When Should a Pet Be Put to Sleep?
Krisha McCoy(McCoy, 2015)
McCoy, K. (2015, 12 2). www.everydayhealth.com. Retrieved from When Should a Pet Be Put to Sleep?: https://www.everydayhealth.com/pet-health/when-pets-should-be-put-to-sleep.aspx
It's probably the most difficult decision you'll make in your pet's life — should you put your ailing pet to sleep? A little preparation and emotional support can help you make the right choice and cope with your decision.
Saying goodbye to a beloved pet is hard, but it can help you cope with your loss.
Euthanasia is a method of humanely and quietly inducing the death of a pet. While euthanasia can help end your pet's pain and suffering, deciding when your pet is ready to be put to sleep may be one of the hardest decisions you will make.
Sometimes a sudden illness, accident, or other pet health emergency requires your previously healthy pet to be put to sleep without warning. At other times, you will sense — and your vet may be able to confirm — that the end of your pet's life is near.
"Start looking at the good days and the bad days. When the bad days are starting to outnumber the good days, you probably need to start discussing [your pet's end of life] with your veterinarian," says Susan Nelson, DVM, assistant professor of clinical sciences at the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine.
McArthur Hafen Jr., PhD, mental health therapist at the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, believes that it is a good idea to learn about the likely course of your pet's life, including its expected life span and common maladies, early on. "Becoming familiar and educated with the life course of the person's particular companion animal would be a helpful step," Hafen says.
When your pet's end of life seems more imminent, some of the decisions you might want to consider are:
Your role. Do you stay with your pet through the euthanasia? Do you want to say goodbye to your pet and then leave? Do you want to view your pet's body? Do you want your children to be involved?
Your pet’s final resting place. You may be able to decide between a burial or a cremation. If you prefer cremation, you might have to decide whether your pet has a private cremation or a less expensive mass cremation.
Postmortem exam. You may decide to have a postmortem exam performed on your pet to determine the cause of illness
When You Know It's Time
You know your pet best, and you may be the first to pick up on some of the following clues that your pet's end of life could be approaching:
Your pet is acting reclusive and antisocial
Your pet will not eat
Pain or discomfort is consuming your pet
Your pet seems unresponsive
Other reasons a pet might be put to sleep include critical injury or when a pet has become violent or dangerous.
If you are in any of these circumstances, talk with your vet, friends, and family. While your vet cannot make this difficult decision for you, she can help you understand your pet's condition and chances for recovery.
"While the responsibility of making such a final decision will still rest upon the individual, it can be relieving to hear a veterinarian or trusted friend say, 'It's okay to stop trying,'" says Hafen.
Saying Goodbye to Your Pet
Once you have decided to put your pet to sleep, the following actions may help you cope with your loss:
Say goodbye. Before your pet is put to sleep, gather your family members to spend time with and say goodbye to your pet, if possible. Saying goodbye can be difficult, but it can help you come to peace with your decision.
Honor your pet. In addition to cherishing memories of the times you spent with your pet and the relationship you had, it may help to establish some type of memorial of your pet. At Nelson's clinic, owners are given the option of having a clay paw print made. Other things you could do are making a scrapbook of pictures and memories, writing an obituary, planting a memorial tree, or contributing to or volunteering at a charity in your pet's name.
Seek emotional support. Since not everyone is able to understand the intense feelings of loss you will have after losing your pet, reach out and talk to someone who can empathize. And if you are having a particularly rough time dealing with your pet's death, consider seeing a mental health professional who has experience helping people deal with the loss of pets.
Deciding to end a beloved pet’s life is a very hard decision to make, but knowing that you have taken your pet’s welfare into consideration is comforting and a humane way to honor your pet’s life.