Village Vets Dr Anthony and Dr James offer advice to help you through the difficult decision of euthanising a pet.
Euthanasia comes from the Greek word meaning “good death”, and it is the practice of intentionally and gently ending a life to relieve pain and suffering.
In veterinary medicine, euthanasia is usually performed by intravenous injection of a concentrated dose of an anaesthetic agent. Veterinarians and pet owners are in a unique position that allows them to determine when pain, distress or suffering of a pet exceeds manageable levels.
However, the decision to end a life is never easy. To request the euthanasia of your pet is probably the most difficult decision you will ever have to make as a pet owner. When you have formed a bond with a pet, often over years, it is normal to feel many different conflicting emotions as you are forced to contemplate whether or not euthanasia is necessary.
Some people feel guilt; others feel uncertainty about making a decision with such irreversible finality. “But what if…” is probably one of the most common phrases veterinarians hear during discussion of euthanasia.
If for example your pet has been in an unexpected accident, the decision to euthanise can be an easy one. However one of the most common scenarios we deal with in veterinary practice is older animals with chronic disease, such as osteoarthritis, and knowing when is the right time in these circumstances can be extremely challenging for the pet owner.
Veterinarians are specifically trained to recognise disease in your pet and help assess their quality of life. But it’s important to remember that you, as the pet owner, are also integral to assessing your own pet’s quality of life.
Some people ask, “How will I know when it’s the right time?” This is never an easy question to answer.
Some things to consider include:
- Is my pet happy to see me? Is my pet happy and playful?
- Is my pet still eating and drinking?
- Is my pet able to stand and move around easily without assistance?
- Can my pet still go to the toilet on their own?
- Is my pet still responsive to their name?
- Is my pet in pain? Or does my pet seem tired, lethargic or withdrawn most of the time?
- Is my pet’s illness serious or terminal?
The answers to these questions, and advice from your veterinarian, may help inform you when making this difficult decision.
If you are given the opportunity to prepare for the euthanasia of your pet, this time allows you to think about and choose how you might like to say goodbye. This is a very personal choice, as everyone experiences the loss of a pet differently.
The euthanasia can be performed at home or at the clinic. Some people like to be present during the euthanasia, whilst others find it easier to say goodbye at the door, or in the carpark. There is absolutely no right or wrong way to handle the euthanasia of your pet, and your veterinarian will do everything they can to accommodate the choices you make.
The final thing to consider is how you would like to remember your pet once they have passed away. For some it will be taking them home to a special place in the garden. Cremation is also now an option, so they can to be spread over their favourite location, or kept in an urn close to the family they loved. We can also arrange a burial at private location, on a beautiful farm close by.