Losing a beloved family pet is heartbreaking. When you have to decide how and when to lose that pet, it can be devastating. Hearing a vet say the words “euthanasia” can be cause for dread and panic. How do you know when it is time to say goodbye to your pet? How do you make the decision to have that pet euthanized? It is a very hard and very personal decision that you and your pet must make together.
How Does Euthanizing a Pet Work?
To put it in simple terms, the pet is literally put to sleep. That is why the term “having a pet put to sleep” is generally used as a kinder phrase. Typically an intravenous line of barbiturate anesthetic is given at a very high dose. The vet usually puts the injection into the pet’s vein on the leg. This injection puts the animal to sleep. According to many vets, this procedure is painless and very peaceful.
You will have to sign a document that gives written consent to have your pet euthanized. Each pet owner is allowed to make the decision of either being present during the procedure, or of waiting in another room. The pet owner must also decide on what to do with the pet after the procedure.
Some may choose to take the pet home for burial, or they may choose to have the pet cremated. You will need to discuss this with your vet in advance of your decision. If you plan to stay with your pet during the procedure, be aware that this will be very emotional for you. There is no right way or wrong way. Do it “your” way.
According to DR T. J. Dunn, of the Petcenter.com, it is quite acceptable to shed tears. If your vet has had a long relationship with the pet, he or she may shed some tears as well. You do not have to be brave, you do not have to be in the room, you can act however feels right to you at the time. You will grieve and that is okay. You are losing a loved one.
Knowing When It is Time to Say Goodbye
Every circumstance will be different. Only you and your vet will know when the time has come to say goodbye to your pet. You will know in your heart that you are doing the best thing for your pet by agreeing to have them euthanized. It is a very heartbreaking and personal decision. I know, because I have been facing this decision.
My dog has been sick for several months. We are at a loss as to what is wrong with her. All of her tests say that she is a healthy dog. We know she isn’t because she retains fluid so badly that it looks like her tummy is about to explode. She has had X-rays and blood work, and the vet even withdrew some of the fluid to test it for infection. She found nothing.
Yet my dog continued to swell no matter how many Lasix pills we gave her. The vet tried different medicines and nothing seemed to work. We assumed she might have a tumor that just wasn’t showing up, she might have heart failure or even a liver disease. We couldn’t prove any of it through the tests. The vet mentioned that I might need to consider “putting her to sleep.” I was devastated. My dog really didn’t seem to be ill, she was just retaining water. Yet I knew that all of that fluid was crushing her internal organs. There were times when she had a tough time breathing if she exerted herself to much.
On the last trip to the vet, my dog nearly collapsed in her office. A small “yippy” dog was annoying her and she got so upset she couldn’t breathe and fell to the floor. I was in a panic, but we calmed her down and her breathing leveled off. But now the fluid was causing her limbs to swell too. Again the vet mentioned that dreaded “E” word.
She had been hesitant to perform a procedure to drain the fluid from my dog’s belly. She warned that removing to much to fast could cause my dog to go into shock. I was desperate for answers and decided that risking the procedure was better than the alternative we had left. I asked that she go ahead and do the procedure.
My dog weighs 70 pounds on a good day! The vet removed 1200CC of fluid from her belly area during the procedure. She kept my dog in quarantine for 4 days and fed her antibiotics. When I went to pick her up I had tears in my eyes. She came running to me and jumped up and licked my face. She hadn’t done that in months! Yes, she was extremely thin, but we knew that was because all of the fluid was not allowing her room to eat.
I brought her home and she was eating everything in sight! She was wagging her tail and barking much like a 4 year old dog should! She appears happy, healthy and back to her old self. We have recently increased the amount of Lasix she takes, because it looks like she is starting to retain fluid again. She also takes antibiotics and a heart pill right now.
The Final Decision to Euthanize
I can not give her up without knowing exactly why she is having this problem. I want answers. So long as she appears healthy, happy and pain free, I will continue to fight for her right to live. I will know when the time comes to make the decision to end any suffering she might have. I believe she and I will make that decision together, because it is the right choice for her.
On the day she nearly collapsed at the vet’s office, there was another lady there with her dog. I will never forget the words she told me. Her dog was 19 years old and suffered from several maladies, yet she continued to keep the dog as healthy as possible. She said, “We’ll know when the time is right to give them up. Are we keeping them here for them or for us? Depending on our answer, we’ll know what to do.”
This article by Dr. T. J. Dunn walks you through the Euthanasia process:
(Warning: I found this very upsetting to read)
More information on euthanizing a pet: