The Passing of Your Pet
One of the most difficult times many pet owners encounter in life is coping with events close to and at the end of their pet’s life, and then managing the grief that comes after the death of the pet.
One of the main questions that faces the owner of a pet that is chronically or terminally ill is when the decision to have the pet put to sleep should be made? The advice of your vet should help to guide you at this most difficult time.
Quality of life is subjective – it is not solely judged by whether the animal may be in pain (pain can often be well controlled with modern medications), but the pet’s general interest in life, energy levels, appetite, mobility, cognitive ability, control of bodily functions etc. all need to be factored into any decision being made.
We will always be here for you and will help and advise but in the end of the day the decision on when to let your pet go is entirely yours. If we feel you are making the decision too early we will tell you and advise to wait but in general our experience is that you will just know when the right time comes.
The aim of euthanasia of a pet is a pain-free, dignified death with as little stress for the pet and as little upset for the owner as possible. None of us want our pet to die but when death is inevitable and when the quality of life remaining has passed what we feel is acceptable for our pet then leaving them go in a painless and gentle manner is the ultimate kindness.
It can be valuable for a pet owner communicate with their vet beforehand to talk about any concerns they may have and how the process can happen in as stress-free a way as possible.
The owner should if possible decide on burial versus cremation in advance of the euthanasia, and also if they wish to have their pet's ashes returned or not. We can discuss this with you in person or on the telephone.
If when the times come you have not made a final decision we can of course care for your pets remains for a short period of time (up to 24 hours) to leave you decide.
When dogs go to heaven, they don’t need wings because God knows that dogs love running best
He gives them fields
Fields and fields and fields
When a dog first arrives in heaven, he just runs
The final kindness, gentle and humane
A pet owner should consider euthanasia as a final act of kindness, a selfless act aimed at preventing unnecessary suffering of their beloved pet.
When the time comes we will make an appointment for you at a time of your choosing but in general at the end of morning or evening surgeries so that we have no-one else to see allowing you to take all the time you need. In Blacklion Pet Hospital we will always come to your home to put your pet to sleep if that is your preference.
The procedure is quick and painless. Many owners prefer to stay with the pet for the procedure but some prefer to say goodbye and have their last memory of their pet being alive. It's entirely up to you which you prefer.
In general we place an intravenous catheter on a front leg. We then administer what is essentially an anaesthetic overdose of a barbiturate. Your pet will rapidly and painlessly fall asleep - to them this is exactly the same as if they were coming in for their teeth cleaned for example. Their last memory will be a gentle run and your loving embrace. Almost immediately after becoming unconscious breathing will stop and the heart will cease beating. At this stage they have passed on.
Owners should be aware that a pet may have some muscle contractions or may take a gasp of breath. These are purely reflex actions, your pet has passed on at this point and they are feeling no discomfort or pain. Also pets generally don’t close their eyes.
Once the owner is prepared for these details the final act of euthanasia can be less stressful in anticipation.
On occasion we will use different methods but all are equally humane and painless. We may administer a sedation in advance or in cats and if they resent being handled we may administer an intra-peritoneal injection of the barbiturate. This will take a few minutes to take effect but is painless and humane. if we decide to advise this method it will be because we feel it will be less stressful for your pet than the intravenous method.
Bereavement can affect both the humans and animals left behind. Surviving pets may show some behaviour changes – loss of appetite, changed behaviour patterns, etc. Try not to inadvertently reinforce these changes by giving additional attention or tidbits as this can make the changed behaviour more permanent. Whether to allow surviving pets to see a deceased pet is difficult to judge but it is certainly not a wrong thing to do.
It is normal and right for you to grive after losing a pet. Do not bottle it up, talk to someone with pets who will understand what you are going through.
Human bereavement over the loss of a pet can be powerful and sometimes overwhelming experience the intensity of which frequently takes owners by surprise. Adult grief related to pet loss often goes unrecognised by family and friends and so can be an isolating experience. Remember that grieving is a process and that this process can actually begin before the pet dies (for example with the diagnosis of a terminal illness or the steady decline of an older pet). It helps to recognise your feelings and if possible to share them with someone else who understands. Emotions associated with the loss of a pet include shock, denial, sadness, blame, guilt, etc. These can result in bereaved pet owners crying, feeling confused or becoming depressed, and may lead to temporary social isolation. Many owners experience a decreased ability to concentrate and a loss of appetite.
Guilt from euthanasia can be an all-consuming emotion but an owner should never forget that they have acted out of kindness and love for their pet to prevent needless suffering at the end of the pet’s life. An example of a typical guilty feeling include the feeling that one could have done more to prevent the illness or to treat the illness. Some people experience anger after the death of a pet; this can be aimed at the vet who treated the pet, at family members or even randomly at strangers. Being willing to recognise and accept these feelings as normal parts of the bereavement process is important. Remember that recognising and expressing grief is healthy, and that suppression of grief tends to prolong the healing process.
If you have lost a pet remember to take care of yourself. Try to eat, sleep and exercise as normal. Try to find a sympathetic person to share your feelings with. Consider creating a small memorial – a photo album or a tribute box or urn containing your pet’s ashes can sometimes help owners to work through their grief. With time the raw negative emotions associated with the death of the pet will gradually be replaced by fond memories of happier times, but how long this takes will vary hugely from person to person.
Just as pets deserve to be given good lives by their human companions, so they deserve to have peaceful ends. It’s not easy, but it’s necessary. On mature reflection, as long as you know that you’ve done the best for your pet, both in life and around the time of death, then there should be nothing to feel sorry about.