By Deb Haines
We all want to help our beloved pet cross the threshold from life into death, peacefully and gently. Whether we call it ‘putting our pet to sleep’, ‘putting our pet down’ or ‘euthanizing our pet’, it’s a subject no one wants to talk about – and with good reason
It’s one of the hardest calls animal lovers have to make: Is it time to put your pet down? There’s no right or wrong answer. It’s a personal matter for each pet owner. The goal is to keep your friend with you for as long as he’s comfortable, but let him go if he’s in pain. Euthanasia is often a blessing and gift to a suffering animal. Did you know one of the hardest part of being a veterinarian is telling owners that their beloved pet has a terminal illness and will soon be leaving this world. The emotions that pass across their faces, even if they have suspected the worst for some time, are heart-wrenching.
People feel foolish, but it’s really hard to make that decision .Animals can have a strong drive for survival and it’s hard to know the difference, at times, between them having a bad patch or it being the beginning of the end.
Every pet, illness and situation is different. There is no single rule that can be followed for when it is time to help your best friend “cross the rainbow bridge.” Getting input from your veterinarian on the specific medical conditions that your loved one may face is vital for doing what is best for your pet. You may also benefit from having a caring friend who is not as emotionally involved in the situation as you are to help you gain perspective and really “see” what is happening with your pet.
Dr. Randy Roarkstated ….. “Remember that pets live in the moment. One of the most wonderful things about animals is how they embrace the present. Every time I walk into my house, my faithful Vizsla throws a one-dog ticker tape parade. The fact that I have entered the house thousands of times before, or that I will leave again in a few hours, means nothing. All that matters to him is the joy that he feels right now.”
When our pets are suffering, they don’t reflect on all the great days they have had before, or ponder what the future will bring. All they know is how they feel today. By considering this perspective, we can see the world more clearly through their eyes. And their eyes are what matter.
When it becomes that time to consider
Ask yourself important questions. Sometimes, articulating or writing down your thoughts can make the right path more apparent. Some questions that help pet owners struggling with this decision include:
- Why do I think it might be time to euthanize?
- What are my fears and concerns about euthanizing?
- Whose interests, besides those of my pet, am I taking into account?
- What are the concerns of the people around me?
- Am I making this decision because it is best for my pet, or because it is best for me because I’m not ready to let go?
Is Life a Joy or a Drag for Your Pet?
Our pets may not be able to talk to us and tell us how they are doing, but if we pay close attention, there are many clues that can help us answer that question.
The Rule of “Five Good Things”: Pick the top five things that your pet loves to do. Write them down. When he or she can no longer do three or more of them, quality of life has been impacted to a level where many veterinarians would recommend euthanasia.
Good Days vs. Bad: When pets have “good days and bad days,” it can be difficult to see how their condition is progressing over time. Actually tracking the days when your pet is feeling good as well as the days when he or she is not feeling well can be helpful. A check mark for good days and an X for bad days on your calendar can help you determine when a loved one is having more bad days than good.
Measure their quality of life. This is no more than trying to determine how good or bad our pet’s life is at this moment. Trying to assess this can be difficult, but there are some ways you can try and evaluate it.
What to Look For
When you’re home with your pet and the vet isn’t there, how can you tell whether he’s worse this week than last?There’s a wrinkle, though. Often, an aging or ill pet doesn’t suddenly lose his ability to enjoy walks or treats. Instead, the changes come little by little. Then it’s time to think about his quality of life.
Talk To An Expert……PLEASE BUILD A RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR LOCAL VETERINARIAN.
The first step is to talk to your vet about your pet’s outlook and pain levels. The vet may not tell you whether he thinks it’s time, but he can give you a clear picture of the animal’s health.
If your pet is sick and you know he won’t get better, focus on how to relieve his pain (or confusion in the case of dementia).
“The suffering of the pet is paramount and should be the first concern
Put Yourself In His Paws
Think about how your pet feels,Their organ systems are a lot like ours. So it’s likely that kidney failure in a dog feels about the same as it would for a person.
But what if signals are mixed?
A pet that has severe arthritis can seem happy and hearty, even if his joints have given out and he can no longer walk.Those are the most devastating decisions to make — when the pet is still bright and alert, and their organs are fine.
Is your dog happy? Does she still enjoy her favorite activities, and can she still perform them? Does your dog still greet you with enthusiasm when you come home? Has your dog shown signs of anxiety and depression, isolating herself from the family? If your dog no longer enjoys her normal activities, consider if you are prolonging her life for your sake, rather than letting her go.
Is your dog able to move comfortably? Has she developed severe osteoarthritis or another crippling muscular or skeletal disorder? Are there medications, therapies, or surgeries that can improve your dog’s mobility? If your dog is unable to walk or stand unassisted, consider the toll immobility will take on her mental health, happiness, and hygiene.
More Good Days Than Bad
Does your dog have more good days than bad? Or, have the bad days begun to outnumber the good? Towards the end, you may look for a few moments throughout the bad days to remind you of the good times—a tail wag for a favorite treat, a brief game of gentle fetch, or the devotion of following you from room to room throughout your home.
Questions to ask yourself:
What is the most important thing when considering my pet’s end-of-life treatment?
What are my thoughts about euthanasia?
Would I consider euthanasia if the following were true about my pet:Feeling pain?
Can no longer urinate and/or defecate?
Starts to experience seizures?
Has become uncontrollably violent or is unsafe to others?
Has stopped eating?
Is no longer acting normally?
Has a condition that will only worsen with time?
Financial limitations prohibit treatment?
Palliative (hospice) care has been exhausted or is not an option?
The veterinary team recommends euthanasia?
The veterinary team recommends euthanasia, but the required symptoms or situations that I listed above are not present?
How do I know when it’s time?”
