Goodbye Old Friend

December 3, 2018

Pets Training and Boarding takes a look at euthanasia and what every pet owner should know before making the choice to say goodbye.

It’s one of the most heartbreaking choices any pet owner has to make, and most pet owners will have to contemplate this decision at some point in their lives. Every pet, and every owner will face this question in different ways. Dr Belinda Parsons BVSc CVA Veterinarian and Owner of Rouse Hill Family Vets is all too familiar with helping her clients find the right time to say their final goodbyes.

“Talk about it early,” she advises. “Talk about it with your family and your veterinarian. Often people are afraid to talk about euthanasia through fear of being judged or people thinking they are giving up too early. For many clients, they rarely regret making the decision too early, however often feel immense guilt about leaving the decision too late and watching their beloved pet struggle.”

The more people you can speak with, the easier the decision will be. It’s also a good idea to speak to someone who has also gone through the same struggle and find out what worked for them.

“There is no one perfect time to say goodbye, but an ideal window,” Dr Parsons says. “This window is whilst they are still able to feel comfortable and have good days but when the bad days are coming more frequently, their pain is responding less well to medications, their ability to eat, drink and toilet normally is becoming increasingly affected and their joy of life is decreasing. It is not a matter of waiting for all of these to be extinguished before we decide to euthanise. It is about looking at the trend over time and quality of life score are an incredibly valuable tool to help with the decision-making process.”

Before the final goodbye, consider making some real memories and start preparing yourself. Plenty of cuddles and treats. Go on one last doggy or kitty adventure that includes their favorite spots, trees or games and don’t forget to take plenty of photos.

Somethings to Consider

Once you have made the decision to say your final goodbyes, take the time to consider how this will look for your pet. Some questions to consider are;

• Who will be present?
• Will we be at home or at the clinic?
• Should we have the children there or not?
• What about sedation before the euthanasia?
• What will happen afterwards? Burial or cremation?

“I strongly advocate for sedation prior to euthanasia as it reduces the stress for the pet and allows a gentle transition from awake to asleep for the family,” Dr Parsons says. “I know from personal experience that placing an intravenous catheter is uncomfortable. In addition, the majority of our senior pets have arthritis so positioning them for IV catheterisation is painful. We do not want their last experience to be stressful by being taken away from the family for a painful intravenous catheter to be placed.”

Talking with your loved ones and your veterinarian can help you answer many of the above questions. Also consider the age of your children and remember to use the correct words for death instead of ‘putting to sleep’, as this statement can cause fear in young children in regard to sleeping.

“Think about what a good death would look like for your pet. Would they like to be munching down on a great big hamburger?” Dr Parsons says. “Do they have a favourite bed/blanket or toy they would like with them? Do you have some favourite music you would like to be playing?”

Some pet owners do not want to be present at all during the experience, while others will want to be there from the beginning to the end. Speak to your vet about your concerns and fear of the actual process. This knowledge will allow you to make up your mind in regard to the euthanasia.

“Everyone’s experience of death and grief is different and not all people want to or are able to be present during the euthanasia appointment,” Dr Parsons says. “I have had some families choose to stay until the sedation has kicked in and then leave before the final injection is given. Other families want to be there from the start right until the end and stay for a while afterwards as well. That is ok too. It is a personal decision and there is no judgement either way.”