes effect quickly. First the pet loses consciousness, then it stops breathing and its heart stops beating.

In addition to choosing when to euthanize your pet, you will also need to choose where to have it done (many vets will come to your home if you prefer), who you want to be there and what to do with the remains. Before the circumstance arises, spend some time thinking about these issues. Can you handle watching the end of your pet’s life? Will you feel guilty or incomplete if you aren’t there? Who else needs to be there? Who can be there for you — to drive you home and give you emotional support? Do you want to bury your pet or have it cremated? Do you want a specific place to go for remembrances? Is there a favorite place of your pet’s where you would like to spread the ashes? Do you want to keep a remembrance with you all the time? Your vet can take care of any arrangements related to disposing of the body but will need to know what you want. If possible, don’t leave these important decisions to the last moment, but have a plan. You can always change your mind if something doesn’t feel right at the time.