The overwhelming joy of having pets is, unfortunately, accompanied by the inevitable sadness that comes with the ending of their lives.
As humans, sometimes feeling like parents, we must be witnesses to the death of our family member, our pet. Unfortunately, we are placed in the unique position of having to make a life/death decision of when it’s time to say goodbye to our friend, a process called humane euthanasia.
Dogs are creatures of habit, they are perfectly happy doing their daily routine, eating the same food at the same place and time out of their own bowl. They relish going for their daily walk or romp, being with you watching the news and waiting until it’s time to go to bed at the same time every night only to wake up the next day and do it all over again.
When age or illness changes that pet’s ability to function in a normal capacity and medicine no longer allows a pet their nobility, veterinarians (or sometimes friends and family members) start to discuss with you “quality of life”.
The American Kennel Club’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Jerry Klein, offers the following tips on how to determine when your pet is nearing the end of its life and how to cope.
Any time a pet starts showing signs that are different for them, whether obvious changes in appetite or thirst, movement, or behaviour, is a time to consult with your veterinarian. When those signs relate to the ability of your pet living life comfortably in their normal routine, various things need to be assessed.
The most worrisome signs are the necessary signs: Consistent changes and inability to breathe normally, inability to eat and/or drink, inability to get up to get to their food or water bowl, or inability to be able to get up so as not to soil on themselves.
Pain is often thought as the ultimate reason to euthanise, and today there are many available medications to counteract discomfort, but at some point, drugs may no longer work. Dogs and cats don’t often manifest their pain by crying, especially if they are in their latter stages and are weak.
Ask your veterinarian their opinion on available options. The age, breed and condition of your dog or cat, the financial reality of your situation versus the costs involved in any form of treatment or therapy compared with the benefits and length of time of benefit (if any) that can be offered, will all play a part in the making of your decision.
Go over the process with your veterinarian. Try to remember that this difficult decision is being made to ease your pets’ suffering rather than your own feelings.
When the time comes, it may be useful to have a comforting friend or family member, especially one that may have previous experience with the procedure come along for emotional support.
It is recommended that owners stay with their pets during the process, both as comfort to their pets and as some form of closure for themselves.
It is best to schedule this at the end of the veterinarian’s workday so that they can dedicate the time and attention you and your pet deserve.
Various people have different ways to honour their pets: Cremation is the most common choice, and the ashes can be stored in a vase in your home or on your property or dispersed over a favourite area of your lost pet. Some choose burial at a pet cemetery or on their own property. if the local laws allow.
Another way of honouring and giving tribute to them is to donate in their name to a meaningful organisation, such as your breed’s rescue or health fund, or an organisation devoted to research in canine health. – TNS/American Kennel Club