One of the most difficult decisions that a pet owner can be faced with is whether or not to euthanize a beloved pet due to health concerns. Here at University Veterinary Hospital, many of us have been faced with this dilemma regarding our own pets, so we completely understand the concerns that face owners during this difficult time. We hope that we can provide some important information for you to consider so that you can make the best decision possible for you and your pet. Please know that we are here for you to assist and support you when you need us. The following are some frequently asked questions regarding pet euthanasia:
How will I know when its time?
Although this question may be the most difficult to answer, we usually tell owners to trust their instincts. Remember, you know your pet better than anyone else. Usually, pet owners have a strong sense when the time is appropriate. We suggest monitoring your pet for signs that they have lost interest in life, such as decreased appetite, withdrawing from household activity, no longer wagging their tail, or coming to you for attention and affection. Your veterinarian may be able to guide you as far as the medical aspects of his/her disease. This may require some blood work or other diagnostic testing, but it can help make that final decision a more informed one. Ultimately, there is no “right” or “wrong” answer to this difficult question, so it is important that you feel comfortable with your decision.
How is euthanasia performed?
Euthanasia is performed via a single intravenous injection. Your veterinarian will place an intravenous catheter for administration of the drug. The drug is a highly concentrated anesthetic agent so the effects are rapid. It causes a deep general anesthesia prior to causing death so your pet will not be in any discomfort. Occasionally an animal will have some final breath sounds or rarely vocalize. This is completely normal and is no indication of pain or stress
You will want to consider whether or not you wish to be present at the time of injection. Many owners feel it is best if they can be there during the final moments to comfort their pet. Some owners would rather remember their pet the way they were in life and will leave the pet with us for the euthanasia
Should my young children be present during the euthanasia?
The death of a family pet is often a child’s first experience with the loss of a beloved friend and can be difficult for them. The lessons they learn may help them cope with more difficult situations later in life. We recommend that you discuss your pet’s death with your child, and may wish to allow them to view your pet’s body after the euthanasia. You may not wish to have young children present for the euthanasia. If you decide that it is appropriate for your child to be present, try to prepare them for the experience. We have more information available for you if you are interested.
Should my other pets be present during the euthanasia?
It depends. We recommend that you do bring the other pet(s) along if they have a deep attachment or connection with the sick animal. Remember that animals do not tend to grieve in the same way as we do but they do seem to understand that their friend is not going to be at home any more. Many times simply bringing the collar home with you can make that transition a bit easier.
What will be done with my pet’s body?
You have several options regarding the care of your pet’s remains. Most commonly, owners will have the body cremated and returned to them in an engraved cedar box. Occasionally, people will prepare a place for burial in their yard. This can be somewhat difficult and should be done ahead of time. Lastly, the body can be cremated and not returned to you. University Veterinary Hospital can arrange either cremation method for you. Since the cost of each option varies, please ask our reception staff to prepare an estimate for you.
How should I expect to feel afterward?
During the grieving process, you will likely feel more sadness than you anticipated. This is entirely normal and may persist to some degree for weeks, even months. You may also feel a sense of shock, anger, guilt, loneliness, or even depression. It is important to remember that there is no right or wrong way to grieve and you may need the support of a family member or close friend. We have many grief support resources available for you if you need any additional support. A few are listed, below:
- The Changes Program at Colorado State University 970-297-1242 – http://www.argusinstitute.colostate.edu/
- Delta Society Pet Loss & Bereavement – www.deltasociety.org
- Washington State University 509-335-5704 – http://www.vetmed.wsu.edu/PLHl/
- University of California-Davis 1-800-565-1526 – http://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/ccah/programs/petloss/index.cfm
- Cornell University 607-253-3932 – http://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/CCAB/petloss.html
- Various Phone Consultation Resources – http://www.chancesspot.org/hotlines.htm
- Association of Pet Loss and Bereavement (for Children)- http://www.aplb.org/services/children.html