Are you facing what is perhaps the most difficult decision of any pet owner's life? Choosing the right time to put down a beloved pet feels impossible; after all, commonly at times like these we're thinking more with our hearts than our heads. Here are some guidelines and recommendations to help you in making the pet euthanasia decision.
How Can You Know It's Time?
Heaven knows, it can be heartbreakingly difficult to confidently decide when to euthanize a pet. Fortunately, the Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement (APLB) offers pet owners a Quality of Life Scale (see source citation in Online Sources section below) to use in making the difficult assessment of when it's the most appropriate time for you to arrange pet euthanasia for your beloved animal companion. They write, "...euthanasia is our last and most profound act of love and stewardship. In making that terrible moral decision we must step beyond our own feelings, and do what is best for the pet. And it now all comes down to quality of life."
"One of the most common complaints we hear," they go on to share,"is that people fear they may have waited too long—or not long enough—before having their beloved companion animals euthanized." To counteract these concerns and complaints, the ALPB suggests that if you use their Quality of Life scale to help you assess your pet's well-being, you complete the scale on three successive days to get a more accurate appraisal. But they also recommend that, in the end, you consult your veterinarian for their professional assessment.
The American Humane Association agrees. In "Euthanasia: Making the Decision", their experts say "talk to your veterinarian. He or she is the best-qualified person to help guide you through this difficult process." Yet, they provide readers with guidelines to follow when making the euthanasia decision. If any of the following statements apply to your pet, it may be time to have the euthanasia conversation with your veterinarian:
He or she is experiencing chronic pain that cannot be controlled with medication.
He or she has frequent vomiting or diarrhea that is causing dehydration and/or significant weight loss.
He or she has stopped eating or will only eat if you force feed him.
He or she is incontinent to the degree that he frequently soils himself.
He or she has lost interest in all or most of his favorite activities.
He or she cannot stand on his own or falls down when trying to walk.
He or she has chronic labored breathing or coughing.
Should You Choose In-Home Euthanasia?
There may be another important decision to make regarding pet euthanasia: whether you should transport your pet to their veterinarian's office for the procedure, or if you should have a mobile vet come to your home to care for your animal companion. This decision is often based on the condition of the pet (is he or she able to travel comfortably?), or the cost of the related services.
Private in-home pet euthanasia service is extremely valuable: after all, everyone is more comfortable at home (including your pet). There is long wait in the vet clinic waiting room; no public involvement in what is a very personal experience. Yet, because of the additional costs involved in-home euthanasia may be out of the realm of possibility. Speak with your pet's veterinarian to determine how much she or he charges for in-home euthanasia.
Pet Euthanasia: What to Expect
Whether you opt for in-office or in-home euthanasia, your veterinarian will take the time to explain the procedure before beginning. Should you have any questions whatsoever, this is the time to ask them. If it is an in-office procedure, you may be asked if you would like to stay in the room, or wait outside. (It is a great comfort for your pet to be present, so think this through before making a decision.)
Depending on the size of your pet, they may be placed on a table for the procedure or remain on the floor. Either way, you'll want to provide them with a blanket for their comfort.
Your vet may ask you to hold your pet, or they may enlist the services of a vet technician who has the skill needed to properly hold your pet so that the process goes smoothly for everyone.
Your veterinarian may give your pet an injection of a sedative before the lethal injection. This is most often done in pets that are agitated or somehow uncooperative.
The lethal injection given by your vet is an overdose of a drug which will quickly cause unconsciousness and then stops his or her heart. It is important to remember neither the injection (nor its effects) is painful to your pet. They will then use a stethoscope to confirm that your pet’s heart has stopped. Afterwards, he or she will usually ask if you would like to have a few final minutes alone with your pet. There will also be a conversation about how you would like to care for your pet's physical remains.
We're Here to Support You
We know we can't help you come to a decision regarding pet euthanasia; only you, your family, and your pet's veterinarian can be involved with that aspect of responsible pet care. However, once your pet has passed, we can step in to assist you with pet cremation or pet burial services. We can also offer you and your family pet loss grief support during the days and weeks following the loss of your animal companion. Call us at 916-348-4000 to learn more about ways we can assist you during this difficult time.
Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement, "Quality of Life Scale", accessed 2014
American Humane Association, "Euthanasia: Making the Decision", 2013, accessed 2014