Thinking about euthanasia is something that no pet owner likes to dwell on, but sadly it is a decision that many dog owners eventually have to face. Taking responsibility for a pain-free, peaceful death with the company of loved ones is the kindest act an owner can do for a much-loved pet.
Talk it over with your veterinary surgeon and your family and friends. Questions to think about include:
Persistent and incurable inability to eat, vomiting, signs of pain, distress or discomfort, or difficulty in breathing are all indications that euthanasia should be considered. You and your family know your dog better than anyone else, so try to make a reasoned judgement on his or her quality of life. If you are hoping for an improvement in your dog’s condition, setting a time limit may be a sensible option. Sadly, few dogs die peacefully in their sleep at home. Most reach a point when their quality of life is unsatisfactory, and a decision for euthanasia has to be made.
Living with a chronically ill dog can be emotionally (and financially) draining. Often there is a substantial time commitment involved in care. Not every owner is able to cope and, if there is no chance of a recovery and you are unable to give your dog the degree of care needed for a comfortable life, it may be better to opt for euthanasia. With some invalid dogs there is the possibility of a sudden and unpredictable deterioration. If you are unable to make arrangements for your dog to receive emergency care, euthanasia may be a better option.
Once you have made this very difficult decision, you will also need to decide how and where you and your family will say the final goodbye.It is an individual decision whether or not you and your family want to be present during the euthanasia procedure. For some pet owners, the emotion may be too overwhelming, but for many, it is a comfort to be with their pet during the final moments. It may be inappropriate for young children to witness the procedure since they are not yet able to understand death and may also not understand that they need to remain still and quiet.
Our belief is that your pet should not be anxious, nor in pain, prior to and during euthanasia. A pre-euthanasia injection to induce sedation is thus routinely given. The sedation dose and type and whether pain relief is also required will vary according to your pet’s individual needs. The sedative injection is given under the skin by the neck or by the lower back. They usually don’t mind this injection, but as with any injection there may be a momentary discomfort. Drowsiness happens within 2 to 10 minutes. Sedation occurs more rapidly in very frail patients, and may take longer in robust or very anxious pets.
Once you have said your good-byes and feel you are ready, we will proceed with preparing to put your pet to sleep. A intravenous catheter will usually be placed in a vein, usually in the front leg. Relaxed dogs and cats are quite undisturbed during this, although they may notice the catheter being inserted. Your pet can be in their favourite resting spot – their bed, on your bed, or the sofa, or in the backyard garden. Sometimes we decide not to disturb your pet from their resting place after sedation. You may hold or hug your pet on your lap or in your arms, or sit next to them gently stroking or just touching them. Once you are ready, an injection (overdose of anesthetic agent) will be given and your pet will slowly and peacefully lose consciousness and they will stop breathing. The heart will then be checked that it too has stopped, after which I will confirm that your beloved pet has passed away. Many people are considerate of the time and may feel they don’t want to hold back the Vet, however, this is not the case and time has been allocated to ensure you have a last moment with your beloved pet.