Pets are similar to people in many ways. They can have most of the same types of medical conditions as people.
Consequently, like people, some pets live long enough to die of natural causes related to old age. However, others will become ill prematurely. Either way, many pets don’t die peacefully in their sleep.
The term euthanasia is derived from two Greek words — “eu,” meaning good, and “thanatos,” meaning death. Therefore, euthanasia is defined as “good death.” This means the death is humane, peaceful, and painless.
Unfortunately, dogs and cats have a life expectancy of only 10 to 18 years. Most pet owners, throughout their lives, will have several pets to care for and experience the devastating loss of their pets.
When we hold that new puppy or kitten for the first time and look into their innocent, helpless and fragile little eyes, the last thing on our minds is their life expectancy. When a furry bundle of energy and cuteness licks your nose with that unforgettable puppy breath, we all have an innate ability to let denial take over us as we think about the life of a new puppy. We never think what a great 15 years we will have with our new pet. Think about it. At that point in time, more likely we think about our future with a new pet as forever.
We certainly don’t think about a time when we may have to make a tough decision. The decision to mercifully end the life of “man’s best friend” is never an easy one. It is a complicated decision surrounded by a whole range of emotions.
Furthermore, our emotions often get in the way of our rational and practical decision-making process. How do we know that we are making the right decision? Ultimately, the decision to euthanize a pet is a personal one. All facets of life play a role in the decision process.
The actual pet owner is the only person to have all the information necessary to make such a difficult decision. The pet owner is the one who has to take care of the sick pet and watch as it struggles with its illness. Also, the pet owner is the one financially responsible for the pet.
Sometimes, a pet may be injured beyond repair or have an illness that makes it obvious the pet is suffering. In those cases, it is much easier to decide to relieve its pain and suffering. However, when a pet has a chronic illness or debilitating arthritis, it can be very difficult to determine when to euthanize.
There are many parameters used to measure a pet’s well being. Obviously, eating, drinking, urinating and defecating are normally all taken for granted. But, they are also parameters for well-being for a sick or debilitated pet. The ability to get around, at least somewhat, is certainly necessary for a pet to not suffer.
The primary criteria for a pet’s well-being are quality of life. Any pet that has lost its quality of life would be considered a good candidate for euthanasia. It is up to the pet owner to determine their pet’s quality of life. Only the pet owner knows if their pet is still enjoying life, and the things that make it happy. However, your veterinarian can certainly help you with determining your pet’s quality of life and when to euthanize your pet.
The actual process of euthanasia is performed by a veterinarian giving an injection in the pet’s vein, usually in a front leg. Within five to 15 seconds, the pet’s heart stops. After the heart stops, there could be some muscle twitching and even a couple of deep breaths.
It is a very quick, painless, and humane procedure. Some pet owners prefer to be present and actually hold their pet during the euthanasia. Others are just not comfortable being present and should wait outside the exam room, but could benefit emotionally by spending some time with the pet afterwards. Most people are better off emotionally if they have some sort of closure.
Clients ask me all the time, “How can you stand to put animals down?” It is never easy to euthanize an animal. It does not get easier with time, or performing euthanasia more. Over the years, I have realized that I am helping pets by relieving their suffering.
Also, there is a lot of comfort in knowing that your pet will no longer suffer needlessly. Additionally, it helps knowing how humane, peaceful and painless the actual euthanasia process is.
If you have any concerns about the condition of your pet, consult your veterinarian for advice about your pet’s quality of life, and whether or not your pet may be ready for euthanasia.