The following tools may aid you in making the decision to euthanize.
Enlist the help of your veterinarian.
While your veterinarian cannot make the decision for you, it is helpful for him/her to know that you are considering euthanasia.
Remember how your pet looked and behaved prior to the illness. Sometimes changes are gradual, and therefore hard to recognize. Look at photos or videos of your pet from before the illness.
Mark good and bad days on a calendar. (Some may choose to distinguish morning from evening.) This could be as simple as a happy or sad face for good or bad. If the bad days start to outweigh the good, it may be time to discuss euthanasia.
Write a concrete list of three to five things your pet likes to do.
When your pet is no longer able to enjoy these things, it may be time to discuss euthanasia.
Deciding to euthanize your companion animal may be one of the most difficult decisions you ever make. Often, well-loved pets are euthanized to minimize unnecessary suffering. The quality of animals’ lives is defined by their overall physical and mental well-being, not just one aspect of their lives. The chart on the opposite side of this fact sheet attempts to consider all aspects of your pet’s life. It is important to remember that all pets are different. What may be considered a poor quality of life for one may be different for another.Higher numbers on this chart equal a better quality of life. This chart below may help you to better visualize the general well-being of your pet. In some cases, even one item on the left-hand side of the chart (for example: pain) may indicate a poor quality of life, even if many of the other items are still positive. Some items or symptoms on the list may be expected side effects of the treatments that your pet is undergoing. It is important to discuss these symptoms and side effects with your veterinarian.
Consider the dog’s prognosis.
- Ask your vet to assess the animal’s condition and find out if it can be treated with pain relief, medicine or surgery.
- Determine if the dog is suffering and if that can be alleviated.
- Depending on the dog’s illness, you can ask your general practitioner for a referral to a specialist. There are also vets who take a special interest in palliative care.
Think about the practicalities of caring for your dog at this stage of illness or old age.
- Evaluate the increased responsibility and stress, and whether you can manage it.
- Consider whether there’s someone at home with the dog to provide intensive care.
- Determine if you can provide financially.
- Determine whether your pet is going to suffer without treatment.
- Ask yourself if you can make the vet visits and give them regular medication.Ask yourself if you believe in euthanasia.
- Ask yourself if you value quantity of life over quality. Is extending the life of your pet more important to you than a controlled death?
- Know that you might change your mind when faced with the decision.
- Communicate with your vet and family. This is key.
Although you’d likely prefer for your dog to fall asleep and pass away naturally without euthanasia, this type of peaceful death for a pet is rare. A natural death can be a long, painful, and anxiety-provoking process for a dog, so take steps to learn about a quality of life scale.
How will I know it’s the right time to euthanize my dog?’
This is probably one of the most common questions pet owners ask, and the most difficult one to answer, the distress, pain and internal battle that it causes.
In fact, there may not be a clear-cut ‘right’ time to euthanize your dog, but there is often (although not always) a window where it could be considered the ‘best’ time for a number of reasons.
There are some situations where the answer to this question is pretty clear-cut:
- When a dog is in severe, chronic pain which can’t be relieved
- When a dog is critically injured and won’t be unable to survive the damage
- If a dog’s quality of life is so poor that he/she is merely ‘existing’ not ‘living’
Which is the right choice to make when:
- Our dog is in long-term chronic pain, but it IS relieved by medication/treatment
- He isn’t able to run/play and barely eats, but still seems to be comfortable
- She has a terminal disease, but doesn’t have any insurmountable symptoms – yet
- Our dog is mostly anxious/confused but has short periods of being her ‘old self’
- He has no appetite, often refuses to drink and has trouble with incontinence
There are also other potentially difficult situations, such as:
- When a dog is aggressive to the point of being dangerous, and training, behavioral modification and other treatments haven’t helped.
- When finances simply don’t allow you to afford on-going, long-term treatment for your dog’s severe, chronic, and eventually terminal health conditions.
- When your dog could survive for some time to come, but his life will be full of vet visits, painful treatments, anxiety and stress… with no hope of recovery, just management.
All of the above clearly shows that there is NO single, one-size-fits-all answer to any of these questions.
Rely on our veterinarian’s for professional advice,a veterinarian’s objectivity is sometimes essential if emotions are getting in the way of a decision that obviously needs to be made.
There’s often a relationship between pet and owner that is more ‘sixth sense’ than it is physical communication, and your ‘gut’ may well guide you when it comes to choosing the right, or best, time to help him reach the Rainbow Bridge
People don’t want to euthanize their pet too early, and they don’t want to euthanize too late The reality of being a pet owner is it comes with responsibility, and that includes making hard decisions. If your pet companion is having more bad days than good, consider letting her go peacefully with the aid of your veterinarian. After your loss, turn to resources and lean on family and friends to help you cope with grief.
Euthanasia for pets is the very last gift we can give our precious animal companions.
In Home Euthanasia.. something to consider
The main reason for choosing an in-home euthanasia is that it will be more comfortable for your pet, less stressful and that he or she will have a dignified departure in the comfort of your own home. You and your family will also be able to grieve in the privacy of your own home.This terribly difficult and emotionally painful moment can be made a more comfortable, more peaceful experience for your pet, you and your family.
Most pets don’t like to go to a veterinarian’s office. They are scared, anxious. Some of them don’t like to go in the car. For some, especially arthritic or cancer patients, it will not only be unpleasant to be lifted in and out of the car, but also painful and possibly degrading. You now have the option to say goodbye to your pet at home in his or her own surroundings and avoid having your pet spend the last moments of his or her life in a place that is dreaded and where unpleasant moments have been experienced.
Research In home Euthanasia in your area before the time comes.
Here at Pet Vet Corner we understand the difficult decision and the pain after that comes with the loss . Please feel free to join us in our Coping with the loss of a pet group.
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